Finding a Top Financial Advisor Firm in Birmingham, Alabama
Finding someone to help you with your financial future is not easy. You need to find a financial advisor who you can trust, who is results-driven and with whom you have a good rapport. When you have plenty of financial advisors to choose from, the decision can be even harder. Luckily, we make it easier for you with our extensively researched list of the top 10 financial advisors in Birmingham.
|Rank||Financial Advisor||Assets Managed||Minimum Assets||Financial Services||More Information|
Arlington PartnersFind an Advisor
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NBC SecuritiesFind an Advisor
$25,000 to $50,000
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$25,000 to $50,000
The Welch GroupFind an Advisor
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BridgeworthFind an Advisor
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RFG Advisory GroupFind an Advisor
$3,000 to $250,000 depending on portfolio program
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$3,000 to $250,000 depending on portfolio program
Southern Financial GroupFind an Advisor
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Warren Averett Asset ManagementFind an Advisor
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Berk Cleveland Rathmell Wealth StrategiesFind an Advisor
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Money Management ServicesFind an Advisor
Minimum annual fee: $1,000
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Minimum annual fee: $1,000
Sunburst Financial GroupFind an Advisor
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How We Found the Top Financial Advisor Firms in Birmingham, Alabama
We began with a list of all Birmingham metro area financial advisor firms that are registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). SEC-registered companies must file paperwork with the government each year which means more oversight and accountability - all plusses for potential clients. We eliminated firms that had disclosures or disciplinary actions on their records and then cut any firm that didn’t manage individual client accounts. The list you see below is ordered by assets under management, from most to least.
Topping our financial advisor list for Birmingham is one of the most exclusive firms we’ve come across with $5 million as the required minimum investable assets for wealth management. Arlington Partners requires even more for multi-family office services ($10 million per household) and $200 million required for single family office services.
It’s no wonder that the firm’s clients are almost exclusively high-net-worth individuals and families. Arlington states that it was “purpose-built to independently advise complex, high-net-worth families.” The company’s eight advisors manage more than $1.5 billion in assets for their clients. Arlington serves roughly 40 families across the U.S., Canada and Europe and has offices in Birmingham and Nashville, Tennessee.
Arlington Partners Background
Kenneth Polk founded the company in 1998 and serves as Arlington’s CEO. He’s the majority owner of the firm. Polk is a certified public accountant (CPA) and certified financial planner (CFP). Prior to founding the firm, he worked as a tax consultant for Deloitte.
Emily Vanlandingham is the COO of the firm and has a minority ownership stake. She also comes from a consulting firm background and has an MBA from Stanford.
In total, the firm has three CPAs, two CFPs, one chartered alternative investment analyst (CAIA), one certified trust and financial advisor (CTFA) and two chartered financial analysts (CFA).
Arlington Partners Investment Strategy
Unlike some financial advisors, this firm doesn’t have specific portfolio models to choose from. Instead, your advisor will give you advice based on your financial objectives and goals, risk tolerance, asset class preferences, investment horizon, cash needs and more.
Arlington considers all the factors that comprise your investment profile within the context of the market landscape. Your advisor then will create an integrated investment plan. Arlington believes in value-driven investment decisions and strategic and tactical asset allocation.
Additionally, tax considerations are another important aspect as well as capital allocation. Investments are recommended for the following asset classes: cash, fixed income, global equities, hedge funds, private equity, real estate and commodities.
In sharp contrast to the exclusive No.1 firm, Arlington Partners, NBC Securities is on the other end of the wealth spectrum. For mutual fund accounts, you only need $25,000 to become a client. Other fund types have higher minimums, such as equity and fixed income accounts which require $50,000 or more.
NBC Securities (NBCS) is also much larger than Arlington Partners, with 50 advisors compared to Arlington’s eight. Both firms are fee-based, which means money can be made from commissions from mutual funds, insurance or other products in addition to management fees. NBCS also has assets under management in the billions, at $1.2 billion and has financial consultants in 16 states.
NBC Securities Background
In 1995, NBC Securities was formed as a subsidiary of National Bank of Commerce in Birmingham. In 2008, the bank was acquired by Royal Bank of Canada, U.S. and in 2010, Bradford Phelan, president and CEO of NBCS since 1995, led an employee acquisition of the firm. Since 2010, the company has operated as an independent full-service broker-dealer.
Phelan owns the firm along with Frank Falkenburg, managing director since 1995, under NBCS limited partnership, a holding company.
NBC Securities Asset Management
When you choose NBCS as your asset manager, you have several portfolio choices. The energy infrastructure portfolio invests in corporations, master limited partnerships and energy royalty trusts that are involved in North American energy production and services. The portfolio will contain 30 to 40 equally weighted investments.
