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.
North Carolina has plenty of options to offer when it comes to financial advisory companies. But while it’s nice to have choices, it could also make choosing a financial advisor in the Tar Heel State a challenge. Finding the right advisor is a lot about figuring out what your unique financial situation calls for, which will require you to consider your financial needs and goals, as well as how much you can comfortably spend.
Doing the work of comparing firms and data points can feel like a slog, though, so we’re here to help guide your search with our compilation of the most pertinent information. To determine the best advisors in North Carolina, we exclusively 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.
While our ranking is not indicative of which firm may be best for you, it can help make the search for a financial advisor easier. Take a look at our list below for the top firms in North Carolina and their key highlights:
How much would you like to invest?
|Firm name||City||Minimum Assets Required||Fee Structure|
|Captrust||Raleigh||$50,000||A percentage of AUM
|Aon Hewitt Financial Advisors, LLC||Charlotte||None specified||A percentage of AUM
Other (set-up and related fees)
|Independent Advisor Alliance, LLC||Charlotte||Varies by account type||A percentage of AUM
|Carroll Financial Associates, Inc.||Charlotte||Varies by account type||A percentage of AUM
|Parsec Financial||Asheville||No set account minimum||A percentage of AUM
|Bragg Financial Advisors, Inc.||Charlotte||Varies by account type||A percentage of AUM
|Colony Family Offices, LLC||Charlotte||$10 million||A percentage of AUM
|Dixon Hughes Goodman Wealth Advisors LLC||Asheville||No set minimum (accounts under $500,000 pay a $5,000 minimum annual fee)||A percentage of AUM
|Smith, Salley & Associates, LLC||Greensboro||$500,000||A percentage of AUM|
|Salem Investment Counselors Inc||Winston-Salem||No set minimum||A percentage of AUM
For our search, we looked at firms across the state of Carolina. 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 Carolina, 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 December 10, 2020, but we urge you to also evaluate these firms on https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/.
Captrust provides investment advisory management and financial and estate planning services to individuals — this includes high net worth individuals, who the SEC defines as those with at least $750,000 under management or a net worth of at least $1.5 million. In particular, the firm caters to business owners and professional athletes. In addition to serving individuals, the bulk of the firm’s assets under management comes from retirement plans and other institutional investors, such as charitable organizations, foundations, endowments, government entities, insurance companies and other corporations and businesses.
Legally known as CapFinancial Partners LLC, the firm was started in 1997 by Fielding Miller and David Perkins, and in 2003 registered with the SEC as an investment advisor. Captrust is primarily owned by its co-founder Miller and other employees, although private equity firm GTCR recently made an investment to help the firm grow. Today, Captrust has its headquarters in Raleigh, N.C., and an additional 34 offices scattered around the country, with plans to grow further.
Clients of Captrust have the choice of having an individual financial advisor or the firm’s investment committee serve as their portfolio manager. Typical investment recommendations made by the firm include a mix of U.S. and global stocks and bonds, mutual funds, commodities, real estate and strategic opportunities.
Clients with separately managed accounts can also choose among third-party portfolio managers who use long-only equity, fixed income strategies and, in some instances, more sophisticated strategies like shorting, options and derivatives, among others.
Captrust’s management team and members of its investment committee have a clean disciplinary record. The firm does note that financial advisors who serve as portfolio managers have their own separate disclosures, and as such advises clients to look specifically at their forms.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires all registered investment advisors to disclose any legal or disciplinary events against the company or its employees that would be material to a client’s evaluation of the firm or the integrity of the management team. Learn more by viewing the firm’s public disclosures on its Investment Advisor Public Disclosure (IAPD) page.
Legally known as Alight Financial Advisors, LLC, Aon Hewitt Financial Advisors provides advisory services to individual investors with employer-sponsored retirement plans. Specifically, the firm’s team of roughly 60 employees provides portfolio management and financial planning services, as well as educational seminars and workshops.
Founded in 2011, Aon Hewitt Financial Advisors is a subsidiary of Alight Solutions LLC, a benefits administration and HR provider. Alight, in turn, is owned by Blackstone, which trades publicly on the New York Stock Exchange. Aon Hewitt has a single office in Charlotte, N.C. For investors looking for more information on financial advisors in the Charlotte area, we have comprised a list of all our top options.
Retirement plan participants typically have two choices: They can receive investment recommendations online and follow them if they wish (employers typically cover this cost), or give the firm discretionary control to manage their account without them approving each trade. In the latter instance, clients can add on the option to receive steady income payments throughout retirement.
