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Choosing a financial advisor isn’t easy given all of the options in this New England state. To find the right advisor in Massachusetts, you’ll need to take into account your unique circumstance and identify your financial goals, as well as how much you can spend on an advisor’s services.
Since comparing firms and data points isn’t always an easy undertaking, we’ve put together the most pertinent information on the Bay State’s top advisory firms to help guide your decision. To determine the best advisors in Massachusetts, we looked exclusively at 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.
Although our ranking won’t answer the question of which firm is right for you, it can hopefully make it easier for you to figure that out. Read through our list below to see the top firms in Massachusetts and what you need to know about them.
How much would you like to invest?
|Firm||Headquarters location||Minimum assets required||Fee structure|
|Cambridge Associates||Boston||Typically $100 million||A percentage of AUM
Subscription fees, Fixed fees
Other (a percent of assets invested)
|SCS Capital Management||Boston||Generally $25 million, but less for pooled vehicles||A percentage of AUM
Fixed fees Performance-based fees
|Appleton Partners||Boston||Preferably $1 million to work directly with the firm, though often less||A percentage of AUM|
|Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge Fiduciary Advisors||Boston||Generally $2 million||A percentage of AUM
|Ballentine Partners||Waltham||$3.5 million||A percentage of AUM
Other (project fees)
|Eaton Vance Investment Counsel||Boston||$1 million for direct relationships, less for accounts sponsored by other firms||A percentage of AUM
Other (a percentage of portfolio income)
|Sentinel Pension Advisors||Wakefield||$25,000||A percentage of AUM
|Shepherd Kaplan Krochuk||Boston||Prefers $10 million, although exceptions exist||A percentage of AUM
|Athena Capital Advisors||Lincoln||No across the board minimum, though a minimum annual fee of $150,000||A percentage of AUM
|Welch & Forbes||Boston||Generally $2 million, although negotiable||A percentage of AUM
For our search, we looked at firms across the state of Massachusetts. 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 Massachusetts, 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 February 8, 2021, but we urge you to also evaluate these firms on https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/.
Nearly all of Cambridge Associates’ clients are what’s known as accredited investors and qualified purchasers, meaning they are sophisticated investors with deep pockets. With a minimum investment requirement of typically $100 million, the firm’s client list features ultra-wealthy families and institutions including colleges and universities, foundations, religious groups, research institutions, museums and libraries. They rely on Cambridge Associates to manage or provide advice on their investments, as well as for research and performance reporting.
The firm can act as an outsourced chief investment officer for families and institutions with limited in-house resources who are seeking to farm out portfolio management. On the flip side, families with strong internal investment teams can seek guidance on their portfolio yet retain control internally, which is dubbed non-discretionary management.
Headquartered in Boston, Cambridge Associates has additional locations in Arlington, Virginia; Dallas; New York; San Francisco and Menlo Park, California. The firm is principally owned by its employees and clients. Its predecessor company, a corporation branded Cambridge Associates, was founded in 1975. In 2000, the group registered as an investment advisor under the Cambridge Associates LLC structure.
The team at Cambridge Associates has deep experience in the alternative asset space, assisting clients to identify and vet hedge funds, private equity, venture capital, private credit, real estate, timber and other natural resource investments. The firm can even create a fund that provides clients a portfolio of alternative investment assets without requiring that clients bear the administrative burden of each individual investment.
Rather than select individual stocks, Cambridge Advisors assists clients in finding and doing their due diligence in researching external third-party managers. The team also specifically focuses on socially responsible impact investing.
Cambridge Associates discloses no legal or disciplinary marks. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires registered investor advisors to share any legal or disciplinary actions against the firm or its employees in the previous 10 years that a client would find material when evaluating the firm or the integrity of its management team. Visit the firm’s IAPD page to learn more.
SCS Capital Management is part of the Focus Financial Partners LLC group, which is primarily owned by the public company Focus Financial Partners. The group also owns other registered investment advisors, brokers, insurers, pension consultants and financial service firms. Headquartered in Boston, SCS Capital Management also has locations in New York and Beverly Hills, Calif. The firm was founded in 2002.
