Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It may not have not been reviewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners or the Investment company.
Choosing a financial advisor in Boston can feel daunting, given the large number of advisors in the region. To find the right fit, you must understand your financial needs and goals, as well as how much you’re willing to spend. Thus, for Bostonians, the decision isn’t quite as straightforward as choosing a favorite sports team.
Because comparing firms and data points can be difficult, we compiled the most pertinent information to help guide your decision. To determine the best advisors in Beantown, we only considered firms that manage individual accounts and offer financial planning services. We then ranked these firms based on assets under management (AUM), which serves as a general metric for a firm’s size. Although not formally part of our ranking, we encourage readers to take note of each firm’s client-to-advisor ratio, as this indicates how much attention you may get as a client. All data used in our methodology is taken from each firm’s most recent Form ADV filing with the SEC so as to ensure the accuracy and reliability of our rankings.
Our ranking is not indicative of which firm may be best for you, but it can help make the shopping experience easier. Take a look at our list below for the top firms in Boston and their key highlights:
How much would you like to invest?
|Firm name||Minimum Assets Required||Fee Structure|
|Cambridge Associates||$100 million||A percentage of AUM
Fixed fees Performance-based fees Other (a percentage of assets invested)
|SCS Capital Management||$25 million, though less for pooled investments||A percentage of AUM
Fixed fees Performance-based fees
|Appleton Partners||$1 million recommended to work directly with the firm, although often accepts less||A percentage of AUM|
|Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge Fiduciary Advisors||Generally $2 million||A percentage of AUM
|Eaton Vance Investment Counsel||$1 million for a direct relationship, but can vary depending on the strategy and account type||A percentage of AUM
Other (a percentage of portfolio income)
|Shepherd Kaplan Krochuk, LLC||$10 million||A percentage of AUM Performance-based fees|
|Welch & Forbes||$2 million||A percentage of AUM
|The Bollard Group||$25 million||A percentage of AUM
Hourly charges Performance-based fees
|Choate Investment Advisors||$10 million||A percentage of AUM
Other (a percentage of license and management fees based on assets invested)
|Ropes Wealth Advisors||No across-the-board minimum||A percentage of AUM
For our search, we looked at firms across the city of Boston. All of the firms considered are bound by fiduciary duty, registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and offer individual account management and financial planning services. Information used for our methodology criteria is taken directly from each firm’s most recent Form ADV filing and brochure, found on the IAPD database.
To localize our results for this list, we exclusively looked at firms that met the above criteria and had their headquarters in Boston, as per the address provided in the Form ADV. Of those firms, we only considered those that offer financial planning services and portfolio management to individual investors. To be considered for this list, firms also could have no more than one disciplinary disclosure in the past 10 years. From there, the remaining firms that met all of the above stipulations were ranked in order of highest to lowest AUM, as this is an indication of a firm’s size and how many assets it has been entrusted to manage.
In our reviews, we have also listed several other key features that will help you determine which financial advisor may be most fitting for your investing style and financial needs. While our ranking system and methodology is designed to help you compare firms, it does not indicate which firm may be best for you. All information here is accurate as of January 22, 2021, but we urge you to also evaluate these firms on https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/.
Cambridge Associates generally serves investors with portfolios of at least $100 million. Its client list includes ultra-wealthy families as well as institutional investors, such as colleges and universities, foundations, pension plans, corporations and nonprofits including museums and performing arts institutions. Notably, most clients have accredited investor and qualified purchaser status, meaning they are sophisticated investors who meet certain wealth thresholds. The menu of services offered to these clients includes investment management and advisory, research and performance reporting services.
Cambridge Associates has a history dating back to 1975, the year its successor company was born. In 2000, the group registered as an investment advisor under the name Cambridge Associates LLC. Today, the private firm is owned by its employees and clients. In addition to the Boston headquarters, Cambridge Associates has additional offices in Arlington, Va.; Dallas; New York; San Francisco; and Menlo Park, Calif.