Another choice is the equity income portfolio. This investment philosophy “concentrates on companies with consistent growth in earnings and cash flow and a history of increasing dividend payments.” NBCS focuses on large cap (more than $2 billion) companies and eliminates any low quality companies based on risk, price level and other factors. This portfolio also contains 30 to 40 investments.
Fixed income is your third choice. For this portfolio, NBCS tries to generate high levels of risk-adjusted income. This is a long-term strategy in which all investments are purchased with the intent of holding on to maturity.
The last strategy is the high dividend yield portfolio. Its focus is exactly what the name suggests: a concentration on companies with high dividend payouts. NBCS states: “This strategy is suitable for investors in or nearing retirement looking for a tax-advantaged strategy or a suitable alternative to fixed income.” Again, this portfolio includes has 30 to 40 investments.
The Welch Group
While not quite as exclusive as the No. 1 firm, Arlington Partners, The Welch Group positions itself as a high-net-worth wealth management firm. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the firm’s clients fall into that category, mainly due to the $2 million asset minimum to join.
The Welch Group has nine advisors and is the first fee-only firm on our list. That means the firm only makes money from clients through asset management fees. As such you won’t be steered toward certain products (like insurance) or mutual funds that earn your advisors commissions. It’s a higher standard to meet than fee-based advisories.
The firm’s tenets are: communication, solutions, confidentiality, impartial advice and a team approach.
The Welch Group Background
While the company has history as far back as 1984, The Welch Group officially registered as an investment advisory firm in 1999. The company is owned by Stewart Welch, III who founded the company and serves as the managing member. He’s a certified financial planner (CFP) and has been practicing since 1983.
Grey Weyandt is the director of operations and chief compliance office of The Welch Group. He’s worked in financial services and healthcare for the past 40 years. Weyandt is a certified public accountant (CPA).
In total, the staff has 10 CFPs, three CPAs and two chartered financial analysts (CFA).
The Welch Group Investment Strategy
The Welch Group uses the following types of analysis when evaluating securities: charting, fundamental, technical and cyclical. Each method of analysis is a way to gauge the security’s strengths and potential for investment.
The company has its own proprietary money management approach called Growth Strategy with a Safety NetTM. Big picture, The Welch Group’s “number one goal is that you never run out of money.” To get you there, your advisor will speak with you to determine your financial situation and discuss what your ideal retirement looks like. You’ll go over things such as cash-flow needs and risk tolerance. These discussions will help build your portfolio’s allocations.
This fee-based advisor asks for a minimum of $250,000 for account management, making it the fourth most exclusive financial advisor firm on our list. The company has almost 50 advisors and has offices in Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama. In 2017, Financial Times recognized Bridgeworth as one of the Top 300 Registered Investment Advisers in the country.
Service offerings include comprehensive financial planning, investment management and generational planning. The company targets retirees, physicians, executives, attorneys, women and entrepreneurs.
Bridgeworth was formally established in 2008 by six professionals who had worked together for 20 years. These six certified financial planners (CFP) have grown the firm to more than 50 team members. Ten people own the firm, including DeLynn Zell, founder and managing partner, Donna Byrne, chief compliance officer, Brian Hinson, managing partner, and Zach Ivey, chief investment strategist and partner.
The firm has more women owners and more credentialed employees than any other on our Birmingham Top 10 list. More than 25 employees are CFPs, four are certified public accountants (CPAs) and one is a chartered financial analyst (CFA).
Bridgeworth Financial Planning
You’ll find a team approach at Bridgeworth, where financial planners have a wide range and depth of knowledge of almost every financial situation. The founding partners alone have more than 30 years of industry experience.
Using their experience, the staff at Bridgeworth created a formal financial planning process. First is your initial meeting where you will meet team members and define goals as well as learn what documents and information you’ll need to provide. Next is discovery: gathering and organizing all your financial records.
Step three is analysis and strategy development where your team will help develop goals and strategies. Plan presentation is step four. You’ll learn about your team’s financial recommendations and review the implementation timeline. Step five is simple: plan implementation. The last step is monitoring, review and communication. This is the step where you’ll review and monitor your monthly and quarterly statements for your accounts.
RFG Advisory Group
RFG Advisory group is a financial advisor network of more than 2,900 professionals who work as independent contractors. The company is headquartered in Birmingham but has representatives across the country. While the firm uses the advisors in an independent contractor arrangement, there are overall products and services that all RFG financial advisors offer.
As a client, you won’t need a large amount of money to get started, unlike other firms on this list. In fact, you need just $3,000 to open an exchange-traded fund (ETF) portfolio. This makes RFG the firm with the lowest minimum on our Birmingham list.
RFG Advisory Group Background
Bobby White and Alan Ryals founded Reliance Financial Group (RFG) in 2003 with the mission to provide strategies for protecting and managing assets as well as prepare clients for retirement. Bobby White, who has 20 years of wealth management experience under his belt, serves as the chairman and CEO.
