It is hard to believe it is already February. It seems like the New Year just started, but time seems to fly by faster and faster each year. As we head into 2020, I am excited to outline a few new initiatives here at Multnomah Group that we are working on over this year that we think are going to have a great impact on our clients.
Focus on Planning
Historically, wealth management has been focused on portfolio management, building portfolios, and then measuring the performance of the portfolio relative to a benchmark. While still important, we believe we can have a greater impact on our clients through the implementation of comprehensive financial planning, helping clients develop a budget, set goals, save and invest to meet those goals, and plan to protect themselves from unforeseen risks. For us, financial planning isn’t a point in time report with a set of recommendations. Instead, it is a process that we continuously execute for our clients to help them understand their current financial picture, set their goals, and evaluate the choices they have in meeting those goals. Over the coming year, we will continue to emphasize a planning-focused relationship with our clients that enables each of you to achieve your personal financial goals.
New Client Portal
Over the past few years, we have struggled with the client portal options available to our clients. Historically, the client portals that we could make available to clients focused on a narrow subset of the client relationship, showing only client documents, performance data, or a financial plan.
Recently, our primary software vendor, Orion Advisory Technology, launched a new portal solution that solves the primary pain points that we have had historically by creating a single, integrated client portal. The new client portal integrates the following:
- Financial planning projections
- Account activity and performance for Multnomah Group managed accounts
- Document vault for storing and sharing files
- Account aggregation to incorporate outside account balances and transactions into your financial plan
- Experian credit scores and credit monitoring
The new client portal is available now. If you would like to get set up with access or see an overview of the features in the portal, please feel free to reach out and we can get you set up.
Investment Management Capabilities
Our investment management philosophy has always centered on providing clients with structured asset allocation based on their time horizon and risk tolerance with strategic tilts in the portfolio to the risk factors that we believe reward long-term investors, primary equity, value, and small cap. We believe that if we can efficiently implement these portfolios and remain disciplined for the long-term that our clients will be rewarded. Our focus on efficient implementation has led us to utilize low cost, passive mutual funds from investment managers such as Dimensional Fund Advisors and Vanguard. These funds are low-cost, tax-efficient, and broadly diversified. Trading these funds at Schwab has resulted in modest transaction fees as neither firm pays Schwab to be on their no transaction fee platform. We believe that given the low turnover in our client portfolios, we are better off paying the transaction fees when we trade rather than using more expensive mutual funds that pay to be on Schwab’s platform.
Over the past few years, the asset management business has been changing significantly. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have grown in popularity because of their low cost, tax-efficiency, and the ability to trade them throughout the day, rather than once a day as mutual funds exist. Over that same time, the economics of the custody business has changed, with custodians such as Schwab cutting transaction fees and looking to generate revenue through other mechanisms, such as their banking services.
Last year, Schwab eliminated trading commissions on exchange-traded funds (ETFs). As a result, our investment team is evaluating whether these products would enable us to more efficiently implement our investment strategies with reduced costs to our clients. Today, there are already scenarios where we believe ETFs are more attractive, particularly in cases where clients’ accounts experience more frequent transactions (primarily because of regular savings contributions or withdrawals) or because the account balance is small and the mutual transaction fees are disproportionately larger relative to the total account.
While we evaluate these offerings, you should know that our investment philosophy has not changed. The use of ETFs is an extension of our effort to find the most efficient methods to implement our investment strategy net of all fees, including investment management expenses, transaction fees, and taxes.
I am excited about the year ahead and the enhancements to the services we are offering our clients. We continuously focus on ways that we can improve to help our clients. If you have any feedback or would like to discuss further, please feel free to reach out.