Finding a Top Financial Advisor Firm in Buffalo, New York
You won’t lack for financial advisor options in Buffalo, New York. Unfortunately, that can make the decision of which firm to go with that much harder. It can be difficult to evaluate which firm will best suit your needs. That’s where SmartAsset comes in. If you don’t feel like reading, you can skip right to our advisor pairing tool to find an advisor who’s the right match for you. However, if you want to find the perfect advisor right in your neighborhood, you can read the reviews below. We wrote about the top 10 financial advisors after sifting through hundreds of pages of information.
|Rank||Financial Advisor||Assets Managed||Minimum Assets||Financial Services||More Information|
|1||Courier Capital Find an Advisor||$1,329,843,900|| |
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|2||Sanderson Wealth Management Find an Advisor||$647,545,700|| |
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|3||WNY Asset Management Find an Advisor||$357,053,700|| |
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|4||Level Financial Advisors Find an Advisor||$306,559,300|| |
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|5||McCollum Christoferson Group Find an Advisor||$265,042,500|| |
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|6||Sterling Investment Counsel Find an Advisor||$204,000,000|| |
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|7||Waterford Advisors Find an Advisor||$180,591,300|| |
$0 to $250,000 depending on service
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$0 to $250,000 depending on service
|8||Landmark Wealth Management Find an Advisor||$166,877,300|| |
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|9||Pratt Collard Advisory Partners Find an Advisor||$140,825,500|| |
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|10||Miller Gesko & Company Find an Advisor||$202,837,800|| |
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How We Found the Top Financial Advisor Firms in Buffalo, New York
We only considered financial advisors that are registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). These are large firms that handle hundreds of millions (or billions) of dollars, and are under government oversight. We cut any firm that had disclosures or disciplinary issues or that didn’t manage individual client accounts. The final top 10 is arranged from most assets managed to least.
As the only firm out of our top 10 Buffalo financial advisors to have over $1 billion in assets under management, Courier Capital leads the way as the firm managing the most money. Founded in 1967, Courier Capital is the oldest firm on the list. The fee-based firm has seven advisors and more than 700 accounts.
Despite managing over $1.3 billion, the firm isn’t exclusive; you can have any amount of money and open an account, there are no minimum annual fees or account minimums. In 2015 and 2014, Financial Times named Courier Capital as one of the top 300 financial advisers in the U.S.
The firm has offices in Buffalo, Jamestown and Williamsville, New York and offers investment management, retirement planning, individual financial planning and investment consulting.
Courier Capital Background
Courier Capital was founded in 1967 and was known as Courier Capital Corporation. Now, the firm is an LLC and is owned by Financial Institutions, Inc. The company also owns Five Star Bank, a commercial and consumer bank, and Scott Danahy Naylon, an insurance agency. All of these institutions serve the western and central New York regions near Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.
Thomas Hanlon is the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Courier Capital. He has a number of credentials, including chartered financial analyst (CFA), certified financial planner (CFP) and certified employee benefits specialist (CEBS). He has an MBA in finance from SUNY Buffalo, and previously worked for M&T Bank and HSBC Bank.
The nine-person investment team has two more CFAs and one CFP. Not one female is on the investment team, but the director of operations on the associate team is a woman, Heather Wisinski.
Courier Capital Investment Management Process
When you work with Courier Capital, your advisor will create a tailored investment management solution. Your investment and financial objectives will be used to create your asset allocation. This allocation will include fixed income, domestic equities, foreign securities and alternative asset classes.
Your first few discussions with Courier Capital will help shape your client profile. This includes your investment objectives, risk tolerance, investment guidelines, time horizons and other relevant information. This information is used to create a portfolio that syncs with your objectives.
Courier Capital does use model portfolios. That means your profile will be matched with a pre-made asset model (conservative, moderate conservative, moderate, moderately aggressive or aggressive). High-net-worth clients (those with $1.5 million) may have a more tailored account and not see their portfolio in a model.
Sanderson Wealth Management
Sanderson Wealth Management comes in our No. 2 slot with $647 million in assets under management. Unlike our No. 1 firm, Courier Capital, which has no account minimum, Sanderson Wealth Management requires at least $500,000 to become a client. This is the second-highest minimum account requirement. Miller, Gesko & Company has the highest account minimum ($1 million) and is the 10th firm on this list.
