FT 300 advisers estimate that only 4 per cent of clients lost confidence in the long-term performance of the markets, while 10 per cent sought to profit from the volatility
FT 300 advisers estimate that only 4 per cent of clients lost confidence in the long-term performance of the markets, while 10 per cent sought to profit from the volatility © FT Montage; Getty Images

When the coronavirus outbreak sent US stocks tumbling in February, one of the US’s largest registered investment advisers was on hand to allay their clients’ worst fears.

The team at Carson Wealth counselled investors by phone and video calls, as markets whipsawed, in some cases talking clients through the process of applying for loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, the US Treasury’s bailout fund aimed at keeping small businesses afloat.

“There was a lot to do. Because we were proactive, we wound up gaining clients who hadn’t heard anything from their [incumbent] advisers,” says Ron Carson, founder and chief executive of the Omaha-based firm. 

The seventh annual FT 300 Top Registered Investment Advisers list (see table below) comes as the most severe hit to the global economy since the Great Depression underscores retail investors’ need for in-depth and tailored advice. 

The list — compiled by Ignites Research, an FT sister company — assesses RIAs with assets under management (AUM) of more than $300m on their expertise and other credentials desirable to investors. The FT 300 is presented here as an elite group segmented by state, rather than a competitive ranking of one to 300 (scroll below the table to see the full methodology).

Breadth of service is a key theme in this year’s list, with many advisers managing retirement planning, tax management, philanthropy and other aspects of clients’ financial lives beyond just investments. In 2019 — the period analysed for the latest FT 300 list, for which the data was collated in April and May — RIAs saw an average 13 per cent rise in their client numbers thanks in part to these additional services.  

To meet demand, companies increased the number of staff involved in delivering advice ─ including client-facing roles and those researching funds ─ from a median of 15 employees in last year’s list to 17 this year. Larger teams give these advisory firms the resources to communicate directly with clients, which can help soothe investors during turbulent times.

When surveyed, the FT 300 group said that roughly 82 per cent of their clients had made no changes or only minor tweaks to their long-term investing plans, despite the coronavirus-led convulsions in the markets. They estimated that only 4 per cent of investors lost confidence in the long-term performance of the markets, while 10 per cent sought to profit from the volatility. As financial markets in the US are down only slightly since the end of 2019, this has so far helped advisory firms to remain relatively resilient to the crisis.

Meanwhile, the desire to scale up has continued to drive many RIAs towards mergers and acquisitions. United Capital, based in Newport Beach, California, and one of the biggest independent RIA firms, was acquired by Goldman Sachs for $750m in July 2019. And in March, Captrust Financial Advisors acquired Welch Hornsby, a large Alabama-based adviser with $5.5bn under management.

Column chart of Median AUM of FT 300 2016-19 ($bn) showing Adviser assets nearly doubled in the three years to 2019

This pattern of expansion and consolidation among RIAs has led to growth in assets among the FT 300 firms: the median AUM of this year’s cohort, as at the end of 2019, is $1.9bn, up 29 per cent from the previous year. In addition, more than a third (36 per cent) of the companies on the list credit acquisitions for much of their growth over the prior three years, compared with 30 per cent in 2019. 

These changes have intensified competition for a place on the FT 300, with many companies outdoing peers based on narrow differences. Advisers on the list hail from 39 states, and Washington, DC. Once again, California is the state with the most advisers on the list (50), far ahead of New York state’s 28.

In addition to M&A activity between advisers, private equity firms have entered the market. In June, GTCR took a 25 per cent stake in North Carolina-based Captrust, in a deal that valued the adviser at $1.25bn. This followed similar moves including Hellman & Friedman’s $3bn acquisition of Financial Engines in 2018, which it merged with Edelman Financial, and earlier this year General Atlantic acquired a minority stake in Creative Planning, an RIA with more than $50bn in assets.  

Scroll below the table at the end of this article to see the full methodology. 

