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Durbin Bennett Private Wealth Management Review

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by Nina Semczuk Updated
Durbin Bennett Private Wealth Management

Austin-based investment advisor Durbin Bennett is for those who have at least $1 million in investable assets and prefer working with a fee-only company. This fiduciary financial advisor firm has been recognized as a top wealth manager by Bloomberg, CNBC and the Financial Times. You can become a client as an individual, or with a company or charity. Billed mainly as a wealth management firm providing investment management and strategic wealth planning, Durbin Bennett also provides retirement planning, tax planning and family office coordination.

Who Should Use Durbin Bennett Private Wealth Management?  

When you’re looking for a financial advisor, it’s important to find one that matches up with your needs and expectations. The investment philosophy at Durbin Bennett is long-term growth over short-term gain. That means, once you’re a client with this firm, you should expect an approach to investing focused on creating value over time versus securing short-term wins. That said, you have the option to adjust your risk tolerance and shift the percentage of more active growth versus steady during your discussions with your advisor.  

If you’re wealthy, Durbin Bennett is a good choice. With all account minimums at $1 million, the company caters to those with money. The fees are on par with the average Austin investment firm, ranging from 0.2% - 1% based on assets, for individual portfolio management. See the table below for a full breakdown of fees. 

It’s also a fee-only company rather than a fee-based company like Century Management or Richard P. Slaughter Associates. (Fee-only means advisors are compensated solely through fees. This could be a flat-rate fee or percentage-based fee. If a company is fee-based that means it can receive both fees and commissions for selling or recommending certain products.) 

The company accepts a variety of clients ranging from individuals and companies to charities. 

What You’ll Pay in Fees 

Durbin Bennett’s annual fee structure is simple. It changes based on the amount of money you have under management. This differs from some firms, like Century Management, which have several different fee structures based on the type of portfolio mix you choose (as well as assets under management). At Durbin Bennett, it’s solely based on the amount of your investable assets. 

You pay the fee each quarter, for a total of four times a year. The fee structure is only for management fees and advisement services. Brokerage fees have to paid separately. For example, if your account purchases a mutual fund from Schwab, you owe Schwab the cost of the transaction. This is usually paid directly from your account.

Durbin Bennett provides strategic wealth planning in an effort to help you make current and future financial decisions based on your retirement needs, cash flow, investments, insurance and tax matters. This service is included if you’re already paying for investment supervisory services. If you’d like strategic wealth planning without having account management, you’ll pay a fixed fee that can range from $5,000 to $40,000.   

What to Watch Out for 

There aren’t many obvious downsides to working with Durbin Bennett. It’s a fiduciary, which means it is required to put client’s interests first. The company is fee-only, which is a harder standard to meet than fee-based, and the fees are in line with the average Austin wealth manager.

However, you do need to be aware that the company has two different fees, rather than one management fee. There’s a rate for individual portfolio management and there’s an additional fractional fee for investment advisement services. The majority of clients use both services. That means if you’re comparing advisors by fee, you’ll need to add those two fees together to get a comparable rate to what most firms list as one number.

Durbin Bennett Advisors: What to Know 

Durbin Bennett has 13 employees, with 11 performing investment advisory functions. Out of the top 10 Austin investment firms SmartAsset profiled, the company had among the highest numbers of certified financial planners (CFPs) and certified public accountants (CPAs). While most firms we reviewed have chartered financial analysts (CFAs), many do not have more than one or two financial planners or accountants. Durbin Bennett, meanwhile, has five total.

The company has five partners who act as advisors and investment officers. One partner, Margaret Huang Casey, is the firm’s chief operating officer. There are three client service associates with whom clients interact, as well as a dedicated wealth management specialist. Most of the staff have financial certifications such as CFA, CFP or CFA.

Durbin Bennett provides both discretionary and non-discretionary asset management services and investment consulting services. This means you can choose to have your portfolio managed without your input. That can be preferable for those who don’t have the time or expertise to actively manage their account. If you’re a hands-on person, a non-discretionary account means that you make all the trading decisions.

Key Personnel

Richard Bennett co-founded the firm in 1987 after serving as director of Financial Planning Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Today, he’s the strategic planning partner at Durbin Bennett and has one of the largest ownership stakes in the company. Bennett is a certified public accountant and holds a personal financial specialist credential.

Matthew Jachimiak, one of Durbin Bennett’s five partners, is the chief investment officer. After joining the firm in 2004 as a senior portfolio manager, he worked his way up to his current role. Jachimiak has an MBA from University of Texas at Austin and is a certified financial analyst with the additional chartered alternative investment analyst designation. After Bennett, Jachimiak holds the second-most company ownership out of the five partners. 

Awards and Recognitions 

Durbin Bennett was recognized as the 42nd top registered financial adviser in 2015 by Bloomberg. CNBC named the company 52 out of the top 100 fee-only wealth managers of 2015. In 2015 and 2016, the Financial Times named Durbin Bennett as one of the best registered investment advisers.

Brokerage Partnerships

Brokerage partnerships are common among investment firms. At Durbin Bennett, you’re recommended to place trades through the Schwab Advisor Services division of Charles Schwab or Fidelity Investments.

