The discussion, “Asset Allocation: The Advisor View,” wasn’t nearly as controversial as moderator Marc Brookman, a managing director with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s consulting group, said he hoped it would be. “I apologize that we didn’t get into any fights up here,” he said at the end.
Instead, while the advisors on the panel represented different channels and business models, they agreed that the client comes first and allocation is about seeking investments that are appropriate for each client.
As panelist Robert Davis, chief investment officer of Round Table Services, LLC said, “It’s always about the client.” Round Table’s model includes two arms, a financial planning team and an investment management team that work together on client portfolios.
In this low rate environment, with historic low yields in government bonds and the municipal market, many investors on the sidelines when it comes to equity and investors moving toward riskier fixed income strategies, portfolios are becoming more correlated, Davis said, and what most advisors are grappling with is timing.
“We think rates will stay low, but for how long? And as long as they stay low, these corporate bonds and high yield bonds should continue to provide a premium, but the difficulty is knowing when that changes,” he said.
Despite this challenge, Davis said Round Table is not taking undue risk in client portfolios. “We’re not always shooting for the highest return possible,” he said. “We’re shooting for what’s most appropriate for the client given their risk level.”
Another panelist, Robert Scott, managing partner at Main Street Wealth Management, LLC, said his firm outsources some parts of investment management using a centrally managed account through LPL Financial, because it’s most efficient for the practice.
“The best use of my time is in front of my clients,” he said. Scott evaluates client portfolios and works to make sure each client gets a portfolio customized to their specific needs, but he said, “We use the centrally managed account with LPL because it allows me to delegate the heavy lifting to them.”
Tim Skelly, institutional consulting director for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s Graystone Consulitng, who said his group has a bias toward active management, said that he is ultimately looking for two things from managers. “It boils down to access and it boils down to exposure,” Skelly said.
The panel concluded with the advisors offering managers insight into what they would like to see from portfolio managers.
For Davis, he wants new information, not meetings solely for the purpose of getting some face time with his firm, he said. A valuable meeting for him is one where managers “can give me one piece of information that will send me off in a new direction where I can say, I hadn’t thought of that, that’s a great idea,” he said.
For Scott, he said he likes the innovation in products he’s seen, and he’s looking for something that probably every advisor is, and it goes back to the client.
“It’s all about keeping the client happy,” he said. “Whatever you can do to satisfy that objective is great.”