Rather than pick individual stocks, the team generally helps clients identify and vet appropriate external managers. The team can offer guidance on the whole portfolio or a specific asset class, particularly around alternative investments such as hedge funds, private equity, real estate, timber and other natural resources, as well as socially responsible and impact investing. The firm aggregates money from multiple clients together so they can invest in alternative assets with high minimum investment requirements.
Depending on what resources the family or institution handles internally, Cambridge can take control of a client’s portfolio, known as discretionary management, or can offer guidance and advice to in-house teams that are responsible for the final decisions, known as non-discretionary management.
Cambridge Associates discloses no disciplinary issues. The SEC requires registered investment advisors on its Form ADV paperwork to disclose legal and disciplinary events against the company or its employees in the previous 10 years that would be material to a client’s evaluation of the firm or integrity of the management team. To learn more, visit the firm’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) page.
With a minimum fee of $150,000 per year, SCS Capital Management serves ultra-wealthy families and institutions such as charitable organizations. Its menu of services includes investment management and advisory services, as well as financial planning including cash flow, tax and philanthropic planning.
Founded in 2002, the Boston-based team has additional offices in New York and Beverly Hills, Calif. Today, SCS Capital Management is under the umbrella of Focus Financial Partners LLC, which is mostly owned by the public company Focus Financial Partners. The group also owns other financial firms including registered investment advisors, brokers, insurers and pension consultants.
Client money is typically invested with third-party managers and in pooled vehicles managed by SCS Capital Management, which are designed to provide exposure to private equity, private credit and private real assets. To identify these outside managers, the team screens for quantitative factors such as consistency of returns and downside risk. The team also considers some qualitative aspects, such as soundness of the investment strategy. Sometimes, depending on a client’s needs, the team buys individual securities directly including exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and high quality taxable and tax-exempt bonds.
SCS Capital Management typically uses discretionary relationships in which the team can place trades in a client’s account without first obtaining consent. But in limited circumstances it will consider non-discretionary relationships that require client approval before trading.
SCS Capital discloses no legal or disciplinary events over the past 10 years against the firm or its employees that would be material to a client’s opinion of the firm or its leadership. To learn more, view the firm’s IAPD page.
With roots dating back to 1987, Appleton Partners offers portfolio management and financial planning services to individual investors and wealthy families. For certain clients of some banks, brokerage firms and financial advisory firms, Appleton’s team also handles their separately managed accounts as well as other accounts. Some institutional investors, such as charitable organizations, also use the firm.
Appleton Partners is an independent firm, principally owned by the Appleton Partners Business Trust. It operates out of its single office in Boston.
The firm specializes in municipal bond, taxable bond and equity strategies. Client money typically goes into three major asset classes: domestic fixed-income securities, large-cap equities and ETFs. Some client money also is invested in small- and mid-cap equities, mutual funds and other products.
Clients usually give Appleton control of the daily trading decisions, known as discretionary management.
Appleton Partners discloses no legal or disciplinary issues over the past 10 years against the firm or its employees that would materially impact a client’s view of the firm or the management team. Thus, the firm has a clean record. To view the firm’s paperwork filed with the SEC, visit its IAPD page.
Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge Fiduciary Advisors specializes in managing money and providing advice for wealthy individuals and trusts. In particular, the team provides advice to the trustees of revocable, irrevocable and testamentary trusts. The group also manages money for certain institutions needing these services, such as foundations.
The firm was established in 1994 to allow the trustees of Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge Office to provide investment management and advisory services to certain accounts. The firm’s partners include current and some past trustees and employees of the Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge office, with no partners holding more than a 25% interest. The firm operates from a single office in Boston.
In general, the firm is typically more comfortable with a higher allocation toward stocks than other advisors. This aggressiveness means clients must be able to stomach higher short-term risks.
The team at Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge h3ly prefers publicly traded equities. In particular, they focus on high-quality growth stocks, aiming to buy and hold them for the long term. Other investments, such as mutual funds, may be considered based on the client’s situation. To produce income and control volatility, bonds or bond mutual funds are used.