Disclosures

No advisor who works for Durbin Bennett has incurred a disclosure or disciplinary action at this time.

Investment Philosophy 

At Durbin Bennett, your portfolio is constructed with the belief that “markets are irrational or inefficient” over the short term, but efficient over the long term. 

This translates to portfolios made with passive core components and more active satellite components. Your balance of passive to active is determined during your discussions with your advisor at the company.   

One of the other core tenets behind Durbin Bennett’s investment philosophy is rebalancing as needed, not based on monthly or quarterly timelines. This means that the company adheres to tolerance ranges for rebalancing decisions. Ultimately, this saves transaction costs as well as capital gain generation (which can impact taxes). 

Net return rather than gross return is what the advisors at Durbin Bennett believe in, according to the company’s brochure. This means long-term gains over short-term gains. Tax implications are also considered which means putting tax-disadvantaged assets into tax-deferred accounts to reduce your tax liability.

Durbin Bennett Management Portfolio Styles

Your portfolio’s assets are segmented into two primary asset classes: equities and fixed income. Under each of these asset classes are sub-asset classes, including:

  • Traditional fixed income

  • Fixed-income alternatives

  • Traditional equities

  • Equity alternatives

  • Real assets

  • Other strategies, such as global macro, event strategies, currency and volatility

Each of these sub-assets have different volatility characteristics that are taken into account when building your portfolio. The higher risk tolerance you have, the higher probability that your portfolio will have more volatile assets. This is determined during your consultations with Durbin Bennett and your customized investment policy statement. This document gives your advisor your risk/return profile.

Your advisor also considers liquidity and domicile. For liquidity, Durbin Bennett looks at how quickly your portfolio can be liquidated (turned into cash) at a time of market stress. For domicile, it’s about where your portfolio is allocated globally. The company states that most portfolios are balanced between global and domestic investments.

As we discussed in the investing philosophy section, Durbin Bennett maintains that passive core components balanced with active satellite components is the best mix for long-term portfolio growth.

Starting an Account With Durbin Bennett

You have several methods to choose from to start your relationship with Durbin Bennett. You can call the company directly (512-610-6930) to schedule an appointment, visit the website and fill out a contact form or send an email to info@durbinbennettwealth.com.   

At the start of your relationship with the firm, you’ll discuss your financial objectives. This includes your retirement and wealth planning goals as well as the current status of your assets. During the personal consultation, an advisor will develop an investment policy statement (IPS).

The IPS is based on your discussion with your advisor. Along with your financial objectives, it will include your risk tolerance, liquidity needs and time horizons. Even though Durbin Bennett will manage your portfolio, you can still impose reasonable restrictions on investing in certain securities or industry sectors.

If you use Durbin Bennett’s investment supervisory services, you can opt for strategic wealth planning for no additional fee. Strategic wealth planning is a financial planning service that aims to help you make current and future financial decisions by creating a tailored financial model. This includes:

  • Determining the accumulation of assets you need for retirement

  • Developing your current and future spending budget

  • Planning for educational funding (your children’s college fund)

  • Planning for other life events

  • Identifying your insurance or risk management requirements

  • Determining your investment allocation

  • Estate planning requirements

  • Any other financial issues

While Durbin Bennett will create the plan for you, the implementation of it is up to you. This means working with your own attorney, accountant, insurance agent or other expert. 

What Types of Clients Does Durbin Bennett Accept? 

Durbin Bennett serves a range of clients, including:

  • Individuals and high-net-worth individuals

  • Pensions and profit-sharing plans (other than plan participants)

  • Corporations

  • Charitable organizations

  • Other investment advisers 

You can become a client as long as you meet the minimum account requirement. As a reminder, you need at least $1 million in investable assets.

Where Is the Company Located?

Texas residents, especially those in the Austin or San Marcos area, will appreciate Durbin Bennett’s West Austin location. The company does serve those in surrounding areas, and is registered in Louisiana as well as Texas. But if you want to meet in person to get yourself acquainted with the person managing your money, the company is in West Austin. It’s never a requirement, but for most, finding an advisor within driving distance can make the most sense.

How Many Years $1 Million Lasts in Retirement

SmartAsset's interactive map highlights places where $1 million will last the longest in retirement. Zoom between states and the national map to see the top spots in each region. Also, scroll over any city to learn about cost of living in retirement there.

Least
Most
Rank City Housing Expenses Food Expenses Healthcare Expenses Utilities Expenses Transportation Expenses

Methodology SmartAsset calculated the average cost of living for retirees in the largest U.S. cities. Using that calculation, we determined how many years $1 million would last in retirement in each major city.

First, we looked at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the average annual expenditures of seniors throughout the country. We then applied cost of living data from the Council for Community and Economic Research to adjust those national average spending levels based on the costs of each expense category (housing, food, healthcare, utilities, transportation and other) in each city.

We assumed the $1 million would grow at a real return (interest minus inflation) of 2%, reflecting the typical return on a conservative investment portfolio. Finally, we divided $1 million by the sum of each of those annual numbers to determine how long $1 million would last in each of the cities in our study.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Council for Community and Economic Research