Investment recommendations made by Aon Hewitt Financial Advisors depend on the choices available in the retirement plan, but generally include mutual funds, commingled funds, separate accounts and public equities. The firm uses software from Financial Engines Advisors to create its target allocations.
Aon Hewitt Financial Advisors discloses a single action against its affiliate, Hewitt Financial Services. In 2008, Hewitt Financial Services paid an $8,500 fine, without admitting wrongdoing, to settle a FINRA accusation. The firm was reported to have used the mail or another form of interstate commerce to place transactions without maintaining sufficient capital, and did not keep accurate books and records of the clients’ capital and indebtedness.
The firm discloses no other legal or disciplinary events over the last 10 years that a client would find material when evaluating the firm or the integrity of the management team. To learn more, read the firm’s public disclosures on its IAPD page.
Independent Advisor Alliance, LLC offers asset management, retirement planning and financial planning services to individuals both with and without high net worths as well as small businesses, pension and profit-sharing plans and charitable organizations.
Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., the firm is made up of a network of independent advisors spread across 132 additional offices; they are primarily located in the East and Midwest, as well as in California. The advisors typically operate under their own branding and ownership, yet affiliate with Independent Advisor Alliance for their licensing and certain support services, such as technology and compliance.
The firm first registered with the SEC as an investment advisor in 2013. Independent Advisor Alliance is owned by its founder Robert Russo, who currently serves as CEO.
Independent Advisor Alliance’s menu features a wide breadth of options depending on a client’s needs and objectives. Additionally, each advisor at the firm can choose their own investment strategies and methods of analysis, allowing for further variation and also necessitating that clients ask their individual advisor representative for further information on the investment process.
One option that advisors offer is discretionary accounts, where clients hand over control of daily trading decisions. Typical asset classes used in those accounts include individual stocks and bonds, no-load and load-waived mutual funds, ETFs and alternative investments, such as hedge funds and real estate investment trusts.
Clients also have access to model portfolios and third-party portfolio managers through Independent Advisor Alliance’s relationship with LPL Financial, a registered broker-dealer, as well as other third-party firms. In addition, clients can opt for an online robo-advisory program, which invests in mutual funds and ETFs.
Independent Advisor Alliance has a clean disciplinary record, disclosing no material legal or disciplinary events within the last 10 years on paperwork it files with the SEC. This includes any civil, criminal or regulatory events involving the firm or its employees or affiliates. To learn more, view the firm’s disclosures filed with the SEC on its IAPD page.
In business since 1980, Carroll Financial Associates, Inc. is the eponymous firm of its principal owner, Kristopher Carroll. The firm manages portfolios and provides financial planning services in the form of a written financial plan or consulting on specific topics, such as elder care or college savings. Clients will also find a robo-advisor program offering ETF strategies managed by Carrol Financial Advisors.
The firm’s clients include individual investors with and without a high net worth, including some retirement plan participants and physicians. Rounding out the firm’s client list are certain institutions, such as charitable organizations, pension and profit-sharing plans and businesses.
Carroll Financial Associates, Inc. is based in Charlotte, N.C., with additional offices in Raleigh, N.C., and Rock Hill, S.C.
Clients of Carroll Financial Associates can choose between discretionary and non-discretionary management, depending on whether or not they prefer to retain control of daily trades in their account. Clients will typically participate in one of the firm’s numerous available portfolio management programs, which include programs sponsored by broker-dealer Cetera Advisors Networks, as well as wrap fee programs (meaning clients are charged a single fee for a bundle of services), non-wrap accounts, separately managed accounts and the firm’s automated investment program.
Typical investments used by Carroll Financial Associates in client portfolios include equities, fixed income, mutual funds and ETFs, and the firm also offers some of its own proprietary strategies. Occasionally, advisors may recommend that clients invest with unaffiliated independent investment managers.
Carroll Financial Associates has a clean disciplinary record, meaning it discloses no legal or disciplinary actions against the company or its employees in the last 10 years that would be material to a potential client’s evaluation of the company or integrity of the management team. You can learn more about Carroll Financial Associates by visiting the firm’s IAPD page.
Parsec Financial is based in Asheville, N.C., with additional Tar Heel State offices in Charlotte, Tryon, Winston-Salem and Southern Pines. Clients of the firm include individuals who both are and are not considered high net worth, in addition to some institutional investors including charitable organizations; corporate pension, profit-sharing and 401(k) plans; endowments; and corporations and other businesses.
For individual investors, the firm provides portfolio management and financial planning, which includes help with budgeting, insurance, taxes and estate planning. In addition, the firm prepares taxes for clients, and also offers consulting for employee retirement plans and services for trusts.
Parsec Financial was founded in 1980 by its principal owner, William Barton Boyer. All employees can choose to become shareholders.