To make decisions about what stocks to recommend, the team relies on two subadvisors and its own research. Clients interested in socially responsible investing can tap the dedicated group that evaluates investments based on sustainability issues as well as fundamental factors.
Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge Fiduciary Advisors discloses no legal or disciplinary events against the firm or an employee in the past 10 years that would materially impact a client’s view of the firm or the integrity of its leaders. Learn more by viewing the firm’s IAPD page.
Eaton Vance Investment Counsel serves middle- and upper-income individual investors, as well as institutions such as endowments and pension plans. To receive portfolio management and financial planning directly from the firm, investors typically need to invest $1 million. Individuals with smaller pockets can still have the team manage their money by going through an account sponsored by an unaffiliated third party that enlists Eaton Vance for investment management. In addition to portfolio management, advisors also provide financial planning services and can address taxes, charitable giving, estate planning, executive compensation and business succession strategies.
Eaton Vance Investment Counsel, formed in 2004, is the successor firm to Eaton Vance Management. The latter, along with its predecessors, have been giving financial advice since 1924. The group is a subsidiary of Eaton Vance Corp, a publicly traded company. The team works out of its Boston office, with an additional location in West Palm Beach, Fla.
At Eaton Vance Investment Counsel, a client’s advisor will serve as the portfolio manager. Thus, investment recommendations will vary based on the advisor and the client’s needs.
The recommendations may include strategies managed by third parties, or by the Eaton team. The typical asset classes recommended include equities, investment grade bonds, high-yield bonds, municipal bonds, alternatives and floating-rate bank loans. The team may also recommend outside investment managers with a niche in a particular strategy or asset class, such as private equity, hedge funds or emerging markets.
To make their decisions, advisors rely heavily on the recommendations and research from affiliated groups, primarily Eaton Vance Management. When conducting its own research, the team primarily relies on fundamental analysis. Generally, this method digs into the specific security, including industry conditions or management.
Eaton Vance Investment Counsel has a clean disciplinary record. On its Form ADV paperwork filed with the SEC, the firm discloses no events over the past 10 years involving either the firm or an employee or affiliate. To learn more, visit the firm’s IAPD page.
Shepherd Kaplan Krochuk has been operating under this name since 2017, after it combined with Boston-based advisory firm Shepherd Kaplan. In business since 2001, however, the firm was previously known as GRT Capital Partners. Today, the firm is owned by the five members of its management board: David Shepherd, David Kaplan, Timothy Krochuk, Stephen Brackett and Brian Lockhart.
The team caters to wealthy individuals and families, offering them asset management as well as general wealth planning, including estate planning and philanthropic strategies. The firm also offers family office services. Additionally, the team serves institutions, such as pension plans, charitable organizations, private investment funds and other companies.
One caveat: The Peak Capital Management group, run by Brian Lockhart and based in Greenwood Village, Colo., operates separately with its own filings and client requirements. Similarly, Shepherd Kaplan’s financial planning services also have separate filings.
Shepherd Kaplan Krochuk can invest client funds in a broad list of investments, including sophisticated products and strategies such as options, distressed or defaulted bonds and derivative contracts. Accounts may use leverage, and they also may take long or short positions, although some accounts are long only. Advisors may recommend clients invest in the firm’s own private funds, including hedge funds, private equity funds and private real estate funds.
To make their recommendations, the team at Shepherd Kaplan Krochuk emphasizes fundamental research, meaning they focus on the particular business and its characteristics, gaining insight from the company’s management team, industry trade shows and conferences or industry experts. The team also uses quantitative techniques to monitor securities.
Shepherd Kaplan Krochuk discloses one regulatory action against an individual advisory affiliate. The event occurred in 2012 and 2013, prior to when the individual joined Shepherd Kaplan Krochuk and its management board in 2020. The Securities Commissioner of Colorado alleged that the individual failed to disclose in writing a material conflict of interest around outside business activities. Specifically, the individual recommended some clients invest in a movie production, but failed to disclose in writing his role as an executive producer. The individual affiliate agreed to disclose this issue, in writing, going forward before any advice is given. No fine was assessed.
