HighTower Advisors, LLC
With $57 billion in assets under management (AUM), Hightower Advisors, LLC is a registered investment advisor (RIA) headquartered in Chicago. In recent years, the fee-based firm has been acquiring other successful RIA firms and now has 477 branches across the country. Its network of 344 partner advisors provide individual and institutional clients with investment advisory and financial planning services.
Hightower Advisors Background
Hightower Advisors launched in 2008. Founder Elliot Weissbluth made RIAbiz's 2012 list of the "Most Influential Figures in the RIA Business." In addition, he made InvestmentNews' "2012 Power 20" list and Investment Advisor's list of "Top 25 Most Influential People in the Industry" in 2012 and 2013.
Today, the firm is owned primarily by buyout firm Thomas H. Lee Partners. Technically, it a wholly owned subsidiary of Hightower Holdings, LLC which is majority owned by Thomas H. Lee Partners. As noted earlier, the company has been expanding recently by acquiring other RIA firms. Some of these firms have retained their individual Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registrations, including Salient Private Client, LLC, The Rikoon Group, LLC, Duncker Streett & Co., LLC, WealthTrust Axiom, LLC, Delta Asset Management, LLC, Harvey Investment Company, LLC and Kanawah Capital Management, LLC. Through its parent company, Hightower Advisors is also affiliated with Hightower Securities, a broker-dealer and insurance agency, Hightower Trust Servcies and Hightower Insurance Company (formerly Salient).
Hightower Advisors Client Types and Minimum Account Sizes
According to its SEC-filed brochure, Hightower Advisors serves the following types of clients:
- Individuals (other than high net worth)
- High-net-worth indiviudals and ultra-high-net-worth individuals
- Corporate retirement plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
- Certain pension and Taft-Hartley plans
- Trusts and estates
- Charitable organizations
- Business entities
- Institutional organizations such as universities
- State and municipal entities
Generally, the firm doesn’t require a minimum investment to start a relationship. However, the advisory notes that its services may not benefit clients with small asset levels due to higher fees. The firm believes these expenses may significantly impact account sizes below $500,000.
Services Offered by Hightower Advisors
Representatives of Hightower Advisors generally provide investment advisory services on a discretionary basis. This means advisors are authorized to sell or purchase securities as they see fit to meet your investment goals based on your Individual Investment Policy Statement (IPS).
Advisors may also provide stand-alone financial planning services upon request. Depending on your goals, these services may encompass some or all of the following:
- Estate planning
- College savings plans
- Retirement planning
- Insurance management
- Asset allocation review
- Cash management and certain Treasury services
The firm may also offer access to unaffiliated third-party money managers who can provide specialized asset management services. These managers may provide additional research and investment management expertise. Hightower Advisors monitors and evaluates these managers in order to determine whether they are suitable for particular clients. However, clients will come into separate agreements with these managers if they agree to work with them. Hightower Advisors has the authority to fire these managers if warranted on behalf of clients who have given Hightower discretionary authority.
Additionally, the advisory works with plan sponsors who manage employee benefits like 401(k) plans and 403(b) plans. It also provides services to the following private funds:
- Fischer Global Opportunity Fund, LP
- Fischer Enterprise Fund, L.P.
- FGLO CAPITAL, L.P.
Hightower Advisors Investment Philosophy
Hightower Advisors’ investment advisory process starts with a thorough assessment of the client. The firm will gather key information such as the client’s risk tolerance, investment goals, preferences and more. Hightower Advisors uses this information to develop an IPS for the client as well as an appropriate asset allocation for an investment portfolio.
The firm doesn’t limit itself to investing in specific securities and will allocate client assets across the securities universe as it deems appropriate to meet the client’s goals. Hightower Advisors also employs the following methods when evaluating these investments:
- Charting - predicting the performance of a security based on past price movements and other available information
- Fundamental analysis - conducting an in-depth analysis of a company's financials throughout a certain period of time in order to determine future performance
- Technical analysis - making economic projections based on patterns and trends of a particular security or sector
- Quantitative analysis - creating mathematical models to predict price movements and other factors of a particular security or sector
Fees Under Hightower Advisors
For investment advisory services, clients generally pay advisory fees as a percentage of their AUM. Advisors determine this percentage at different asset levels. For example, it may be a 1.00% annual advisory fee on the first $1 million. However, these fees are typically charged on a quarterly basis using the fair market value of the account as of the last business day of each quarter. So the quarterly fee would translate to a fourth of the annual fee in this scenario.
Clients may enter either a wrap-fee or unbundled fee schedule for investment advisory services. The wrap program covers the firm’s advisory fee along with the custodial and transaction fees paid to other entities involved with the management of your account. In this case, the client would work with the advisor to determine an appropriate wrap-fee schedule.
Investment advisory fees paid to the firm are separate from expenses charged by the underlying funds that the client’s portfolio invests in. These may include mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) expenses levied by the applicable fund managers. While these aren’t paid to Hightower Advisors, they would reduce your account size. You can find detailed information about these expenses in each fund’s prospectus.
For financial planning services, fees are on an hourly or fixed basis. The extent of these fees would depend on the scope of the services rendered.
Overall, fees are specific to the advisor you work with through Hightower Advisors and the services you receive. But you can compare your fees against national rates which we describe below.
|Estimated Fee Comparison*|
|Your Assets||National Median Advisory Fees**|
|$1MM||$8,500 - $10,000|
|$5MM||$25,000 - $32,500|
|*Fee estimates only consider the maximum base fees for the services each firm provides. You may also pay manager fees and other fees, which can vary in amount. **All figures are based on median fee levels according to Bob Veres' 2017 Planning Profession Fee Survey. The above estimates solely take into account AUM-only fees. Total costs will likely be higher due to additional expenses.|
A more recent study by RIA in a Box surveyed 1,500 firms in 2018 and found the industry average fee for investment management to be 0.95%. You can learn more about advisors' typical costs here.
What to Watch Out For
As of its most recent SEC filings, Hightower Advisors reported no disclosures of legal or regulatory action.
A couple things to note: Hightower Advisors' many affiliations in the financial services industry may pose conflicts of interests. Also, its representatives who are brokers or insurance agents have potential conflicts of interest in that they collect commissions and other transaction-based fees. That said, the firm is legally bound by its fiduciary duty to disclose all conflicts of interest and to act in clients' best interests at all times.
Opening an Account With Hightower Advisors
To contact Hightower Advisors, call (312) 962-3800. You can also find advisors close to you by visiting its website: https://www.hightoweradvisors.com/find-advisor.
Tips for Finding a Financial Advisor
- Before you sign up with a financial advisor, make sure he or she is a fiduciary. This means the advisor is legally bound to put your best interests first. For more things to know about prospective advisors, check out our story about the 5 questions to ask when choosing a financial advisor.
- Use our SmartAsset financial advisor matching tool. After answering some questions about your goals, you’ll be linked with up to three advisors in your area. You can access their profiles to compare their qualifications before making a decision.
All information was accurate as of the writing of this article.