A Financial Partner You Can Trust
Stuart Financial Group’s team employs members of the Financial Planning Association (FPA®), which is the largest membership organization for personal financial planning experts in the U.S.
FPA® members are those who commit to the highest standards of professional competence, ethical conduct and clear, complete disclosure to those they serve. They deliver advice using an objective, client-centered, ethical process.
STANDARD OF CARE
All financial planning services will be delivered in accordance with the following standard of care:
- Put the client’s best interests first
- Act with due care and in utmost good faith
- Do not mislead clients
- Provide full and fair disclosure of all material facts
- Adhere to a code of ethics that reflects their commitment to help clients achieve their life goals; and Disclose and fairly manage all material conflicts of interest.
The recent actions of “too big to fail” financial corporations have diminished investor confidence in the retail brokerage system and the suitability standard of care. In response, the government has implemented the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This aims to prevent investors being disadvantaged by the many conflicts of interest that can exist between brokers, broker dealers and their clients.
Stuart Financial Group seeks to restore investor trust by creating fiduciary relationships with their clients—relationships based on the full disclosure of all relevant information, transparency and the mutual alignment of interests. Relationships with independent financial advisors who are accountable to their local community and whose reputation depends on satisfied clients and neighbors.
There are two types of financial organizations: those you have heard of and those you haven’t yet heard of. When those “too big to fail” organizations who spend millions on national advertising and executive bonus packages have received government bailouts, is it time to see if a financial organization you haven’t heard of can help you?
CHECKS and BALANCES
When you work with an independent wealth manager such as Stuart Financial Group, you are benefitting from the transparency and external checks and balances that other, larger corporations may not have to comply with.
We work with, and through, numerous unaffiliated companies, all of whom run a variety of checks and balances to ensure full compliance with financial regulations is taking place. Unlike many of the recent consumer abuses, we can’t be accused of exerting influence over these outside companies who are monitoring our activities. They are independent organizations whose interests are to protect themselves and you, their client. In our opinion, one of the reasons the financial industry has been involved in so many large-scale legal problems is the intertwined nature of the “too big to fail” corporations and their affiliated organizations.
When Mutual Funds are allowed to pay broker dealers to recommend their product, in addition to sales commissions, how can you ensure the recommendation is in your best interests? When ratings agencies are paid by the companies they are rating, how can you ensure their grades are impartial?
INDEPENDENT, EXTERNAL AUDIT:
The word “audit” generally means to evaluate an organization, process, or person. In the financial world, audits are usually performed to ascertain the validity and reliability of information and to provide an assessment of a company’s internal controls. When such an audit is undertaken by an independent, external company, it tends to be highly objective when compared to audits carried out by internal staff or related companies.
In a world full of information, where so many people can easily publish their investment recommendations, your first task should be to question the validity of the source. Did they issue their information without external checks and balances and were they independently audited?
The performance information published by Stuart Financial Group is independently calculated and verified every year by an external company, Ashland Partners and Company LLP.1 Ashland Partners have been providing compliance consultation and verification services to the investment management community since 1992.
1 Stuart Financial Group, may invest client assets among a diversified range of securities, funds, sub-advisers and independent investment managers including allocating assets to Aviance Capital Management LLC (GFPC’s affiliated SEC-registered investment advisor).
Aviance Capital Management, LLC’s compliance with the GIPS® standards has been annually independently verified for the period 11-1-2006 to 12-31-2010 by Ashland Partners & Company LLP. In addition, prior to the spinout of Aviance, Stuart Financial Group’s compliance with the GIPS® standards was verified for the period October 1, 2004 through October 31, 2006. The verification report(s) is/are available upon request.
They are working on your behalf to ensure Stuart Financial Group and its investment partner, Aviance Capital Management, LLC, publishes historical performance information in accordance with Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS®). Created by the CFA Institute, GIPS® is a worldwide set of standardized, industry-wide ethical principles that provide investment firms with compliance on how to calculate and report their investment results to prospective and existing clients.
The firms which choose to uphold the GIPS® standards go well beyond legal reporting requirements in demonstrating a commitment to open, honest and ethical practices.
Our team differentiates itself within the financial industry by seeking partnerships with reputable financial institutions. Our goal is to construct and manage a team of highly stable and trustworthy organizations who all contribute their own specific advantages for your benefit. Each partner, selected as the best of breed in our opinion, has a precise, focused role to play in safeguarding and securing your financial future.
One of the most important partnerships in any financial relationship is that with the custodian. A custodian is a specialized financial institution responsible for holding and safeguarding a firm’s or an individual’s financial assets. Simply put, we see a custodian as your protector. Many years ago, we chose Fidelity Institutional to be the custodian of our clients’ assets.
Fidelity Institutional is one of the world’s leading financial organizations—they remain untarnished by recent financial scandals. Fidelity’s role is to hold your retirement assets in their system and under their supervision. They safeguard your assets, ensuring the security of your nest egg, by implementing procedures and protections that Stuart Financial Group must comply with before being able to direct your investments.
Fidelity Institutional is the organization that holds your assets. You merely provide Stuart Financial Group with the ability to work with Fidelity Institutional. Whenever we wish to make a change to your investments we must seek the approval of Fidelity’s compliance oversight and obey their rules and regulations. Like most “mission-critical” industries, the financial industry is predicated on checks and balances.The custodian’s role is to be the first line of those checks and balances.
Custodians ensure each and every client receives complete transparency relating to their assets, while restricting the access others have to their money.