SCS Capital Management serves ultra-wealthy individual and institutional investors including charitable organizations, sovereign wealth funds and pooled investment vehicles. Clients must be willing to spend at least $150,000 a year on advisory services, and meet a minimum investment requirement of $25 million. The main services offered are investment management and advisory, as well as financial planning services addressing topics such as income, tax and philanthropic planning.
Clients typically grant SCS Capital Management discretionary authority, meaning clients do not approve each trade or investment manager added to the portfolio. In limited circumstances, the firm considers non-discretionary relationships where advisors are prohibited from placing trades or investing in the SCS managed pooled vehicles without first securing client approval.
Clients can invest in at least one or more of the pooled investment vehicles managed by SCS. These programs provide investors access to a mix of private equity, private credit and private real estate fund investments managed by third parties. The remaining client money is mostly invested with external managers. To identify these managers, the team analyzes both quantitative and qualitative factors, meaning they look at everything from consistency of returns, downside risk and use of leverage to the management team, the soundness of the strategy and the manager’s infrastructure. The firm also may purchase individual securities directly, such as high-quality taxable and tax-exempt bonds, depending on the client’s needs.
SCS Capital Management has a clean disciplinary record. The firm discloses no legal or disciplinary actions in the previous 10 years against the firm or its employees that would be material to a client’s opinion of the firm or its leadership. Learn more by visiting the firm’s IAPD page.
From its Boston office, Appleton Partners serves individual investors and wealthy families. Some but not all of these investors are considered to have a high net worth by the SEC, meaning they have more than $750,000 in assets invested or a net worth of more than $1.5 million. Clients tap the firm for portfolio management and financial planning services. Additionally, the team manages certain accounts, such as some separately managed accounts, for clients of some banks, brokerage firms and other financial advisory firms. Institutions such as charitable organizations round out the client list.
Today Appleton Partners is an independent firm, principally owned by the Appleton Partners Business Trust. The firm opened its doors in 1987.
Advisors manage client accounts using discretionary management, meaning clients do not approve each trade. Advisors take into consideration factors such as a client’s goals, risk tolerance and taxes when choosing investments.
Client money is typically invested in domestic bonds, large-cap stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Some client accounts may also include small- and mid-cap stocks, mutual funds and other products. In particular Appleton specializes in municipal bond, taxable bond and equity strategies.
Appleton’s fixed income strategies include:
Appleton’s equity strategies include:
The team uses a few strategies to identify investments, including fundamental analysis that looks at factors such as industry conditions and company management, as well as technical analysis, which consider factors such as market movements and patterns.
Appleton Partners discloses no legal or disciplinary events over the past 10 years that would materially impact a client’s view of the firm or its leadership. To learn more, view the firm’s IAPD page.
Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge Fiduciary Advisors was originally created in 1994 by the Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge team, so the latter’s trustees could handle investment management and advisory services for retirement accounts and other accounts for which they were not fiduciaries. Today the firm’s partners are made up of current and some past trustees and employees of the Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge Office, with no one holding more than a 25% stake in the partnership.
Based in Boston, the team specializes in money management and advice for wealthy individuals and trusts, generally requiring a minimum investment of $2 million. The team provides advice to the trustees of revocable, irrevocable and testamentary trusts. Some institutions needing these services are also clients, including foundations.
Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge Fiduciary Advisors’ clients should be prepared to handle higher short-term risks. The firm discloses that its team is more comfortable with a higher allocation toward stocks than other advisors. In general, the team has a strong bias for publicly-traded equities, particularly high-quality growth stocks they hope to buy and hold for the long term. Bonds or bond mutual funds are used to produce income and dampen volatility. Because advisors aim to tailor portfolios to each client, mutual funds and other investments may be considered when appropriate.
To make their investment recommendations, the team relies on its own internal research analyst, as well as two external sub-advisors for equities and two sub-advisors for fixed income.
The Sustainability Group can also provide socially responsible investors with investment options that reflect their values and priorities.
Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge Fiduciary Advisors has a clean record. The firm discloses no legal or disciplinary events over the past 10 years against the firm or its employees that would materially impact a client’s evaluation of the firm or management team. To learn more, visit the firm’s IAPD page.
The idea of Ballentine Partners was born out of its founder Roy Ballentine’s difficult experience handling his parents’ estate and financial affairs after his father died. The experience led him to switch careers, with the goal of creating a wealth advisory firm that would offer comprehensive and coordinated advice to wealthy families trying to manage their complicated financial affairs. Thus, in 1984 he opened the eponymous wealth advisory firm Ballentine & Company, which has restructured a few times and is now branded Ballentine Partners. Today, the firm is owned by its employees and clients, with Roy Ballentine continuing to serve as executive chairman.
Ballentine Partners serves families that typically have assets of $20 million or more, as well as charitable organizations created by clients. These families rely on the Ballentine team for investment management or advice, either using Ballentine as their wealth manager, or maintaining an internal family office and tapping Ballentine for its advice and implementation services. Many clients also use the firm’s comprehensive financial planning services, including on topics like cash flow, estate planning, insurance, tax planning and more. Additional services wealthy clients may find helpful are bill paying, business and education planning, family gifting, and managing yachts, vacation homes and household staff.
Based in Waltham, Mass., the firm has additional offices in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
The team at Ballentine Partners constructs custom portfolios, most of which are broadly diversified. They likely include a mix of investments across liquid and perhaps illiquid asset classes. Liquid investments include stocks, bonds, cash, real estate funds, energy funds, commodity funds and options. Illiquid asset classes include hedge funds, private equity, venture capital, real estate, energy, managed futures and timber funds.
In addition to other types of analysis, when constructing a portfolio the team also uses scenario analysis, which tests a portfolio under various conditions. It prefers this method rather than using probability estimates for what it describes as very hard to predict events.
Ballentine Partners has a clean record, disclosing no legal or disciplinary events in the past 10 years that would materially impact client opinion of the firm or its leadership team. To learn more, view the firm’s IAPD page.
Eaton Vance Investment Counsel is a subsidiary of Eaton Vance Corp, a publicly-traded company. This division was formed in 2004, but its predecessors have been doling out financial advice since 1924. In general, clients turn to the firm for portfolio management and financial planning services, including estate planning, charitable giving, taxes and business planning.
Today’s clients include middle- and upper-income individual investors and families. To work directly with the firm, clients typically need to invest at least $1 million. Investors starting out, or with less to invest, can access Eaton Vance’s portfolio management services by going through an unaffiliated sponsor firm.
Eaton Vance Investment Counsel is headquartered in Boston, with two Florida offices in West Palm Beach and Winter Park. The firm also serves institutional investors such as charitable organizations, pension plans, labor unions, religious organizations, insurance companies and educational institutions.
Advisors serve as the portfolio manager for client accounts. Thus, portfolio construction and investment recommendations will vary by advisor, as well as by client. When making investment recommendations, advisors rely heavily on research and resources from the affiliated Eaton Vance brands.
Advisors may recommend strategies managed by the Eaton Vance team, as well as third-party managers. In particular, they look for managers with a specific niche or specialties such as private equity or emerging markets. Otherwise, clients can expect portfolio recommendations to include the traditional asset classes such as investment grade, high-yield and municipal bonds; alternatives and floating-rate bank loans.
Eaton Vance discloses no legal or disciplinary actions over the past 10 years that would be material to a client evaluating the firm or the integrity of its leadership team. To get more information, visit the firm’s IAPD page.
Sentinel Pension Advisors is another registered investment advisory firm, along with other advisors, broker-dealers, pension consultants, insurance firms and other financial service firms, under the umbrella of Focus Financial Partners LLC. The publicly-traded company Focus Financial Partners Inc. owns two-thirds of Focus Financial Partners LLC.
