Methodology:

America's Top Wealth Advisors

By The Numbers

Research Summary (as of Oct. 2018)

We don't want 200,000 nominations so we set thresholds to minimize the quantity we receive:

  • 25,732 nominations received, based on thresholds.
  • 9,596 invited to complete online survey.
  • 7,393 telephone interviews.
  • 1,612 in-person interviews at Advisors’ location.

The Forbes ranking of America's Top Wealth Advisors, developed by SHOOK Research, is based on an algorithm of qualitative and quantitative data, rating thousands of wealth advisors with a minimum of seven years of experience and weighing factors like revenue trends, assets under management, compliance records, industry experience and best practices learned through telephone and in-person interviews. Portfolio performance is not a criteria due to varying client objectives and lack of audited data. Neither Forbes or SHOOK receive a fee in exchange for rankings.

By The Numbers

Research Summary (as of July 2018)

We don't want 200,000 nominations so we set high thresholds to minimize the quantity we accept, and here’s where we stand:

  • 23,862 nominations received, based on thresholds.
  • 6,988 invited to complete online survey.
  • 5,430 telephone interviews.
  • 1,351 in-person interviews at Advisors’ location.
  • 5,832 individuals considered for our Millennials ranking, based on lofty thresholds.

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SHOOK Impact:
The new force in our research.

The SHOOK Process


SHOOK scours the financial services industry—banks, brokerages, custodians, insurance companies, clearing houses and others for nominations. SHOOK only accepts advisors who meet pre-determined minimum thresholds and acceptable compliance records.

Unlike other advisor rankings, SHOOK is not a "robo-ranker". Numbers such as production and assets don't tell the whole story, especially when much of the data is self-reported. SHOOK research creates rankings of role models—advisors that are leading the way in offering best practices and providing a high-quality experience for clients. A focus on both quantitative and qualitative factors, including telephone and in-person meetings, is imperative. SHOOK research is the only rating firm that interviews advisors via telephone and in person at advisor's location.

Selection Criteria

(Criteria for Next-Gen Advisors and Mother Advisors is below)


We believe in rankings of "role models." With 7 million Forbes magazine readers and 70 million monthly visitors to Forbes.com, plus 42 local publications, we take this very seriously.

To seek high-quality Advisors, SHOOK scours the financial services industry—banks, securities firms, custodians, insurance companies, clearing houses and others for nominations.

While many advisor rankings exist, only SHOOK Research provides deep due diligence, including interviews each FA over the phone and in person, and rigorous data verifications.

Our deep due diligence and data verifications are vital because data for all rankings is self-reported.

We evaluate each advisor as if we are a prospective client—this includes meeting the advisor and his/her team in person. We will meet with just about every advisor that earns a spot on one of our rankings. (We may miss an advisor when we visit an area if, for example, he or she is out of town, but we'll get back there eventually.) If we miss the advisor next time around as well, this is grounds to be not included in the SHOOK program.

Our due diligence begins before we meet with an advisor in person. Since each SHOOK Advisor represents each firm's "cream of the crop," and may represent their respective firm accordingly in the press and otherwise, each firm participates in the selection of their Advisors according to SHOOK criteria. In the interests of promoting best practices within the industry and serving the investing public, Firms nominate Advisors that have proven to best serve their clients' needs with the highest levels of integrity and client focus. Once nominations are received, SHOOK'S deep due-diligence process takes over.

Basic Requirements


  • 7 years as an advisor.
  • Minimum 1 year at current firm, with exceptions (acquisitions, etc.).
  • Advisor must be recommended, and nominated, by Firm.
  • Completion of online survey.
  • Over 50% of revenue/production must be with individuals.
  • Acceptable compliance record.

Quantitative


  • Revenue/production; weightings assigned for each.
  • Assets under management—and quality of those assets—both custodied and a scrutinized look at assets held away. (Although individual numbers are used for ranking purposes, we publish the entire team's assets.)
  • Client-related data, such as retention.
  • Portfolio performance is not a factor; audited returns among advisors are rare, and differing client objectives provide varying returns.

Qualitative


  • Telephone and in-person meetings with advisors (if an in-person meeting cannot be accomplished, exceptions are considered in which the interview will occur after a ranking has been published).
  • Compliance records & u4s. Some "dings" can be overlooked (e.g., firm or product failure beyond the scope of an advisor's due diligence; the older a ding, the less we look). Since there are many gray areas, the SHOOK team is willing to listen to a Firm that is willing to stand behind the advisor with written support from leadership.
  • Advisors that provide a full client experience:
    ~ Service model
    ~ Investing process
    ~ Fee structure (higher % of fee-based assets earns more points)
    ~ Breadth of services, including extensive use of Firm's platform and resources (eg, liabilities)
  • Credentials (years of service can serve as proxy).
  • Use of team & team dynamics
  • Community involvement
  • Discussions with management, peers, competing peers
  • Telephone and in-person meetings

SHOOK then initiates discussions among various levels of management about each advisor. Further discussions are made with individuals in the Advisor's office, as well as competing advisors in the local market—competitors often provide some of our best intel.

Client
Satisfaction.

As determined by the Advisor's firm (with input from Management and Client-Satisfaction reports, and often self-reported). We may speak to clients, but it's likely Advisors will connect us with only the happiest of clients.

Community
Involvement.

Based on our experience, it is almost a given that these role models are also role models in their communities and in the industry.

We give added points for professional designations, but we also realize that years of experience can be a substitute.

Next, we interview the Advisor on the phone. This will determine if we take the time to visit the Advisor in person.


In person interviews: Nothing like looking someone in the eyes and interviewing.


We act like we are prospective clients and look at factors such as planning, investing process, liability management, service model, asset allocation process, fee structure, and overall providing their Firm's platform and full client experience. (This is probably far more than extensive than what a prospective client may ask, but we still encourage those to perform their own due diligence as well.) We also speak with select members of the team and evaluate how they function together.

U4/ Compliance Issues


The following conditions will be considered in order to lessen weightings infractions:

  • Infractions that are denied or closed with no action.
  • Complaint arose from a product, service or advice initiated by a previous advisor or another member or former member of team.
  • Length of time since complaint.
  • Complaints related to product failure not related to investment advice (some limited partnerships, adjusted-rate securities, etc.).
  • Complaints that have been settled (must be proven) to appease a client who remained with the advisor for at least one year following settlement date.
  • Complaints that are proven to be meritless.
  • Actions taken as a result of administrative error or failure by firm.

Once an advisor's compliance rating falls into a tenable category, the following conditions must be met.

  1. An advisor's rating must be among SHOOK's highest qualitative measures including in-person interview.
  2. Letters of recommendation from firm.

Ranking Algorithm


The algorithm is designed to fairly compare the business practices of a large group of advisors based on quantitative and qualitative elements. Data are weighted to ensure priorities are given to dynamics such as preferred "best practices", business models, recent business activity, etc. Each variable is graded and represents a certain value for each measured component. These data are fed into an algorithm that measures thousands of advisors against each other.

SHOOK Disclosures


SHOOK is completely independent and objective and does not receive compensation from the advisors, Firms, the media, or any other source in exchange for placement on a ranking. SHOOK is funded through conferences, publications and research partners. Since every investor has unique needs, investors must carefully choose the right Advisor for their own situation and perform their own due diligence. SHOOK's research and rankings provide opinions for how to choose the right Financial Advisor. Portfolio performance is not a criteria due to varying client objectives and lack of audited data. Remember, past performance is not an indication of future results.