Aspiriant Review - MagnifyMoney
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Aspiriant Review

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Aspiriant is an independently owned firm with headquarters in Los Angeles. The firm, which has over $14.5 billion in assets under management (AUM), primarily caters to wealthy individuals and families, as well as a smattering of institutional investors, including charities. Non-wealthy individuals may work with Aspiriant, but its minimum annual fee may be prohibitive. Aspiriant provides portfolio management as well as a broad range of financial planning services.

The bottom line: Although it has no absolute minimum investment, Aspiriant is a wealth management company primarily for high net worth individuals and families, and offers an in-house family office and comprehensive planning services.

  • Caters mostly to wealthy individuals
  • Includes alternative investments such as private equity
  • Has an in-house family office

All information included in this profile is accurate as of January 21, 2022. For more information, please consult Aspiriant’s website.

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Overview of Aspiriant

Aspiriant is independently owned, with roughly 66 of its current employees owning shares in the holding companies that own the firm. Aspiriant is the product of a 2008 rollup of the Los Angeles-based wealth management firm Quintile and the San Francisco-based firm Kochis Fitz. Today, the combined entity, which also absorbed Deloitte’s national investment practice in 2010, manages over $14.5 billion in client assets and has spread its geographic footprint, with six total offices in California and several other locations across the U.S.

The firm’s specialties beyond wealth management include family office services and divorce consulting. Aspiriant, which has nearly 90 investment advisors on staff, has earned spots on lists of top investment advisors compiled by Barron’s as well as the Financial Times. The firm’s co-founder and CEO, Rob Francais, was inducted into Barron’s Hall of Fame in 2019 for his work in the field.

Aspiriant’s pros

  • Fee-only: As a fee-only firm, Aspiriant earns money solely through the fees its clients pay for advice and portfolio management. This means that it has no financial incentive to recommend certain products to earn commissions or referral revenue, which mitigates potential conflicts of interest.
  • Awards for its track record: Aspiriant has nabbed high marks on many coveted rankings of top investment advisors. For example, it has appeared on Barron’s top RIAs list for more than 10 years, ranking 28 out of 100 firms in 2021.
  • Employees hold ownership stake: Aspiriant is independently owned by holding companies, in which 66 of the firm’s current employees own shares. Aspiriant believes this helps provide continuity for clients and a clear road map for ownership succession.
  • Access to alternative investments: Aspiriant provides some clients access to private investment funds without charging an additional fee. This allows clients to further diversify their portfolio and gain exposure to investments that may not move in lockstep with the stock market.

Aspiriant’s cons

  • Caters primarily to the wealthy: Given the typically $14,000 minimum annual fee, many investors just starting out or who don’t have seven-figure portfolios may feel Aspiriant’s services are out of reach. Most clients who work with Aspiriant have a portfolio value of at least $1.5 million. That’s not to say Aspiriant won’t work with more modest incomes, though. Nearly 300 of its individual clients are not high net worth individuals. High net worth investors are defined by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as having at least $750,000 under management or a total net worth of more than $1.5 million.
  • No published fee schedule: Unlike many other registered investment advisors, Aspiriant’s does not publish a tiered fee schedule. The firm states that clients’ fees will fall in the range of 0.2% to 1% of your portfolio value, but you can’t easily see ahead of meeting with an advisor how much you should expect to pay or how much you need to invest to nab the lowest fee rate.
  • Additional charges for ongoing financial planning: Some registered investment advisors include financial planning and other services beyond investing in their standard asset-based fee. Aspiriant charges separately for these recurring wealth planning services, either by the hour or per project. If you decide to work with Aspiriant, make sure to ask your advisor what comes as part of their wealth planning services.
  • Private funds lock up your money: Though the private equity and real estate funds offered by Aspiriant are unique investing opportunities, they may have limited liquidity for 10 to 15 years. Additionally, the strategies these funds pursue “are not completely transparent to investors,” Aspiriant notes in its Form ADV.

What types of clients does Aspiriant serve?

Clients typically have investment portfolios of at least $1.5 million. However, the firm does not have an absolute minimum account size requirement, and some of its clients do have more modest levels of investable assets. For particularly complex situations, however, a portfolio larger than $1.5 million may be required.

Services offered by Aspiriant

Aspiriant can manage your investment portfolio, as well as advise on other areas of your finances. Aspiriant also has an in-house team that provides family office services. In addition to its services for individuals and families, the firm offers investment management services for institutional investors.