This particular firm is based in Wakefield, Mass. with additional offices in New York; Melville, New York; and Bingham Farms, Michigan. Founded in 1998, this group caters to individual investors not defined as high net worth individuals by the SEC, meaning they have less than $750,000 to invest or a net worth of less than $1.5 million. The primary services they are offered are investment management and financial planning, including retirement, education, estate and tax planning. Clients can also access the firm through its automated investment program, which allows clients to invest in ETFs and mutual funds through specific strategies, based on client answers to an online questionnaire.
Sentinel Pension Advisors also advises retirement plan sponsors and investment advisors.
Investors who go with the firm’s traditional advisory services can choose whether to maintain control of trading decisions in their account, or hand over the reins to the advisor. Either way, client money is typically invested among a portfolio of mutual funds and ETFs, based on the client’s investment objectives, risk tolerance and time horizon.
Clients can also choose a wrap account, where trading and commission fees are included. The team offers three model portfolios: moderate, balanced and growth. Typical investments in this program are no-load and select load-waived mutual funds, ETFs and other approved securities including some stocks, bonds and options.
To choose investments for their model portfolios, the team starts with thousands of potential funds, and narrows the list based on specific quantitative factors, such as consistency of returns and volatility versus peers. Qualitative concerns such as the management team, decision-making procedures and portfolio concentration are also factored into the analysis.
Sentinel Pension Advisors discloses no legal or disciplinary marks over the past 10 years that would be material to a client evaluating the firm or the integrity of its leadership. Learn more by visiting the firm’s IAPD page.
High net worth individuals and families turn to Shepherd Kaplan Krochuk for asset management, family office services and financial planning. The latter addresses issues such as cash flow, estate planning, insurance, philanthropy, family education and more. Based in Boston, the firm also serves institutional investors including pension plans, endowments, foundations, private investment funds and others.
The firm has been in business since 2001, although until 2017 it was known as GRT Capital Partners. Today, Shepherd Kaplan Krochuk is owned by the five members of its management board. One of its management team members, Brian Lockhart, operates a separate group called Peak Capital Management. Based in Greenwood Village, Colorado, this unit has its own disclosures and requirements for clients, as does Shepherd Kaplan’s financial planning services.
Shepherd Kaplan Krochuk places emphasis on fundamental research. The team digs into the specific company’s business and characteristics, including conducting interviews with company management and attending industry trade shows and events to better understand trends. The firm then adds in quantitative techniques and its own proprietary models to choose and monitor investments.
Client money can be put into a wide spectrum of investments. Typical assets include publicly-traded equities, limited and private offerings of operating companies and special-purpose vehicles. Sophisticated tools and investments are used such as short positions, options, defaulted bonds, leverage and more. Some accounts are long only, while others make bets on investments falling as well as rising.
The firm discloses one regulatory action against an individual advisory affiliate. The individual was not employed by Shepherd Kaplan Krochuk nor on its management team when the event occurred in 2012 and 2013. Still, according to the Securities Commissioner of Colorado, the individual allegedly did not disclose in writing that he was an executive producer of a movie production he recommended as an investment. No fine was assessed, and the individual agreed to disclose this conflict of interest in writing in the future.
To view the firm’s disclosures, visit its IAPD page.
Legally known and recently rebranded as Fiduciary Trust International, LLC, this advisory firm is based in Boston with an additional New York location. In 2020, the firm was acquired by Fiduciary Trust Company International, a global wealth manager and subsidiary of Franklin Resources. The firm was originally founded in 1993.
The team serves a few dozen wealthy and sophisticated investors. Many of these families have a variety of accounts including trusts, limited liability companies and family limited partnerships. Clients turn to Athena Capital Advisors primarily for portfolio management, research, investment services and related wealth management. The firm can serve as an outsourced chief investment officer and investment staff, experienced in addressing intra-family matters, estate planning, charitable giving and distribution planning. Athena’s managing partners sometimes serve as trustees for family trusts.
Athena also serves a limited number of institutional clients including endowments and others.
