Registered Investment Advisor

Wetherby Asset Management Review 2022

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Wetherby Asset Management is a San Francisco-based registered investment advisor. The firm generally caters to high net worth clients with at least $10 million to invest. Along with traditional investment management, Wetherby also advises clients on impact investments across nearly every asset class. The firm also offers a full range of financial planning services.

The bottom line: Wetherby Asset Management is focused largely on serving very high net worth clients, offering portfolio management and financial planning.

  • High account minimum excludes many investors
  • Impact investing options available
  • Focus on limiting portfolio volatility

All information included in this profile is accurate as of April 25, 2022. For more information, please consult Wetherby Asset Management’s website.

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Overview of Wetherby Asset Management

Wetherby Asset Management was founded in 1990. Today, Wetherby Asset Management is wholly owned by Laird Norton Trust Company, LLC, a wealth management and trust company.

The firm has close to 80 employees, nearly 60 of whom perform investment advisory functions. Wetherby generally requires its wealth managers to hold an advanced degree or professional license. Its current team includes a number of chartered financial analysts (CFA), certified financial planners (CFP) and certified private wealth advisors (CPWA), among others.

A look at the founder of Wetherby Asset Management

Wetherby Asset Management was founded by Debra Wetherby, who previously worked in the auditing and consulting department of the accounting firm Price Waterhouse, and at Morgan Stanley. In founding her RIA, Wetherby’s goal was to marry the investing know-how of Wall Street with the personalized service and objectivity of accounting. She is known for specializing in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing.

Wetherby has been named as one of the top women in wealth management, and interviewed by publications such as Forbes and Investment News.

Wetherby Asset Management’s pros

  • Slightly below average fees: Wetherby Asset Management’s rates are tiered, starting at 1% of a client’s assets under management and dropping down to 0.25% for those with a higher level of assets under the firm’s management. This places Wetherby’s rates slightly below the range of average investment advisory fees, which typically fall between 0.50% and 1.25% of assets under management.
  • High level of customization: Portfolios are customized based on each client’s unique needs. The firm also allows clients, including those who request impact investing, to place certain restrictions on the types of investments in their portfolios. Additionally, Wetherby will provide consultation and oversight on assets not held at the firm for no additional charge, unless asked to provide reporting or additional research on the assets.
  • Favorable client to advisor ratio: At just nine individual investors per financial advisor, the client-to-advisor ratio at Wetherby is comparatively low, which means it’s likely the firm’s advisors are able to provide personalized attention to clients.
  • Awards and accolades: Wetherby Asset Management has frequently earned top rankings over the years. The firm’s founder, Deb Wetherby, landed the No. 5 slot on Forbes’ list of the Top 50 Best-In-State Wealth Advisors in 2020 and ranked No. 5 on the magazine’s list of America’s Top Women Advisors in 2020. The firm also appeared on Barron’s Top 1,200 for 2021 and the Financial Times Top 300 RIA list for 2020, among others.

Wetherby Asset Management’s cons

  • High account minimum: Wetherby’s high investment minimum requirement of $10 million makes its services out of reach for many investors. However, the firm will waive this minimum on a case-by-case basis, and it does currently serve a small number of clients who do not meet the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) definition of high net worth.
  • Relatively small geographic footprint: With just three offices, Wetherby has a limited geographic reach. If you aren’t located in San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York, it will be challenging to meet with your advisor in person, though the firm is registered in a number of other states if you’re open to working remotely with your advisor.
  • Potential conflict of interest: Debra Wetherby and two other owners of the firm also own minority ownership interests in a savings and loan holding company called National Advisors Trust Company (NATC). The firm intends to refer clients to NATC for trust and custodial services, contending that NATC provides these services for less than competitors. While the firm states in its Form ADV that it “will only recommend NATC to its clients when it is in the best interest of its clients,” this outside interest does present a potential conflict of interest as advisors may have an incentive to give the company additional work, thus referring its clients.

Which types of clients does Wetherby Asset Management serve?

The vast majority of Wetherby’s clients are high net worth individuals, though the firm works with a limited number of individual investors who are not high net worth. For reference, the SEC defines high net worth individuals as those with at least $750,000 under management or a net worth of at least $1.5 million.

With a $10 million minimum, however, Wetherby caters almost exclusively to high net worth and ultra high net worth clients. In some instances, Wetherby will lower its minimum requirements, which explains why a small number of clients fall below the high net worth category. Still, clients at the top end of the asset level enjoy low fees and a high level of customization.

Services offered by Wetherby Asset Management

Wetherby Asset Management provides investment management services to all of its client types. Clients typically work with Wetherby under one or more of the following arrangements:

  • Discretionary: Wetherby has the discretion and authority to invest and place trades in client accounts according to a client’s established objectives and guidelines.
  • Non-discretionary: Wetherby provides investment guidance but does not have the authority to place trade in client accounts without prior approval.
  • Consulting: Wetherby provides investment advice as needed based upon a mutual agreement, but clients execute trades on their own.