Unsurprisingly, the firm manages a majority of high-net-worth client accounts. More than three-quarters of the 200-plus accounts Sanderson Wealth Management manages falls in this category.
Sanderson has eight advisors and was founded in 2001. The firm is fee-only, meaning it makes money solely from a percentage of assets under management and doesn’t sell you insurance or mutual funds to earn commissions or fees.
Sanderson Wealth Management Background
John Sanderson founded the firm in 2001 and remains the majority owner. He is a certified public accountant (CPA) and earned the designation of certified investment management analyst (CIMA). Before creating the firm, Sanderson spent 27 years at Ernst & Young, one of the largest account firms in the world. A graduate of Niagara University, Sanderson is a lifelong resident of western New York.
The other owner of the firm, with a minority stake, is James Warner. He is a CPA, certified financial planner (CFP) and holds the CIMA designation, as well. Warner’s main role at Sanderson Wealth is a client relationship manager, but he also serves as the compliance officer. He’s a former Ernst & Young employee.
John Gullo is the chief investment officer and chief operating officer of the company. He’s worked for Sanderson Wealth since 2007. Before joining the firm, he was a portfolio manager for M&T Bank and worked for UBS and The Horizon Group. He has an MBA from Canisius College.
Sanderson Wealth Management Investment Management Process
Wealth management specialists at Sanderson Wealth use a five-step process with clients. First, they’ll analyze your current position and future needs. Next is your investment policy statement. This is built on your time horizon, risk tolerance, cash-flow needs and other relevant personal financial information.
Step three entails determining your asset allocation. The company categories investments into three buckets: core bonds and cash, global stocks and non-traditional assets. After that, your specialist will select managers and implement your personal investment strategy. The last step is ongoing portfolio monitoring, reporting and rebalancing.
The firm is a follower of the popular, award-winning modern portfolio theory, which heavily emphasizes asset diversification and lowering risk while increasing returns by combining different assets at different times.
WNY Asset Management
Formed in 2000, WNY Asset Management has the largest number of accounts out of all the advisors on the list. Ten advisors manage the 1,800 accounts and combined, the accounts add up to more than $357 million. The firm has no requirement for minimum assets and has the highest percentage of clients below the high-net-worth level. The company is fee-based and located in Williamsville, New York, a suburb northwest of Buffalo.
Services offered include retirement planning, estate planning, education planning, investment management and insurance planning. A unique service WNY Asset Management offers is the College Assistance Program (CAP). CAP is a college planning process that helps families with college funding and financial aid eligibility.
WNY Asset Management Background
The firm was founded in 2000 by John Pieroni, Robert Castiglione and Ronald Lojacono. Pieroni owns the majority of the company’s shares, and serves as the managing partner and chief compliance officer. He is a SUNY Buffalo graduate and a certified financial planner (CFP).
Castiglione has an MBA from Boston College and is also a CFP. Before joining the firm, he was an equity trader for M&T Bank. He owns the second-highest amount of shares in the company. Lojacono, also a CFP, oversees WNY Asset Management’s investment committee and is a former UBS financial advisor.
The firm includes four additional CFPs and a total of 18 employees.
WNY Asset Management Process
Working with this company means undergoing a thorough process for wealth management. Your first meeting is considered the discovery phase. During this meeting, you’ll discuss your financial situation and objectives. The next meeting is preliminary analysis. This is when your advisors will formulate a preliminary financial plan that includes recommendations for not only your investments, but also for life insurance, estate planning, educational funding and more.
Next is strategic development. This is when you see the preliminary analysis your advisor created. After that is a clarification meeting. The company describes that “the goal of this meeting is to make sure you are completely comfortable with the direction, projections and recommendations in your financial plan.” This is your opportunity to ask questions and hammer out all the details. The second-to-last step is implementation of your plan. Then it’s maintenance and monitoring, and ongoing process that will continue as long as you’re a client of the firm.
Level Financial Advisors
This fee-only financial advisor is the second-oldest firm on the list. Level Financial Advisors has more than $306 million assets under management and manages more than 600 accounts. The firm has seven advisors and requires just $5,000 to start a relationship.