Alan Ryals, the other founder, is managing partner and has 20-plus years of financial services experience. While White and Ryals own the majority of the firm, Shannon Spotswood, president, and Frederick Wedell, chief investment officer, also have ownership stakes.
RFG Advisory Group Model Portfolios
When you work with RFG for comprehensive portfolio management, your assets are generally placed in a proprietary investment strategy created by the firm. This is common practice for some advisory firms as most clients will fit into certain categories. More exclusive firms generally create a tailored investment plan per client.
RFG has three signature portfolios: the Steadfast Portfolios Program (SP), the Steadfast Select Portfolios Program (SS) and the RiskPro Model (RP). The first, consisting of mutual funds and ETFs, requires only $3,000 to invest. The SS portfolio is based on ETFs and also requires just $3,000 for participation. The RP model uses mutual funds and ETFs but has a minimum requirement of $25,000 for participation.
In addition to RFG model portfolios, you might be recommended to use portfolios from LPL Financial, which partners with RFG for certain advisory services. Your advisor will recommend which portfolio to use based on your financial situation, risk tolerance and other financial needs.
Southern Financial Group
Another Birmingham fee-based firm on our advisor list is Southern Financial Group. This company is the smallest with just two registered advisors, the second-smallest on the list is still double the size, with four advisors. Despite its size, the firm has over 1,000 client accounts and manages almost $500 million in assets. As long as you have at least $50,000 in investmentable assets, you can become a client of this intimate financial advisor firm.
Southern Financial Group Background
David Painter, chief compliance officer, and Christopher Holder, chief financial officer, are the two owners and founders of Southern Financial Group. While the firm is a little more than a decade old, each founder has over 25 years of experience in financial planning and investment.
Both founders are certified financial planners (CFPs) and certified public accountants (CPAs) and hold the personal finance designation (PFS) granted to accountants with extensive tax expertise and financial planning experience. The firm also employs and additional CPA and four support staff employees.
Southern Financial Group Financial Planning
Your financial plan at Southern Financial Group will be holistic. This means your advisor will consider your financial goals, family records, budgeting, tax and cash flow, investments, insurance, retirement strategies, estate and more. You’ll also receive advice, as needed, on business planning and tax and budgetary planning. In total, you’ll get to see your financial picture through the eyes of an expert.
While this service can be charged on an hourly basis, if you become a client of the firm’s portfolio management services, it’s likely that the fee will be waived, according to company filings with the SEC.
Warren Averett Asset Management
Warren Averett Asset Management (formerly Kinsight LLC) takes our No. 7 slot with over $400 million in assets under management. This is the second fee-only firm on our list, with The Welch Group (No. 3) as the only other firm also meeting this stricter fee type. Warren Averett isn’t for just anyone, however; the firm asks for a minimum of $1 million to invest, making it the third-highest amount required after Arlington Partners ($5 million) and The Welch Group ($2 million).
Warren Averett Asset Management Background
The firm is led by Joshua Reidinger, president and a certified public accountant (CPA). Reidinger has been with the firm for over 20 years. John Cox is the chief investment officer and is a chartered financial analyst (CFA) and a chartered alternative investment analyst (CAIA). Cox was formerly at Kinsight LLC.
In 2017, Warren Averett Asset Management merged with Kinsight, a top Birmingham financial advisory firm. The combined company now employs more than 50 employees and has offices in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. In addition to financial planning and investment management, Warren Averett offers traditional accounting, corporate advising, tech and risk solutions, human resources solutions and finance team support.
Warren Averett Asset Management Investment Philosophy
Advisors at Warren Averett generally use fundamental and technical analysis when choosing securities. Fundamental analysis is the study of historical and present data to make financial forecasts about a company. Technical analysis looks at price and trade volume to forecast the direction of prices.
To build your portfolio, you’ll have an initial interview with your advisor where you’ll go over your financial goals and objectives, your potential retirement date, cash-flow requirements and risk tolerance. The firm has portfolio allocation models that are used when your needs fit the situation.
These models include aggressive allocation, growth allocation, moderate allocation, conservative allocation and ultra-conservative allocation. Each model corresponds with a risk tolerance and growth potential. For example, the firms says its ultra-conservative model “is designed for our most conservative investor whose goal is to preserve capital.”
Berk Cleveland Rathmell Wealth Strategies
Berk Cleveland Rathmell Wealth Strategies, or BRC for short, has just nine employees. Despite its small size, the firm manages over $200 million and has offices in Alabama, Massachusetts and New Jersey. To become a client, you’ll need at least $250,000. This is tied with the Bridgeworth for the fourth-highest account minimum on our Birmingham top 10 list.
