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Advisers differ on whether in-house investment management is a plus

Feb 5, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

By Liz Skinner

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To pick stocks or hire others to pick — that was the question that recently divided two successful financial advisers who were sharing business secrets with the profession.

The ongoing debate among advisory firms about whether the asset management piece of wealth management is a commodity or an essential value that advisers deliver surfaced again at last week's TD Ameritrade Institutional national conference in Orlando, Fla.

Brent Brodeski, chief executive of $3.8 billion Savant Capital Management, is in the camp which holds that investments themselves are a commodity.

“We can pretend asset management is a differentiator, but what drives growth is when advisers advise,” Mr. Brodeski told about 100 advisers at a panel discussion on adviser growth secrets last Thursday.

He said the key to building an advisory business is to drive toward “an extreme value proposition,” not the investment solution.

Ron Carson, founder and chief executive of $4 billion Carson Wealth Management, disagreed.

“It takes a lot of work, but you can generate positive alpha,” Mr. Carson said, referring to the extra value a portfolio manager can add to investment returns.

He told advisers, however, that that doesn't mean a firm should have one person trying both to create client plans and do the investing piece. Advisers also should not try to distinguish themselves just by promoting their investment performance.

“Don't let your performance define who you are,” Mr. Carson said. “Give yourself as many ways as you can to win.”

Firms that outsource the investment management piece typically use turnkey asset management programs that combine research and other administration services like billing and portfolio management. Today about 20,757 financial advisers use 34 different TAMPs to manage about $147 billion in assets, according to research released in August 2013 from Tiburon Strategic Advisors.

Other firms sell advisers just investment research.

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