Level Financial Advisors and Sanderson Wealth Management are the only two firms on our Buffalo financial advisor list to offer fee-only services. This means your advisor earns her or his pay from management fees, not from selling you insurance products or investing your money in certain mutual funds that offer commissions.
Level Financial Advisors Background
Rosanne Braxton is the president and majority owner of Level Financial Advisors. This is the first firm on our list that’s headed by woman, but not the last. Our No. 5 firm, McCollum Christoferson Group is headed and owned by a woman as well.
Braxton’s worked for the firm since 1987 and became president in 2008. She is a certified financial planner (CFP).
Steven Elwell is vice president and a co-owner of the firm. He is also a CFP and a graduate of SUNY Alfred. The third owner of the firm is Michael Heburn, chief operating officer and chief compliance officer. Before joining the firm in 2014, he worked in executive management in the western New York region.
The 12-person team includes four more CFPs and one employee who is a chartered financial consultant (ChFC).
Level Financial Advisors Portfolio Management
There are several options at Level Financial Advisors for different asset amounts. If you have at least $5,000 and less than $250,000 in household assets, Level Financial offers Blueprint, an automated online platform powered by Charles Schwab. This is a version of a robo-advisor, a platform that digitally manages your assets based on algorithms.
However, if you sign up through Level Financial, you’ll have unlimited phone calls and emails available with an advisor, a free initial consultation and a basic financial plan/retirement projection, digital planning tools and automated investment management.
Foundation is the next level for those with $250,000 to $750,000 in assets. This includes everything that Blueprint offers, plus additional features such as in-person annual reviews, customized investment management and rebalancing, tax strategies and the option to have non-automated investment management.
The final level is for those with at least $750,000. Cornerstone offers everything that Blueprint and Foundation offer plus bi-annual in-person comprehensive review meetings, two dedicated advisors and family complimentary planning and management.
McCollum Christoferson Group
This woman-owned firm has more than $265 million assets under management and has operated as a registered investment advisor since 2012. The firm has four advisors and operates under a fee-based compensation structure. The company is the second-newest on the list after Sterling Investment Counsel (No. 7), founded in 2016.
McCollum Christoferson Group is an investment management company that offers services to individuals, pension and profit-sharing plans, trusts, estates, charitable organizations, corporations and business entities. You don’t need a certain amount of money to become a client; the company has no minimum fee or minimum portfolio value.
McCollum Christoferson Group Background
This is the only firm on our Buffalo top advisor list that’s solely owned by a woman. Katherine Christoferson is the owner, CEO, chief compliance officer and managing member. She has more than 30 years of financial industry experience. Prior to founding McCollum Christoferson Group, she worked for Harold C. Brown & Co for 30 years, eventually serving as the CEO and majority shareholder. Charles McCollum is the co-founder of the firm and serves as a research consultant.
William Deacon serves as the firm’s senior financial advisor. He is a certified financial planner (CFP) and has spent 20 years in the financial services industry. Deacon is a graduate of Canisius College.
McCollum Christoferson Group Investment Strategy
Portfolios are tailored to meet client needs and are continuously assessed. That means your financial goals and objectives are used to create your portfolio and to give guidance to the overall management of your investable assets.
In your first meeting, you’ll discuss your risk tolerance, time horizon, liquidity constraints and other relevant financial information. At this firm, client assets are primarily allocated to various debt securities and individual equity. Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds are also used, but less commonly.
Fundamental analysis and technical analysis are the two primary methods of evaluating securities that the firm uses. Fundamental analysis looks at the competitive position of a fund or issuer. Technical analysis is the evaluation of past market data in the attempt to identify market patterns.
Sterling Investment Counsel
This fee-based firm is the newest in our Buffalo top 10, having formed in 2016. Sterling Investment Counsel (SIC), has six advisors and manages more than 350 accounts. The firm has $204 million in assets under management and has no required minimum to become a client.
More than three-quarters of the firm’s client base are individuals below the high-net-worth mark ($1.5 million). Services the company offers includes portfolio management and financial planning to individuals, high-net-worth individuals, corporations or business entities, trusts, estates and charitable organizations.
