At this firm, flat fees are about offering conflict-free advice

At Boston firm Single Point Partners, adviser Seth Corkin says clients don't have to worry about what's motivating advisers' recommendations

Jun 9, 2018 @ 6:00 am

By Jeff Benjamin

At Single Point Partners in Boston, charging a flat fee is all about offering conflict-free advice.

"We don't want clients wondering what might be motivating an adviser's decisions," said Seth Corkin, an adviser at the firm. "We believe this fee model increases transparency and trust, as clients don't have to wonder what's in it for my adviser when they're making high-stakes decisions such as rolling over a 401(k) or deciding how to fund a new home purchase."

Under this model, clients lay everything out on the table to determine a net worth on which they will be charged a flat fee that applies to all the services provided.

(More: Why the AUM fee model is so dominant)

The annual fees start at $7,500 for households with up to $2 million in net worth and climb to $75,000 for households worth more than $20 million.

The fees are clearly stated on the advisory firm's website, but Mr. Corkin admits "there are always nuances and extenuating circumstances."

For instance, he said, if the value of a client's primary residence "pushes you into the next tier of fees, we would probably discount that."

Having worked at firms that charge clients based on assets under management, Mr. Corkin prefers the flat fee based on total net worth as the "least conflicted" pricing model.

"There's such a conflict in a strict AUM model," he said. "There's a constant conflict in the background to get assets into a client's portfolio, which might mean rolling over a 401(k) plan into an IRA or encouraging a client to sell a concentrated stock portfolio."

Another advantage that Mr. Corkin sees in avoiding fees based on the size of a client's investment portfolio is the ability to work with people who don't yet have large portfolios.

"We have one client who is a young partner at a law firm, who makes $1 million a year but has lots of student loan debt," Mr. Corkin said. "Our fees for him are not predicated on an asset base."

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