The pandemic has temporarily slowed dealmaking but consolidation among RIAs will accelerate in the long run, says David DeVoe, chief executive at DeVoe & Co, an investment bank and consultancy. He believes the crisis will gradually persuade a greater number of small RIA owners, who lack the scale needed to compete on technology and services, to retire.   

“We’ll see more advisers decide that it’s the right time to dial it back,” Mr DeVoe says.

Indeed, quality of technology was cited by nearly half the advisers on the list as their top challenge. Many RIAs plan to continue some working from home beyond the opening months of the pandemic, which means technology will become critical in supporting increased digital interaction with clients. 

The rise of so-called robo-advisers — platforms that provide low-cost financial guidance — such as Betterment has spurred traditional firms to distinguish themselves from the disrupters’ cheap, automated investment portfolios by emphasising the personal touch. 

Most elite RIAs see such technology as a complement to human advisers, who can tailor advice to individuals’ needs. FT 300 advisers estimate that investing accounts for just under half of the value they provide to clients, with the remainder coming from financial planning and other services. 

“Advisers have to show their value more,” says Joe Ziemer, vice-president of communications and policy at Betterment. “This is why we’re seeing advisers emphasise their role as more of a financial life coach. Sometimes, the investment piece is the easy part.”

With the markets facing longer-term volatility, this could be an opportune time for advisers to demonstrate their deeper worth.

Loren Fox is director of research at Ignites Research, an FT company.

