From the August 2008 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Name Game

One quibble I have had with the Moss Adams Studies is their practice of allowing each firm answering its survey to self-report the categories of its services. Just because you call yourself a "wealth manager" doesn't make you one, any more than calling myself a consultant makes me one of those, either.

Moreover, these days the line between a financial planner and an investment advisor is so foggy that simply asking folks to categorize themselves strikes me as arbitrary at best. In my view, both the data and the industry would benefit from some clear, quantifiable definitions of just what a financial planner, a wealth manager, an investment advisor, and an investment manager are: perhaps by size of clients, services offered, and the training and experience of the advisors. For instance, it seems to me "wealthy clients" are people with estate planning challenges beyond maximizing a couples' unified credit, so around $4 million might be the low end of wealth, and "wealth managers" would have clients with average assets somewhat in excess of that figure.

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