Wetherby’s services include an impact investing capability, which is the practice of investing in companies, organizations and funds with the intention of generating positive social and environmental change along with financial return.

In addition to investment management, Wetherby also offers its clients a wide range of financial planning services. These services are provided as needed, and clients may or may not incur additional fees for financial planning.

Here is a complete list of services currently offered by Wetherby Asset Management:

  • Investment management
    • Impact investing
  • Financial planning
    • Financial statement preparation and analysis
    • Income tax planning guidance
    • Risk management/insurance analysis
    • Retirement planning
    • Estate planning
    • Education planning
    • Philanthropic planning
    • Intergenerational wealth transfer
    • Equity ownership and stock option advice

How Wetherby Asset Management invests your money

Wetherby Asset Management invests client money with the dual goals of growth and downside protection. The firm also looks to lower volatility in clients’ portfolios and increase tax-efficiency.

Wetherby develops an investment policy for each client that takes into account the client’s needs and goals, as well as the current economic and market conditions. The key steps in the firm’s portfolio construction process are asset allocation, manager selection and implementation.

Wetherby’s investment approach is long term, with advisors looking out at least a year, though changing market conditions could cause Wetherby to sell securities more quickly. The firm diversifies its investments across asset classes and among multiple money managers. To execute its investment strategy, Wetherby typically uses actively managed funds, though it includes passively managed funds in client portfolios to reduce fees and taxes.

Clients have the ability to customize their portfolios with Wetherby. That being said, Wetherby may recommend the following types of investments:

Some clients may have assets invested in private investment funds. Wetherby clients have access to private fund offerings through LRHF II Holding Company, which is owned and managed by Wetherby Asset Management.

Additionally, Wetherby offers an impacting investing capability for clients who want it. With this service, the firm reviews the social and environmental challenges that clients want to address and then finds appropriate investments to meet those goals.

Fees Wetherby Asset Management charges for its services

Wetherby Asset Management generally charges clients based on a percentage of assets under management for its discretionary investment management services. The firm has a tiered fee schedule, with rates decreasing the more assets a client has under management. Rates start at 1% and can drop down to as low as 0.25%.

For the firm’s non-discretionary asset management and consulting services, clients may also agree to a retainer fee or other negotiated fee. Ultimately, the way fees are charged will depend on a client’s historical relationship with the firm, their number of accounts and entities, the complexity of their portfolio and financial situation, the scope and variety of services requested and the client’s unique circumstances.

In addition to the investment advisory fees charged by Wetherby, clients may be responsible for some investment fees, such as when investing in private placements. Clients will also incur expenses for investing in mutual funds and other pooled accounts.

Financial planning services will generally also include additional fees, unless otherwise negotiated. Additionally, Wetherby may charge an additional fee when asked to provide research or reporting on investments that it does not directly supervise.

Wetherby Asset Management disciplinary disclosures

Wetherby Asset Management has no disciplinary disclosures listed in its Form ADV. SEC-registered firms are required to provide prompt disclosures of any legal or disciplinary actions in their Form ADV to help current and prospective clients evaluate the firm. The type of legal and disciplinary events that must be disclosed include criminal and civil actions, administrative proceedings before a federal regulatory agency and proceedings before a self-regulatory organization.

For more information on Wetherby Asset Management, visit the firm’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) page.

Wetherby Asset Management onboarding process

  1. Reach out to the firm: Prospective clients can contact Wetherby Asset Management by:
    • Filling out a form on its website
    • Emailing the firm at [email protected]
    • Calling the firm at any of the three office numbers listed on its website
  2. Attend an official kickoff meeting: If clients choose to work with Wetherby, the first step will be attending an official kickoff meeting during which advisors will get to understand their goals and risk tolerance to create a suitable portfolio.
  3. Decide whether to follow through with the firm: Clients have five business days after signing on with Wetherby to rescind the contract (though they will be required to settle transactions that Wetherby began on their behalf).
  4. Receive regular reviews and adjustments: The firm continually monitors clients’ investments and makes adjustments as necessary as a client’s goals and objectives change over time. Wealth managers review every account in detail on at least a quarterly basis. The firm recommends a yearly review with each client, either in person or over the phone, though clients can request more frequent reviews.

Where Wetherby Asset Management is located

Wetherby Asset Management has three offices in total in the following locations:

  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles
  • New York

Is Wetherby Asset Management right for you?

For high net worth investors, Wetherby Asset Management offers a customizable investment management experience. Additionally, the firm’s requirement that wealth managers hold professional licenses and its clean disciplinary record can provide assurances to investors. What’s more, Wetherby’s emphasis on impact investing gives investors an option to participate in an increasingly popular investment style.

However, the firm’s high account minimums leave out all but the very wealthy, although there are some exceptions. Additionally, the firm only has three office locations, which may make it hard for many to meet with an advisor in person. Before choosing a financial advisor, it’s important to research several options to 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.