Advisors construct custom accounts unique to each client. Depending on the situation, Athena Capital Advisors may recommend clients use a separately managed account, mutual fund or private partnership through one of the firm’s pooled investment vehicles. Known as the Commingled Funds, these pooled vehicles allow certain clients to combine funds to meet high minimum requirements.
Investment strategies are generally diversified across asset classes, including more traditional U.S. and foreign equities and bonds, as well as alternatives and more sophisticated strategies such as private equity, hedge funds, derivatives and futures. Advisors may recommend increasing exposure to investments the firm deems attractive in the next six to 18 months.
In particular, the firm has focused its resources on developing quantitative and derivative expertise and can create customized hedges or other sophisticated transactions and structures as need be.
Athena Capital has a clean disciplinary and legal record. The firm discloses no issues in the past 10 years against the firm or an employee that would materially impact a client’s evaluation of the firm or the integrity of its leadership. To learn more about the firm, visit its IAPD page.
About Welch & Forbes
Based in Boston since 1838, Welch & Forbes is owned mostly by Affiliated Managers Group (AMG), a publicly-traded asset management company. Other investment management firms are also owned by AMG. The remaining ownership interest is largely certain employees.
The firm’s client list primarily includes individual investors and trusts. In many instances, the firm officers serve as trustee or co-trustee. Clients turn to the firm to manage their investments, as well as handle personal trust and fiduciary needs, estate planning, bill paying and tax and custodial issues. The firm also serves institutional investors such as pension and profit-sharing plans, estates, charitable organizations, corporations and other businesses.
Welch & Forbes investing strategy
When it comes to equities, Welch & Forbes invests in domestic and international equities, as well as in small-, mid- and large-cap stocks. In general, portfolio managers do not move clients in and out of various investment styles, such as large-cap value or small-cap growth, as most clients are invested for the long term. Customized equity accounts have a variety of objectives, including income-oriented, sector-specific and socially screened. In certain cases, the firm manages the portfolio being particularly sensitive to taxes.
As for bonds, since most clients seek income and safety, the firm generally constructs fixed-income portfolios in a modified ladder manner using investment-grade bonds over a set range of maturity dates. This approach allows portfolio managers to overweight holdings at particular points along the yield curve as it deems desirable.
The firm’s custom accounts may focus on a particular objective, such as a sector or style like energy or income, or alternative investments such as venture capital, private equity, hedge funds and real estate. This exposure is typically accessed through private funds the firm sponsors.
Welch & Forbes disciplinary disclosures
Welch & Forbes discloses no legal or disciplinary events over the past 10 years against the firm or its employees that would be material to a client evaluating the firm or the integrity of the management team. To learn more, visit the firm’s IAPD page.
You can start by locating local advisors using MagnifyMoney’s search tool, or the search tools available on third-party websites such as the National Association of Personal Financial Planners or letsmakeaplan.org.
Next, learn the key questions to ask potential candidates, particularly regarding how much and from whom they are paid. Finally, verify disciplinary history through either FINRA’s BrokerCheck or the SEC’s Action Lookup.
Many clients prefer in-person relationships when it comes to their finances, so they can sit across the table and discuss their goals and objectives as well as their tolerance for risk. In that case, search for a local certified financial planner in your area. If you are comfortable communicating with your advisor via the telephone, video chat or online messaging, you can work with an advisor long distance. You may also consider one of the growing number of robo-advisors that provide portfolio management and sometimes even allow clients to speak on the phone to advisors.
Although The Bay State does not charge an inheritance tax, it is one of the dozen states nationwide that still has an estate tax. On estates larger than $1 million, including adjusted taxable gifts, residents should be prepared to pay between 0.80% and 16%, depending on the estate’s value. As for income taxes, residents pay 5%, which ranks in the middle of the pack or income rates nationwide.
While many clients turn to advisors to help them manage the money they are counting on in their retirement years, not all advisors specifically focus on retirement planning. For example, some advisors focus more on choosing investments and monitoring your portfolio, known as asset management. Other advisors have a broader mandate dubbed wealth management, helping clients plan all aspects of their retirement lives, including taxes, estate plans, insurance and retirement income.
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.