Sterling Investment Counsel Background
The principal owners of the firm are Christopher Michael Marks, Cynthia Eileen Vance, Philip Kenneth Vance and John Lawrence Langer. Vance serves as the CEO of the firm and is a partner at another wealth planning firm, as well. She has over 30 years in the financial services industry. Vance is a certified financial planner (CFP), chartered financial consultant (ChFC), accredited investment fiduciary (ACF) and has an MBA from Xavier University and a J.D. from SUNY Buffalo School of Law.
Christopher Marks is the chief compliance officer and founding partner of the firm. Like Vance, he has a J.D. and MBA. Marks has more than 20 years of industry experience. James Goede is the firm’s chief investment officer and chief operating officer. He is a chartered financial analyst (CFA) and has experience from working at Ernst & Young and several other large firms.
Sterling Investment Counsel Investment Philosophy
This company is another follower of modern portfolio theory. This is the theory developed by Harry Markowitz and is used by a significant number of investment managers and advisors. The emphasis is to maximize portfolio expected returns for the given amount of portfolio risk by choosing proportions of various asset classes.
Sterling Investment Counsel uses charting analysis and fundamental analysis to evaluate securities. Charting analysis is the study of patterns in performance charts to help find ideal times to buy or sell a security. Fundamental analysis involves considering a company’s financial health, management and financial statements.
SIC usually advises clients on mutual funds, fixed-income securities, real estate funds, equities, ETFs, treasury inflation protected/inflation linked bonds and non U.S. securities.
This fee-based firm calls itself “goal focused and plan driven.” Managing more than $180 million, Waterford Advisors has just three advisors, tying it with Pratt Collard Advisory Partners (No. 9) and Miller, Gesko & Company (No. 10) for fewest number of advisors.
The firm was founded in 2000 and offers a number of services including retirement planning, investment advisory services, elder care and income planning. You can become a client with any amount with no minimum required. However, investment management services come with a $250,000 account minimum.
Waterford Advisors Background
Waterford Advisors was formed in 2000 and is owned by Gregory Kozerski, Christina Michalczak and David Hore. Kozerski serves as the president and is the majority owner of the firm. He has an MBA from Canisius College and is a certified financial planner (CFP), certified public accountant (CPA) and accredited investment fiduciary analyst (AIFA).
Michalczak is also a CFP and works as a financial planner for the firm. She is also an Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Hore serves as the director of business development and has worked in the financial industry since 1987.
Waterford Advisors has four additional full-time employees, including a CPA and CFP.
Waterford Advisors Investment Management
What type of investment advisory experience you receive at Waterford Advisors will depend on how much money you have available to invest. If you have below $250,000, your portfolio will be managed through FTJ FundChoice. Your assets will be invested in no-load mutual funds and load-waived class A share funds. At the moment, Waterford uses Litman Gregory (LG) model portfolios or Vanguard (VG) model portfolios at FTJ.
Those who have more than $250,000 will have their assets custodied at Schwab. Advisors at Waterford will give investment advice based on your financial situation and objectives. They will take under consideration your time horizon, cash needs and other financial considerations when creating your asset allocation.
Landmark Wealth Management
A $300,000 account minimum makes Landmark Wealth Management the third-highest account minimum on our list after Miller, Gesko & Company ($1 million) and Sanderson Wealth Management ($500,000). The fee-based financial advisor has five advisors and the lowest number of accounts out of the 10 firms on our list with less than 200. The firm has been in operation since 2005 and has $166 million assets under management.
Landmark Wealth Management Background
Mark Collard and Brian Laible are the founders of Landmark Wealth Management. Collard has an MBA, and is a certified private wealth advisor (CPWA) and chartered fund specialist (CFS). He’s spent over 13 years practicing wealth management. Before founding Landmark, Collard worked for Odyssey Advisors as the managing principal.
Laible has more than 14 years’ experience practicing wealth management. He is a certified financial planner (CFP), certified public accountant (CPA) and certified investment management analyst (CIMA). Additionally, he holds an MBA. Before Landmark, Laible worked at Sanderson Wealth Management and Ernst & Young in multiple roles including financial analyst, investment advisor and public auditor.