Here is a complete list of services offered by Aspiriant:

  • Investment management for individuals and institutions (both discretionary and non-discretionary)
  • Financial planning services
    • Tax planning
    • Estate planning
    • Charitable giving
    • Retirement planning
    • Education goals planning
    • Risk management
    • Expense management
    • Compensation planning
    • Liquidity and cash flow needs
    • Private foundations and business entities
    • Divorce financial consulting
  • Family office services
    • Family legacy planning
    • Estate document preparation
    • Alternative investment coordination
    • Tax and compliance filing
    • Bill paying and reporting
    • Foundation management
    • Insurance

How Aspiriant invests your money

Aspiriant creates customized plans for each client. The personalized plans take into consideration the client’s individual circumstances, as well as Aspiriant advisors’ market outlook for the short and long term. When choosing investments, Aspiriant may recommend clients invest in the publicly traded mutual funds it manages. A small percentage of clients invest in private funds that Aspiriant advises.

In general, however, client money is typically invested in a mix of:

Aspiriant prefers the advisor to be in charge of choosing the specific investments, known as discretionary management. However, some clients have non-discretionary relationships with Aspiriant, meaning the client must approve trades.

Fees Aspiriant charges for its services

To manage your portfolio, Aspiriant charges an annual fee based on a percentage of assets under management, which typically starts at 1% and ranges down to 0.20% for larger portfolios. The minimum annual fee is generally $14,000. Each quarter the investment management fee is automatically debited from client accounts. Clients may also pay fees to third parties, such as expense ratios and trading costs, in addition to the advisory fee.

Wealth planning services come with retainer fees that range from $5,000 to $50,000, depending on the complexity of the services offered and the time involved. Clients also may pay an hourly rate for special projects and/or ongoing consulting, typically ranging from $100 to $695. The firm notes that all fees are open to negotiation.

Aspiriant disciplinary disclosures

Aspiriant has had no disciplinary events over the last 10 years, meaning it has a clean disciplinary disclosure record. All registered investment advisors are required to disclose in their Form ADV, paperwork that they file with the SEC, any legal, regulatory or criminal action that is material to a client’s evaluation of the advisory business or of the integrity of the management personnel. For more information, go to the firm’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) page.

Aspiriant onboarding process

  1. Set up a meeting: To arrange an initial conversation with Aspiriant, you will need to reach out to the firm’s director of marketing, Cammie Doder, in one of the following ways:
    • By phone at 415-371-7888
    • By filling out the form on the Start a Dialogue page of Aspiriant’s website
  2. Speak with an advisor: If you live near one of Aspiriant’s 11 offices, you can meet an advisor in person. If not, plan on a phone call with an advisor at Aspiriant. The firm starts the process by having each client speak extensively with an advisor about their:
    • Goals
    • Risk tolerance
    • Time horizon
    • Cash needs
    • Expected returns

    Based on those conversations, the client and their advisor will agree on an appropriate asset allocation.

  3. Choose a broker: Clients will need a brokerage account with a third party to hold their assets, since Aspiriant is not a broker-dealer and does not take physical custody of your assets. Aspiriant recommends that clients use:

    Clients are, however, free to choose other providers. Clients will receive regular statements from these firms as well.

  4. Grant discretionary authority, if applicable: If an advisor has discretion to choose investments on a client’s behalf, the client will need to execute a limited power of attorney granting Aspiriant permission to execute trades.
  5. Stay in touch: For ongoing communications, Aspiriant advisors typically meet with their clients at least annually, though meetings may be as frequent as every quarter. The firm also communicates with clients over email or on the phone throughout the year. Clients receive quarterly reports, typically electronically, although portfolios smaller than $250,000 receive only annual updates.

Where Aspiriant is located

Aspiriant has 12 offices in total in the following locations:

  • New York
  • Boston
  • Cincinnati
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Irvine, Calif.
  • Mountain View, Calif.
  • Austin, Texas
  • Minnetonka, Minn.
  • Pewaukee, Minn.

Is Aspiriant right for you?

If you’re willing to pay at least $14,000 annually in fees and want a professional to handle all trading through discretionary management, Aspiriant may be worth a look. The firm may be a good fit for high net worth individuals and family offices looking for comprehensive financial planning and wealth management, as well as investors who desire access to alternative investments such as private equity or real estate funds.

While Aspiriant doesn’t have a firm minimum investment requirement, it does say that most of its clients have portfolios of at least $1.5 million, and many of its services do cater to the wealthy. Plus, the firm does not publish a clear fee schedule, so it may be hard to know before you talk to a representative how much you can expect to pay — especially if you also want financial planning services, which the firm charges extra for on top of investment management.

Before you make a decision on whether Aspiriant is right for you, make sure to do your research, compare your options and, most importantly, think carefully about your own financial situation. Be sure to research multiple firms to ensure you find the right advisor for 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.