Each client of Parsec Financial is assigned a model portfolio designed by the team to achieve a specific goal. Portfolios may include stocks, bonds, ETFs and no-load and load-waived mutual funds. Occasionally, Parsec recommends third-party advisors, typically for fixed income and alternative investments.
Overall, the firm is focused on creating a diversified portfolio that achieves tax efficiency and is suitable for the client. When selecting stocks, the team at Parsec Financial looks for high-quality companies usually with market capitalizations of $3 billion or more, as well as shareholder-friendly activities, such as dividend payments and share buybacks.
Parsec Financial discloses no material legal or disciplinary actions over the last 10 years, giving it a clean record. For reference, the SEC requires that all registered investment advisors report such events involving either the company or its affiliates or employees in their Form ADV paperwork filed with the SEC. You can view this paperwork and learn more about the firm by visiting its IAPD page.
With roots dating back to 1997, Bragg Financial Advisors, Inc. is a family-owned business in Charlotte, N.C., that offers portfolio management, family office, financial planning and pension consulting services. The firm was founded by J. Frank Bragg Jr., currently the firm’s chairman emeritus. Today’s shareholders include Bragg’s three sons and son-in-law, who are part of the firm’s management team.
Clients of Bragg Financial Advisors include investors who both are and are not high net worth individuals, in addition to institutions such as charitable organizations, pension and profit-sharing plans, mutual funds, corporations and other businesses.
Bragg Financial Advisors typically manages client money through a discretionary relationship, meaning the advisor controls the daily trading decisions without first getting the client’s express approval.
The firm offers the following seven portfolio models to which clients can be assigned:
Typical assets used in client portfolios include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate investment trusts, ETFs, CDs, unit investment trusts and money market instruments, as well as other equivalents to cash. Clients particularly interested in getting exposure to small cap growth stocks can take advantage of a specific portfolio consisting mostly of stocks from small companies.
Bragg Financial Advisors reports no disciplinary events in its Form ADV paperwork, meaning it has a clean record. The SEC requires that all registered investment advisors report any civil, criminal or regulatory events involving the firm or its employees or affiliates that would be material to a client’s evaluation of the company or its management team. For more details, view the firm’s IAPD page.
Colony Family Offices is based in Charlotte, N.C., with an additional office in Chapel Hill, N.C. The firm serves a limited number of ultra-wealthy individuals and families and institutions. Its services include wealth management and financial planning and consulting, addressing topics such as taxes, education, philanthropy, operations, risk management and insurance. The firm generally requires a minimum collective investment of $10 million for family accounts.
Founded in 2013, the firm is managed and principally owned by Eric Ridenour, who also serves as a wealth advisor at the firm.
The team at Colony Family Offices typically invests clients’ funds in separately managed accounts, mutual funds, ETFs and private funds, including hedge funds and private equity. The diversified portfolios the firm creates use both active and passive investments, and may include domestic and foreign investments. Advisors employ tactical moves to take advantage of short term investment opportunities or defend against losses.
The team enlists the help of Greycourt & Co., another registered investment advisor, for assistance with research (including asset allocation research) and manager due diligence.
Colony Family Offices has a clean disciplinary record. The firm discloses no legal or disciplinary events over the last 10 years that would materially impact a client’s evaluation of the firm or the integrity of the management team. Learn more about the firm and view its paperwork filed with the SEC on its IAPD page.
Headquartered in Asheville, N.C., Dixon Hughes Goodman Wealth Advisors has 19 offices total. The bulk of its geographic footprint lies within North Carolina, with a more limited presence in South Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia.
The firm provides investment management and financial planning services to individuals, addressing topics like saving for retirement, education and other goals, as well as life events including the death of a spouse, divorcing or selling a business. About two-thirds of the firm’s clients are individual investors who do not qualify as high net worth, while the rest are high net worth individuals and institutions such as pension and profit-sharing plans, charitable organizations, corporations and other businesses and educational trusts.
Dixon Hughes Goodman Wealth Advisors was founded in 1997 as an independent advisory firm. In 2004, it became part of Dixon Hughes Goodman, a large public accounting firm owned by its partners with offices throughout the Southeast.
Dixon Hughes Goodman Wealth Advisors generally adheres to modern portfolio theory as its main investment strategy: With modern portfolio theory, diversification is espoused both across and within asset classes, and risk is minimized while returns are maximized. Clients’ asset allocations are designed to take into account both their risk tolerance and tax considerations.
The firm does not invest clients’ funds directly in individual stocks and bonds — instead, its portfolios use passive, low-cost, no-load mutual funds. Advisors avoid funds that actively try to pick stocks since they believe that costs often outweigh performance. The team also shies away from passive index funds, since they lack broad diversification.