Top 300 US registered investment advisers by state
CompanyCityClient Segments Served
Retail (<$1m)High Net Worth ($1m — $10m)Ultra-High Net Worth ($10m+)Institutional
RFG AdvisoryVestavia Hills
Dynamic Wealth AdvisorsPhoenix
Galvin, Gaustad & SteinScottsdale
TFO PhoenixPhoenix
Sowell ManagementNorth Little Rock
Abacus Wealth PartnersSanta Monica
AdvicePeriodLos Angeles
Allworth FinancialSacramento
Baker Street AdvisorsSan Francisco
BakerAvenueSan Francisco
Beacon Pointe AdvisorsNewport Beach
Benefit Financial Services GroupIrvine
Cambria Investment ManagementEl Segundo
Camden CapitalEl Segundo
Churchill Management GroupLos Angeles
CoastEdge PartnersLa Jolla
Corient Capital PartnersNewport Beach
Destination Wealth ManagementWalnut Creek
Dowling & Yahnke Wealth AdvisorsSan Diego
Edelman Financial EnginesSanta Clara
Ensemble Capital ManagementBurlingame
Enso WealthPetaluma
EP Wealth AdvisorsTorrance
Financial Sense Wealth ManagementSan Diego
First Republic Investment ManagementSan Francisco
Gamble Jones Investment CounselPasadena
Genovese Burford & BrothersSacramento
HC Financial AdvisorsLafayette
HoyleCohenSan Diego
Integrated Advisors NetworkPalos Verdes Estates
Intelligence Driven AdvisersCarlsbad
Kayne Anderson Rudnick Investment ManagementLos Angeles
Lido AdvisorsLos Angeles
LM AdvisorsSan Diego
Main Street ResearchSausalito
Miracle Mile AdvisorsLos Angeles
Mission WealthSanta Barbara
Nelson Roberts Investment AdvisorsMenlo Park
Parallel AdvisorsSan Francisco
Perigon Wealth ManagementSan Francisco
Personal CapitalRedwood City
Polaris Greystone Financial GroupSan Rafael
Private Ocean Wealth ManagementSan Rafael
Pure Financial AdvisorsSan Diego
Reilly Financial AdvisorsLa Mesa
Sand Hill Global AdvisorsPalo Alto
Schnieders Capital ManagementPasadena
Sierra Investment ManagementSanta Monica
Signature Estate & Investment Advisors (SEIA)Los Angeles
Surevest Private WealthLos Angeles
Tarbox Family OfficeNewport Beach
The Bahnsen GroupNewport Beach
Three Bell CapitalLos Altos
WealthSource PartnersSan Luis Obispo
Weatherly Asset ManagementDel Mar
Werba Rubin Papier Wealth ManagementSan Jose
Westmount Asset ManagementLos Angeles
Wetherby Asset ManagementSan Francisco
BSW Wealth PartnersBoulder
Crestone CapitalBoulder
GHP Investment AdvisorsDenver
Mercer AdvisorsDenver
Transform WealthGreenwood Village
Belpointe Asset ManagementGreenwich
Bradley, Foster & SargentHartford
Connecticut Wealth ManagementFarmington
Greenwich Investment ManagementStamford
MJP Wealth AdvisorsFarmington
Moneco AdvisorsFairfield
Affinity Wealth ManagementWilmington
Farr, Miller & WashingtonWashington
Capital Wealth AdvisorsNaples
Capital Wealth PlanningNaples
Certified Financial GroupAltamonte Springs
CPS Investment AdvisorsLakeland
Csenge Advisory GroupClearwater
Dimension Capital ManagementCoral Gables
Tobias Financial AdvisorsPlantation
Valor AdvisorsMiami
WE Family OfficesMiami
Atlanta Financial AssociatesAtlanta
Berman Capital AdvisorsAtlanta
BIP WealthAtlanta
BT Wealth ManagementAtlanta
Cahaba Wealth ManagementAtlanta
Capital DirectionsAtlanta
Capital Investment AdvisorsAtlanta
CIBC Private Wealth ManagementAtlanta
Consolidated Planning CorporationAtlanta
Edge Capital GroupAtlanta
Homrich BergAtlanta
Merit Financial AdvisorsAlpharetta
Rollins FinancialAtlanta
Stewardship Financial AdvisorsStockbridge
The Fiduciary GroupSavannah
Cadinha & Co.Honolulu
Balasa Dinverno FoltzItasca
Capstone Financial AdvisorsDowners Grove
Chicago Partners Wealth AdvisorsChicago
Crescent Grove AdvisorsLake Forest
Dearborn PartnersChicago
Forum Financial ManagementLombard
HighPoint Advisor GroupDowners Grove
IHT Wealth ManagementChicago
JMG Financial GroupDowners Grove
Nadler Financial GroupDeerfield
Park Piedmont AdvisorsChicago
RMB CapitalChicago
Savant Capital ManagementRockford
Segall Bryant & HamillChicago
Strategic Wealth PartnersDeerfield
The Mather GroupChicago
Vivaldi Capital ManagementChicago
Bedel Financial ConsultingIndianapolis
Donaldson Capital ManagementEvansville
Lakeside Wealth ManagementChesterton
Valeo Financial AdvisorsIndianapolis
Windsor Wealth ManagementIndianapolis
Gilbert & CookWest Des Moines
Creative PlanningOverland Park
Mariner Wealth AdvisorsOverland Park
Goss AdvisorsNew Orleans
Resource ManagementMetairie
Baltimore-Washington Financial AdvisorsColumbia
Chevy Chase TrustBethesda
FBB Capital PartnersBethesda
Greenspring AdvisorsTowson
Harbor Investment AdvisoryLutherville
SPC FinancialRockville
XML Financial GroupRockville
3EDGE Asset ManagementBoston
Beaumont Financial PartnersNeedham
Boston PrivateBoston
Choate Investment AdvisorsBoston
Congress Wealth ManagementBoston
Crestwood AdvisorsBoston
F.L. Putnam Investment Management CompanyWellesley
Grimes & CompanyWestborough
Proficio Capital PartnersNewton