Landmark’s staff has a large variety of professional certifications, some of the most we’ve seen for one firm. Certifications beyond the ones held by the founders include accredited investment fiduciary (AIF), certified investment strategist (CIS), alternative investment certificate (AIS) and personal financial specialist (PFS).
Landmark Wealth Management Investment Strategies
To give you the best portfolio for your financial situation, Landmark Wealth advisors will consider your risk tolerance, investment objectives, time horizon, tax bracket and investment knowledge. Overall, the firm subscribes to modern portfolio theory, which proposes how “risk-averse investors can construct portfolios to optimize or maximize expected return based on a given level of market risk,” according to the firm’s SEC-filed brochure.
This means your assets will be broadly distributed across asset classes to help reduce volatility and hopefully maximize returns. The firm generally recommends investmenting in a diversified set of mutual funds. ETFs are also generally recommended.
Pratt Collard Advisory Partners
Pratt Collard Advisory Partners is a fee-based financial advisor with $140 million assets under management. The firm ties for fewest number of advisors with Waterford Advisors (No. 7), and Miller, Gesko & Company (No. 10). In operation since 2011, the firm is the third-youngest on the list after Sterling Investment Counsel, founded in 2016, and McCollum Christoferson Group, formed in 2012.
If you want to become a client, you’ll need at least $50,000. You’ll find Pratt Collard right in downtown Buffalo on Genesee Street, rather than in Amherst or Williamsville or another suburb.
Pratt Collard Advisory Partners Background
Matthew Collard and Michael Pratt started the firm in 2011 and remain the sole owners. Pratt serves as the chief compliance officer. According to Financial Magazine, Collard got his financial industry start in 1996 working in Germany. After two years spent in the German financial industry, he returned to western New York and starting working at Harold Brown & Co., a financial independent brokerage and investment firm where he worked with Pratt, then a senior portfolio manager at the firm.
Pratt Collard Advisory Partners Investment Strategy
In general, your advisors advocate for a long-term, value-driven investment process. This means limited portfolio turnover through holding positions for three to five years. Your portfolio will hold equities, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs. To choose these securities, advisors use fundamental analysis as their primary method of analysis.
Pratt Collard examines the competitive position of the company and uses a bottom-up approach. This means starting at a microeconomic level (starting with a specific company to research) before looking a the global macroeconomic indicators (called the top-down approach).
Miller Gesko & Company
This financial advisor may be last on our list, but that doesn’t mean it’s not exclusive. It’s the only firm with a $1 million minimum to become a client. Only Sanderson Wealth Management (our No. 2 firm) comes close with a $500,000 requirement.
Founded in 1986, Miller Gesko & Company is the third-oldest firm on the list, behind Courier Capital, founded in 1967, and Level Financial Advisors, formed in 1980. It’s also a fee-based firm, which is the common fee compensation model among our Buffalo advisor list. Only two firms (Sanderson Wealth Management and Level Financial Advisors are fee-only).
The firm has three advisors and is located downtown on Main Street near the Buffalo Bison’s baseball field. You can also find Miller Gesko & Company in Sarasota, Florida.
Miller Gesko & Company Background
Robert Miller, Jr and Paul Gesko founded the firm and remain the primary owners. Gesko is the president of the firm and a member of the firm’s investment committee. He manages the Florida office. Gesko founded the original company behind the current firm in 1969 and has been in financial services ever since.
Miller is the vice president and head of operations and management. He joined the firm in 1999 after services as a retirement planning specialist. He is a certified financial planner (CFP).
Henry Urban holds a minority stake in the company and is the chief compliance officer. Urban has a background in law, loans and trusts.
Miller Gesko has four other employees, including a chartered financial analyst (CFA) who serves as director of research.
Miller Gesko & Company Investment Strategy
Fundamental analysis is the method of choice at Miller Gesko for evaluating securities. This type of analysis looks at the market surrounding the company, as well as the company’s details such as management, financials and more.
The firm generally will offer you advice on the following types of securities: exchange-traded funds (ETFs), warrants, domestic and foreign equity securities, commercial paper, corporate debt securities, certificates of deposit, municipal and U.S. government securities, mutual funds, options and master limited partnerships.