The company is fee-based, meaning it earns money from clients through management fees as well as commissions from selling insurance and other products.
Berk Cleveland Rathmell Wealth Strategies Background
Norman Berk, Sandra Cleveland and Marshall Rathmell founded BCR Wealth Strategies in 2002. Berk, a certified financial planner (CFP), founded a firm in the mid-1990s that became the predecessor to BCR. He works out of the company’s Westwood, Massachusetts office.
Cleveland, a CFP and certified college planning specialist (CCPS), is a wealth advisor and serves on the investment committee. Her BCR focus is “clients who are getting serious about their preparation for financial independence.” She also has a special interest in helping women achieve financial success.
Rathmell, a CFP and certified public accountant (CPA) comes from a sixth-generation Birmingham family. His focus at BCR is helping young professionals plan their financial lives.
Berk Cleveland Rathmell Wealth Strategies Investment Philosophy
One of BCR Wealth Strategies’ mottos is “building wise wealth.” What this means is that the company uses evidence-based investing to help you reach your financial goals. The company uses scholarly evidence to examine market factors and make predictions. Portfolios are constructed with the market rather than against it, and BCR advisors try to manage the human factor (faulty behavioral instincts) to build a better, science-based portfolio.
Overall, the company subscribes to a long-term outlook of the market. Advisors incorporate the principles of modern portfolio theory, which is a Nobel prize-winning theory that’s used by many investing firms. This theory states that markets are efficient over long periods of time and the best strategy is asset allocation rather than stock picking. This means your BCR portfolio will be diversified.
Money Management Services
This small, fee-based financial advisor has been in operation since 1992. You don’t need a set account size to become a client, but the firm does advise that the $1,000 minimum annual fee isn’t the most advantageous if your account is less than $33,000.
Money Management services has one office in Birmingham and four employees who serve in an advisor role. In total, the firm has just seven employees. Services at Money Management include financial planning, tax preparation and wealth and investment management.
Money Management Services Background
Money Management Services is a family affair. Donald and Gwendolyn Rice founded the company in 1992 and have owned the firm ever since. Donald is the director, president and chief compliance officer at Money Management. He’s a certified financial planner (CFP) who also holds the accredited investment fiduciary (AIF) designation. Gwendolyn is the director of operations. The couple has been married for more than 40 years. Their son, Andrew Rice serves as vice president and chief financial officer of the firm. He is a certified public accountant (CPA), holds the AIF designation and is a wealth management specialist (WMS).
Money Management Services Investment Philosophy
Unlike firms that use model portfolio templates, such as RFG Advisory Group (No. 5 on this list) and Warren Averett Asset Management (No. 7), Money Management Services prides itself on unique client portfolios. This means your portfolio is individualized and is exclusively built on your needs. Factors that your advisor will consider include your retirement timeline, cash needs, risk tolerance and financial objectives.
Overall, the company’s primary method of security analysis is fundamental. This means advisors look at the financial condition and competitive position of a company to determine whether it’s a worthy investment. Portfolios are built with mutual funds, ETFs, stocks and bonds and alternative investments. The company has no proprietary products so your advisor isn’t beholden to a particular investment or mutual fund. The firm says it manages portfolios “with a long-term, controlled-risk perspective.” This means building lasting wealth and investing with a long horizon in mind.
Sunburst Financial Group
While Sunburst Financial Group appears to be the youngest firm on this list, having only registered with the Securities and Exchange commission in 2016, in actuality, the fee-based company has offered financial planning since 2005. The firm is small, with five employees serving in financial advisor roles. If you’d like to become a client, the company has one of the lower account minimums on our top 10 list, requiring $25,000 for account management.
Sunburst Financial Group Background
Randy Martin formed the company in 2005 and in 2016, Sunburst Financial Group became a registered investment advisor with the SEC. Martin is a certified financial planner (CFP) and has worked in the financial services industry for decades. Jonathan Winzeler, part-owner of the firm, is a CFP and chartered financial consultant (ChFC). He has almost 30 years of investment management and financial planning experience, making it no surprise that he serves as Sunburst’s chief investment officer.
Barry Rhea is the firm’s third part-owner. He is a CFP, ChFC, chartered life underwriter (CLU) and certified exit planning advisor (CEPA). Rhea has 20 years of expertise in estate planning.
Sunburst Financial Group Investment Philosophy
Sunburst Financial Group is another follower of modern portfolio theory, a popular investing philosophy that has the fundamental belief that markets are efficient and that diversified asset allocation is the best choice for long-term gains. Sunburst advisors believe that “successful investing is dependent on a long-term focus.” The company accepts short-term market fluctuations knowing that markets have an upward trend.
Fundamental analysis is used at Sunburst when considering investments. In addition to analysis and asset diversification, Sunburst advisors account for tax implications and regulatory constraints when building your customized portfolio.