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How do I choose an advisor that stands out from the “norm”?

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Whether you are a wealth-management “insider” or an experienced high net worth investor, you understand that there is really nothing new or novel about a group of financial advisors who join together and pool their talents to serve wealthy investors. In fact, this structure is becoming more and more the “norm.”

But some financial advisor groups stand out from the norm. And, just as you select only highly rated lawyers or accountants, you’ll probably agree that it makes sense to choose a financial group with its own effective approach.

Not surprisingly, we believe the members of our group embody the traits and talents of an exceptional advisor. We also think that by describing them in this space, we will help you determine whether your current or future advisor groups deserve your business.

Our nine financial professionals come from diverse backgrounds, and we have seen clients through good times and bad. We’ve done this by remaining accessible to clients regardless of the time of day or market circumstances, and by listening.

To listen, an advisor needs to pay close attention to what a client is saying, to be patient, to ask questions and to foster what we call a “culture of listening.” That, in turn, fosters an adherence to a code of service that reminds us, as advisors, that we are the stewards of our clients’ assets and that there is no greater responsibility.

So, are we smarter, more clever or imbued with special “gifts”? The answer is probably no. But we have developed a three-step process that enables us to “know” clients—to truly understand what they want and need. It all starts with the first meeting.

We have developed a three-step process that enables us to ‘know’ clients—to truly understand what they want and need.

The first face-to-face gathering is a two-way conversation through which we have the goal of getting to know our clients’ hopes, fears, passions, what “keeps them up at night,” and even the good and bad of their previous advisor and what brought them to this meeting in the first place. It is collaborative fact-finding and appraisal, both respectful and probing. Products are not discussed. There is nothing even remotely sales-oriented. A first and even second meeting focuses on a client’s goals, interests, objectives and needs.

After the “discovery” process, the next step is to develop a “plan.” This initial plan should reflect and address the key priorities in clients’ lives, from retirement to philanthropy, and from special needs family member(s), to estate planning strategies, wealth transfer, a family business, a treasured home and perhaps a “problem” uncovered during the discovery process.

It is a holistic approach that in many cases produces a “plan” that is more like a road map which focuses everyone on discreet elements requiring ongoing attention.

Once the initial plan is agreed to, a comprehensive financial plan and investment strategy is developed and presented. It is emphasized repeatedly that this strategy is neither fixed nor static. It is a “living” plan that can and should be modified in response to changing market conditions and client circumstances.

What sounds good in the abstract must also stand up to reality. So, once the plan is executed, frequent meetings and reviews are an integral part of the process, and at this stage we also introduce the vast resources available at Morgan Stanley.

We believe that an exceptional advisor should provide a “high-touch” client experience that delivers competent financial guidance and management as well as a long-term relationship built on trust and professionalism.

The investments listed may not be suitable for all investors. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC recommends that investors independently evaluate particular investments, and encourages investors to seek the advice of a financial advisor. The appropriateness of a particular investment will depend upon an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC offers insurance products in conjunction with its licensed insurance agency affiliates.
The Lenox Group at Morgan Stanley is a financial advisory team with the Wealth Management division of Morgan Stanley in New York, NY. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, Member SIPC ( Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors engage Worth to feature this article. They may only transact business in states where they are registered or excluded or exempted from registration ( Transacting business, follow-up and individualized responses involving either effecting or attempting to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation, will not be made to persons in states where they are not registered or excluded or exempt from registration. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”), its affiliates and Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors or Private Wealth Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. Clients should consult their tax advisor for matters involving taxation and tax planning and their attorney for matters involving trust and estate planning and other legal matters. CRC1526820 08/16

This article was originally published in the August/September 2016 issue of Worth.


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