Shepherd Kaplan Krochuk has no additional disclosures beyond this incident. To learn more, view the firm’s disclosures by visiting its IAPD page.
Welch & Forbes has a long history, operating since 1838. The firm caters primarily to individual investors and trusts, including relationships in which the firm officers serve as trustee or co-trustee. The bread-and-butter services offered include investment management as well as personal trust and fiduciary services, estate planning and tax and custodial services.
Welch & Forbes also serves a few dozen institutions, including pension and profit-sharing plans, charitable organizations, corporations and other businesses. Today, the firm works out of its single Boston office and is majority owned by Affiliated Managers Group, a publicly-traded asset management company, which also owns other investment management firms. Certain employees also hold ownership interest.
Portfolio managers at Welch & Forbes design custom accounts depending on a client’s needs. The menu of potential investment options is broad: multi-cap equity portfolios with domestic and international stocks; specialty portfolios, such as energy or income; open architecture through mutual funds and ETFs; taxable and tax-exempt fixed income portfolios; and alternative investments. For exposure to private equity, venture and private fund investments, client money may be invested in private funds sponsored by Welch & Forbes.
To make their investment choices, portfolio managers and the investment committee rely primarily on fundamental analysis, which looks specifically at company factors, such as the management team. To a lesser extent, the team also uses technical analysis, looking at past prices and trading volumes and other patterns to predict future price activity.
Welch & Forbes has a clean record. The firm discloses no legal or disciplinary actions against it or any of its employees in the past 10 years that would be material to a client’s evaluation of the firm or integrity of the management team. Learn more by reviewing the filings provided on the firm’s IAPD page.
The Bollard Group caters to the ultra-wealthy, typically requiring its clients to invest at least $25 million. Those deep-pocketed clients include high net worth individuals and families, as well as trusts, charitable organizations and other family-centric businesses. These clients turn to The Bollard Group to help them manage all aspects of their vast wealth, including portfolio management, bookkeeping and other accounting services, income tax advising and tax return preparation, financial and estate planning services and business advising.
The firm opened its doors in 1995 in Boston. Today it is owned by members of its senior management team and operates from a single office in Boston.
The team at The Bollard Group uses sophisticated tools to design and execute its equity and fixed-income portfolios, as well as highly liquid cash equivalent positions. Its strategies include active management of U.S. and global stocks and bonds, options and futures, ETFs, concentrated holdings and hedging. Sometimes leverage, shot sales, margin and other trading strategies are used. Certain clients have access to affiliated private funds for exposure to alternatives, such as private equity, venture capital, hedge funds and real estate investments.
To select its recommended investments, the team uses multiple methods of analysis, including fundamental analysis, charting and technical analysis.
The Bollard Group discloses no legal or disciplinary events over the past 10 years against the firm or an employee that would materially impact a client’s evaluation of the firm or integrity of the management team. To learn more about The Bollard Group, visit the firm’s IAPD page.
Choate Investment Advisors is a subsidiary of the Boston-based law firm Choate, Hall & Stewart. Established in 1996, the advisory group was originally intended to serve the law firm’s attorneys who act as trustees.
Today, the team has broadened its reach and now provides services to a variety of clients, including high net worth individuals and families, trusts, charitable foundations, donor-advised funds and endowments. These clients enlist the team primarily for portfolio advisory, wealth management and financial planning. The firm generally requires a $10 million account minimum, though it may accept smaller accounts at its discretion.
The firm works out of a single office in Boston.
Initially, the team at Choate Investment Advisors decides whether active management is likely to prove worthwhile in a particular asset class, or whether it would be more efficient to use an index fund or ETF in that particular asset class. Thus, the team tends to work with active managers in less efficient markets, such as frontier markets or municipal securities, where they believe there is an opportunity to outperform.