BEST PRICE AND EXECUTION
Another very important client benefit offered by the Stuart Financial Group and Fidelity Institutional partnership is access to a cost-efficient institutional trading platform that focuses on the concept of best price and execution. This might be described as “minimizing the hands in the cookie jar.” Stuart Financial Group and Fidelity Institutional are fiercely committed to providing clients the most direct path when buying and selling individual securities on behalf of the client.
In mid-2006, Fidelity Institutional was the industry forerunner in building a price and execution process that improved upon “the accepted industry standard” of the day. Fidelity Institutional has a unique approach to execution quality with an internal order flow management team whose purpose is to direct order flow to the best-performing market centers. Stuart Financial Group takes this even farther by operating its own institutional trading desk to further the focus on getting the best price for its clients.
Fidelity Institutional invests millions of dollars every year in people, technology and other resources with the aim of improving the price their clients receive when making trades. This information is published monthly on their website and their goal is to improve the price for the client rather than just making trades at the National Best Bid and Offer (NBBO). NBBO is an SEC requirement that requires trades to take place at the best available ask or bid price.
Trading securities in this way can create significant savings for the clients.
Stuart Financial Group does not receive commissions on trading. Instead, we represent the client and try to achieve the best price available at all times.
At Stuart Financial Group, we believe clients should be able to fully understand and define the costs associated with owning their investments. These costs include what the Wall Street Journal has previous called “Hidden”1 and “Murky”2 . This transparency allows our clients to maintain their own checks and balances with the goal of preventing hidden commissions and conflicts of interest from eating into investment returns.
Unlike the Mutual Fund and 401(k) industries, where many fees and transactions can be concealed within the fund’s structure, Stuart Financial Group’s use of separate accounts provides the client with total transparency as to where the money within their accounts really ends up.
As part of our commitment to transparency, we encourage our clients to perform their own due diligence on Stuart Financial Group and any other financial advice organization. Due diligence means an investigation into a business or person prior to the signing of a contract, or engaging a person who should act with a specified standard of care.
Your own, personal due diligence may include questioning the wisdom of receiving financial advice from a company that:
- Recently received government bailouts to stay in business—bailout money that came from you, the U.S. taxpayer
- Over-leveraged their own company and client assets to a point that they failed to understand the risks to their own financial survival
- Generates revenue by charging undisclosed commissions and fees on client transactions
Is regularly sued for profit maximizing tactics
- Motivate their staff by paying them massive commission-based salaries and bonuses
As a supplement to their own due diligence, our clients draw reassurance from the fact that Stuart Financial Group’s large institutional clients undertake and maintain their own stringent due diligence prior to engaging Stuart Financial Group as an asset manager. In addition, they are usually required to perform annual, or more frequent, due diligence scrutiny of operations and continuing management capability.
Our operations and systems work on the principles of openness, accessibility, and accountability. We have nothing to hide. We encourage our clients to share our interest in exposing the hidden costs and practices of the large, brokerage-led financial system, just as the Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and the Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd have sought to do by introducing the Dodd-Frank Act.
TRIED and TESTED
In the summer of 2007, the expression “Credit Crisis” hit the headlines. Wall Street and the banking and brokerage industries clearly had problems; however, no one knew just how deep and wide the credit crisis hole was.
Since this date, it has become clear that the major financial corporations of the developed world have dug themselves into a massive debt and derivative hole at the expense of their investors, clients, and the U.S. taxpayer. We have witnessed a constant litany of alleged fraud, misinformation, and financial abuse. This has led the U.S. Government to sign into law The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (July 2010).
In our view, we have experienced a period where everyone found out “Who was really Who” and “What was really What.” Many questionable financial practices were exposed, and now, most investors question the trust and integrity of the large financial organizations.
For those investors who are asking themselves whom they can trust, now might be the time to consult with a Stuart Finaicial Group Advisor.
YOUR STUART FINANCIAL GROUP – YOUR TEAM ON YOUR SIDE
The complexity of your unique financial needs may require the attention of a diverse team of industry experts.
At Stuart Finaicial Group, you have access to dedicated professionals and teams which include: Financial Planning, Compliance, and an Institutional-level Investment Committee and Chief
A personal Stuart Finaicial Group Advisor’s first goal is to seek to fully understand your individual needs and future requirements. Then, they act as a “quarterback” in organizing and monitoring exceptional and focused resource experts in accordance with your “coaching direction.”
In our opinion, one of the breaking points of the traditional retail financial industry is the reliance on a single, local broker to handle all aspects of the client relationship. Sure, large companies do have great depth and breadth of expertise within their massive organizational charts. Unfortunately, most clients only get to discuss their personal situation, investments, and financial planning needs with a single broker. Direct access to the actual investment managers and financial planner is often restricted.
This broker is probably the same person who spends a great deal of time on marketing and client service. It’s a lot for one person to handle in today’s volatile, fast-paced financial world.
At the end of the day, a broker in a big corporate financial business is controlled by corporate directives and products and seeks to sell them to clients. This is an obvious point of potential failure and doesn’t allow the real financial experts to address your specific needs.
The aforementioned Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is, in part, the government’s countermeasure to prevent these large company “experts” from devising products wherein the true cost and risk are undisclosed. One of the aims of the act is to put an end to the creation and selling of products that were instrumental in the recent recession and subsequent bailouts.
Can a single stock broker or individual maintain the highest educational and research standards across all areas of your financial requirements including: income tax planning, financial planning, estate planning, asset protection, risk management, and investment management?
We believe successful client relationships come from clients partnering with investment advisors who have positioned their firms to provide accessible, one-on-one client advice while directing the support of a range of high-level institutional specialists.