SCS Financial ServicesBoston
St. Germain Investment ManagementSpringfield
The Colony GroupBoston
Advance Capital ManagementSouthfield
Blue Chip PartnersFarmington Hills
CapTrust Financial AdvisorsHolland
Executive Wealth ManagementBrighton
FormulaFolio InvestmentsGrand Rapids
Norris, Perné and FrenchGrand Rapids
Vintage Financial ServicesAnn Arbor
Accredited Investors Wealth ManagementEdina
AdvisorNet FinancialMinneapolis
Carlson Capital ManagementNorthfield
CLA Wealth AdvisorsMinneapolis
EFS AdvisorsCambridge
Gradient InvestmentsArden Hills
SilverOak Wealth ManagementEdina
Wealth Enhancement GroupPlymouth
Hardy ReedTupelo
BKD Wealth AdvisorsSpringfield
Buckingham Strategic WealthSt. Louis
KrilogySt. Louis
PlancorpSt. Louis
RubinBrown AdvisorsSt. Louis
Visionary Wealth AdvisorsSt. Louis
Allen Capital GroupGrand Island
Carson WealthOmaha
Vigilant Capital ManagementPortsmouth
Advisors Capital ManagementRidgewood
CFS Investment Advisory ServicesTotowa
Circle Wealth ManagementSummit
Delta Financial GroupBasking Ridge
Meyer Capital GroupMarlton
Private Advisor GroupMorristown
Simon Quick AdvisorsMorristown
Withum Wealth ManagementRed Bank
1919 Investment CounselNew York
AJ WealthNew York
Alexandria CapitalTarrytown
Altium WealthPurchase
Barrett Asset ManagementNew York
BettermentNew York
Bouchey Financial GroupTroy
Cerity PartnersNew York
City National RochdaleNew York
Courier CapitalBuffalo
Douglas C. Lane & AssociatesNew York
Evercore Wealth ManagementNew York
GM Advisory GroupMelville
Greenline PartnersNew York
Ingalls & SnyderNew York
Joel Isaacson & Co.New York
Lenox Wealth AdvisorsNew York
Ritholtz Wealth ManagementNew York
Sandhill Investment ManagementBuffalo
Silvercrest Asset Management GroupNew York
Snowden Lane PartnersNew York
Sterling Investment CounselBuffalo
Steward Partners Investment AdvisoryNew York
Summit Trail AdvisorsNew York
Tiedemann AdvisorsNew York
Wealthspire AdvisorsNew York
Wealthstream AdvisorsNew York
Whitney & CompanyRochester
Carroll Financial AssociatesCharlotte
Independent Advisor AllianceCharlotte
Parsec FinancialAsheville
Stearns Financial GroupChapel Hill
Ancora Family Wealth AdvisorsCleveland
Bartlett Wealth ManagementCincinnati
Carnegie Investment CounselPepper Pike
Constellation Wealth AdvisorsCincinnati
Fairport Wealth/Luma Wealth AdvisorsCleveland
Hamilton CapitalColumbus
Johnson Investment CounselCincinnati
Madison Wealth ManagementCincinnati
MAI Capital ManagementCleveland
Marcum WealthMayfield Village
NCA Financial PlannersCleveland
Pinnacle Wealth Planning ServicesMansfield
Sequoia Financial GroupAkron
Truepoint Wealth CounselCincinnati
Cadent Capital AdvisorsTulsa
Tom Johnson Investment ManagementOklahoma City
Aldrich WealthLake Oswego
Kingsview PartnersGrants Pass
BLB&B AdvisorsMontgomeryville
DBR & COPittsburgh
Fort Pitt Capital GroupPittsburgh
Girard Advisory ServicesKing of Prussia
Good Life CompaniesReading
HBKS Wealth AdvisorsErie
Hoover Financial AdvisorsMalvern
Ironview Capital ManagementConshohocken
myCIO Wealth PartnersPhiladelphia
RTD FinancialPhiladelphia
Sage Financial GroupConshohocken
Schneider Downs Wealth Management AdvisorsPittsburgh
Valley National Financial AdvisorsBethlehem
Waldron Private WealthBridgeville
Capital Wealth ManagementWest Warwick
Abacus Planning GroupColumbia
Verity Investment PartnersBeaufort
HawsGoodwin WealthFranklin
Legacy Wealth ManagementMemphis
Rather & KittrellKnoxville
Annandale CapitalDallas
Autumn Lane AdvisorsHouston
Avalon Investment & AdvisoryHouston
Beaird HarrisDallas
Enclave AdvisorsAustin
Financial Synergies Wealth AdvisorsHouston
Frontier Investment Management CompanyDallas
ML&R Wealth ManagementAustin
Per Stirling Capital ManagementAustin
Pin Oak Investment AdvisorsHouston
RIA AdvisorsHouston
Sather Financial GroupVictoria
Sendero Wealth ManagementSan Antonio
SFMG Wealth AdvisorsPlano
Smith Anglin FinancialDallas
TCG AdvisorsAustin
Venturi Private WealthAustin
Willis Johnson & AssociatesHouston
Foresight Wealth ManagementDraper
UMA Financial ServicesSalt Lake City
Acorn Financial ServicesReston
Campbell Wealth ManagementAlexandria
Cary Street Partners Investment AdvisoryRichmond
Cassaday & CompanyMcLean
Glassman Wealth ServicesVienna
Halpern FinancialAshburn
Mason Investment Advisory ServicesReston
Sullivan, Bruyette, Speros & BlayneyMcLean
VWG Wealth Management at HighTowerVienna
West Financial ServicesMcLean
Badgley Phelps Wealth ManagersSeattle
Brighton JonesSeattle
Coldstream Wealth ManagementBellevue
Columbia Pacific Wealth ManagementSeattle
Evergreen GavekalBellevue
Fisher InvestmentsCamas
Fulcrum CapitalSeattle
Northwest Asset Management/RIA InnovationsMercer Island
Advisors' PrideAppleton
IAG Wealth PartnersWaukesha
Resonant Capital AdvisorsMadison
Thun FinancialMadison
Source: Ignites Research