To identify worthwhile active managers, the team first runs a screening based on quantitative factors, such as returns, consistency and fees. Those vetted firms then face a qualitative analysis on factors such as management tenure.
As for the particular strategies clients can expect to find, the significant ones include the following:
When advisors build out each strategy, they tailor it to a client’s needs. The firm also offers a private investment fund to give clients exposure primarily to private equity, as well as occasionally real assets, real estate and private credit.
Choate Investment Advisors has a clean record. The firm discloses no legal or disciplinary actions in the prior 10 years that would be material to a client’s opinion of the firm or the integrity of its management personnel. To view the firm’s Form ADV and learn more about it, visit its IAPD page.
Since 1865, parent company Ropes & Gray LLP has provided legal advice on estate and income-tax planning issues. In 2013, the law firm formed Ropes Wealth Advisors to provide investment advice to current relationships. Thus, clients of this advisory firm can find investment management and financial planning services that are coordinated with the law firm’s trust and estate planning legal services.
Today, Ropes Wealth Advisors serves middle- and upper-income individuals, families and their related entities, such as trusts and estates, as well as institutions including charitable organizations and retirement plans. Many clients already work with current or former attorneys, who serve as trustee, executor or LLC manager for clients. However, the team also seeks new relationships.
Ropes Wealth Advisors has created seven asset allocation model strategies that are customized for each client. The strategies include fixed-income only, conservative, moderately conservative, balanced, growth, aggressive growth and equity only.
These strategies are typically implemented using mutual funds, ETFs and separate accounts managed by unaffiliated firms. Occasionally, individual stocks are traded. Both active and index funds are used, depending on the client. Advisors also recommend that certain wealthy and sophisticated investors invest in privately offered pooled investment vehicles, including private equity and hedge funds.
To select investment recommendations, the team narrows the list of possibilities using quantitative factors such as consistency and returns. Then, it digs deeper into the qualitative aspects of those pre-screened investments, including management tenure and firm ownership.
Ropes Wealth Advisors discloses no legal or disciplinary actions against the firm or its employees over the past 10 years that would be material to a client’s opinion of the firm or its team. Visit the firm’s IAPD page to learn more.
Massachusetts falls in the middle of the pack when it comes to state income taxes, charging residents 5% as of Jan. 1, 2020. Massachusetts is one of the dozen states that still levys an estate tax. Specifically, the state taxes estates valued at more than $1 million, including adjusted taxable gifts. The tax rate ranges from 0.8% to 16%, depending on the estate’s value. The state does not charge an inheritance tax.
Start by using this search tool to find advisors who work with clients with your amount of money to invest. Next, check the filings for those advisors to garner additional information and color. You will want to ensure you find an advisor who can offer the services you want and who has experience working with clients with needs similar to yours. Finally, learn what questions to ask here so you can effectively interview potential advisors to find a good fit.
Generally, experts recommend finding an advisor who serves as a fiduciary to their clients, meaning the advisor has agreed to put client interests above their own. For example, an advisor shouldn’t recommend an investment product that charges a higher fee than a similar product but also cuts the advisor a bigger check.
While most financial advisors are familiar with saving for retirement, not everyone will help clients develop a leak-proof plan to get there. Some advisors focus more on portfolio management, while others charge clients separately for financial planning services including insurance, education and retirement planning. If retirement planning is a top priority for you, make sure to research your options and check that the firm has experience offering this service before signing up to work with them.
Every financial advisory firm negotiates how — and how much — the firm gets paid. Some advisors are fee-only, meaning the only compensation they earn is from the fees their clients pay. That compensation may come in the form of a percentage of a client’s account, hourly charges, fixed fees or other fee structures. Other planners earn money from clients in addition to compensation from financial companies encouraging advisors to sell their products. To learn more, including the typical cost for an advisor, read this primer.
The “Find a Financial Advisor” links contained in this article will direct you to webpages devoted to MagnifyMoney Advisor (“MMA”). After completing a brief questionnaire, you will be matched with certain financial advisers who participate in MMA’s referral program, which may or may not include the investment advisers discussed.