Dixon Hughes Goodman Wealth Advisors has a clean disciplinary record. The firm discloses no legal or disciplinary actions involving the company or its employees or affiliates over the last 10 years that would materially impact a client’s opinion of the firm or the integrity of the management team. Learn more by viewing the firm’s IAPD page.
The eponymous founders and principal owners of Smith, Salley & Associates LLC are Gregory Smith Jr. and Mackay Salley, who launched the firm in 2003 after co-managing the Franklin Street Trust Small Cap Fund. Smith serves as the firm’s CEO and president, while Salley is chairman and a member of the investment committee.
Today, the employee-owned firm serves individual investors — both those of high net worth and not — as well as a few banking and thrift institutions, charitable organizations and other businesses. Smith, Salley & Associates’ offerings include investment management and financial planning, addressing topics including insurance, taxes, estates, education funding, retirement, budgeting and cash flow. A minimum portfolio value of $500,000 is generally required.
Headquartered in Greensboro, N.C., the firm has an additional office in Walpole, Mass., in the Boston metro area.
Smith, Salley & Associates typically invests clients’ money in individual stocks and bonds, based on a predetermined asset allocation. To make their recommendations, advisors use a fundamental research approach that digs into a specific company’s operations and financials. Advisors may use mutual funds or ETFs in special circumstances or when an account is too small to invest in individual securities.
Clients give their advisor discretionary control over their account, meaning clients do not need to sign off each trade. Advisors employ both long- and short-term strategies, including holding stocks for less than a year in order to capitalize on expected price changes. Advisors also use options in some cases.
Smith, Salley & Associates discloses no material legal or disciplinary items in the last 10 years, thus giving it a clean record. This includes any civil, criminal or regulatory events involving either the firm or its employees or affiliates. Learn more about the firm on its IAPD page.
Salem Investment Counselors Inc first opened as a registered investment advisor in 1979 to manage the finances of a wealthy North Carolina family. In 1982, the firm began welcoming the general public as clients. Today, the firm, which is owned by its partners, serves individual investors, including high net worth individuals, as well as a few charitable organizations.
Clients of Salem Investment Counselors can expect to find financial planning and asset management services, typically on a discretionary basis (meaning the client allows advisors to make trading decisions on their behalf). The firm’s main office is in Winston-Salem, N.C., and it has an additional satellite office in Durham, N.C.
According to the team at Salem Investment Counselors, “equities should be the foundation of most investment portfolios.” In particular, advisors look for established companies with high prospects for growth, small and medium-sized companies that are out of favor or not closely followed and companies with a high likelihood of being acquired.
In addition to equities, portfolios may also include bonds, ETFs, mutual funds, real estate investment trusts, master limited partnerships and private equity. The firm believes that in order to provide effective investment advice, it needs to consider the entirety of a client’s needs and financial circumstances.
Salem Investment Counselors has a clean disciplinary record. It discloses no civil, criminal or regulatory actions or events in the last ten years involving the firm or its employees or affiliates that would materially impact a client’s view of the firm or management team. You can find more information on Salem Investment Counselors by visiting its IAPD page.
North Carolina is fairly tax-friendly for residents when it comes to income, estate and inheritance taxes. The state imposes a flat 5.25% income tax, meaning no matter how much money you earn you’ll pay that same rate. North Carolina residents do not currently pay state estate or inheritance taxes, though federal estate taxes could still apply.
While many advisors serve clients planning for, or already in, retirement, not every firm specializes in retirement planning. Thus, it’s your job to ask potential advisors about their areas of experience and expertise to make sure they can provide the services you need.
You’ll need to research and analyze a number of factors to make sure you find a financial advisor who is a good fit for your specific needs. To start, verify that potential advisors offer the specific services you want, such as retirement or cash flow planning. Keep in mind that some advisors focus mostly on managing your portfolio, and less on helping you with a financial plan.
You should also check that you plan to invest enough to meet the advisor’s minimum requirement. As for fees, are the advisors paid only by you, or do they also receive commissions for selling certain products? How much will their fees eat into your bottom line? These are questions worth asking as you continue your search. Finally, interview your financial advisor candidates to find out pertinent information, such as what types of clients they typically serve and if they have a lot of experience serving clients with your needs.
Some clients prefer a face-to-face relationship, where they can quickly get in their car for regular meetings with their financial advisor. That being said, plenty of firms also serve clients outside of their home cities and states, leaning on technology to allow for communication on a regular basis. In other words, it really depends on your personal preferences whether it is important for your advisor to have an office near you.
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.