This seventh edition of the FT 300 assesses registered investment advisers based on desirable traits for investors. We present the FT 300 as an elite group, not a competitive ranking of one to 300. This is the fairest way to identify the industry’s elite advisers while accounting for the companies’ different approaches and specialisations.

To ensure a list of established companies with substantial expertise, we examine the database of RIAs registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission and select those with more than $300m in assets under management (AUM). 

The Financial Times and Ignites Research, the FT’s sister company, invited qualifying RIA companies — more than 2,000 — to complete a lengthy application that gave us more information about them. We added this to our own research into their practices, including data from regulatory filings. Some 760 RIA companies applied and 300 made the final list. 

The formula the FT uses to grade advisers is based on six broad factors and calculates a numeric score for each adviser. Areas of consideration include AUM, asset growth, the company’s age, industry certifications of key employees, SEC compliance record and online accessibility. The reasons these were chosen are as follows: 

AUM signals experience managing money and client trust. 

AUM growth rate can be a proxy for performance, as well as for asset retention and the ability to generate new business. We assessed companies on three-year growth rates. 

Companies’ years in existence indicates reliability and experience of managing assets through different market environments. 

Compliance record provides evidence of past client disputes; a string of complaints can signal potential problems. 

Industry certifications (CFA, CFP, etc) shows the company’s staff has industry knowledge and a professional commitment to investment skills. 

Online accessibility shows a desire to provide easy access and transparent contact information. 

Among the top factors in our scoring, AUM accounted for an average of 72 per cent of each adviser’s score. Their growth rate accounted for an average of 15 per cent. The FT places a cap on the number of advisers from any one state, corresponding to the distribution of millionaires across the US.

The research was conducted on behalf of the Financial Times by Ignites Research, a Financial Times sister publication. Loren Fox

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024. All rights reserved.
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