Johnson Investment Counsel, Inc.
As the unusual word “counsel” in its name suggests, Johnson Investment Counsel is not your typical practice. It was founded by Tim Johnson, a business professor at the University of Cincinnati who was always happy to advise friends on their finances. When the requests became more than he could handle, including from institutions, he decided to hire people and start the firm.
That was 1965. Today, the firm manages more than $13.1 billion in assets and employs 68 advisors. With headquarters in Cincinnati, the fee-only practice is No. 3 on SmartAsset’s top financial advisor firms lists for both Cincinnati and Ohio. Johnson Investment also has offices in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton - and as of 2019, Chicago and Detroit.
Johnson Investment Counsel Background
Johnson Investment has been in business for more than 50 years. In 2013, Tim Johnson stepped down as president, and long-time employee Jason Jackman, who had been director of fixed income and institutional management, took the helm (Johnson remains chairman of the company).
The firm takes great pride in the fact that it is independent (Johnson has turned down many overtures from larger companies over the years) and that it is completely employee owned. According to its Form ADV brochure, 33 employees own shares in the firm, with Johnson having the biggest stake (though it is still less than 25%).
With offices in four major Ohio cities, Johnson Investment is a strong presence in the state. In 2019, it began its expansion into southeastern Michigan and Illinois, opening offices in Metro Detroit and Chicago.
Johnson Investment Counsel Client Types and Minimum Account Sizes
Johnson Investment serves mostly individuals who do not have a high net worth. That said, it recently raised its minimum account requirement to $1,000,000, indicating a direction toward wealthier clients. The firm also works with investment companies, pension and profit-sharing plans, trusts, estates, charitable organizations, corporations and other business and governmental entities.
The firm generally requires a $1,000,000 investment, though it may waive the minimum at its discretion. For its online platform program, the minimum is $5,000.
Services Offered by Johnson Investment Counsel
Johnson Investment provides investment management on a discretionary basis, which means clients authorize it to make trades when it deems them appropriate. The firm also offers portfolio management services through its automated, online platform. On this platform, which is sponsored by Schwab Performance Technologies, you can invest only in exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
Additionally, the firm offers financial planning, family office services, trust services and charitable planning - plus advisory services to mutual funds, retirement plans and businesses.
Johnson Investment Counsel Investing Philosophy
Advisors work as a team when designing client portfolios to tap the firm’s collective experience and expertise. It describes its process as “sophisticated yet logical and understandable, blending together the art and science of portfolio management.”
Generally, its equity strategy involves a bottom-up, quantitative approach. With fixed income, the firm uses both macro and micro strategies, looking for quality yield and appropriate maturities.
Johnson Investment Counsel Fees
Johnson Investment collects management fees based on a percentage of the client’s AUM. According to a 2018 study of 1,500 firms by RIA in a Box, the average financial advisor's investment advisory fee is 0.95% of AUM. Though the firm may waive or negotiate its fees, there is a $5,000 minimum annual fee. Here is the tiered fee schedule:
|Assets under Management||Annual Fee|
|All funds thereafter||0.50%|
|*Estimated investment management fees do not include brokerage, custodial, third-party manager or other fees, which can vary in amount.|
|Estimated Investment Management Fees at Johnson Investment Counsel*|
|Your Assets||Johnson Investment Counsel Fee Amount|
Johnson Investment Counsel Awards and Recognition
The Financial Times named Johnson Investment as one of the top 300 investment advisors in the country in 2019. In 2018, Barron's ranked the firm No. 20 in its top 40 list of investment advisor firms in the country.
Additionally, in 2017, the firm won InvestmentNews’ Best Practices Award for Excellence in Compensation and Staffing.
What to Watch Out For
In its most recent SEC filings, Johnson Investment reported that it had one disclosure within the past 10 years. It involves a criminal complaint filed against an advisor in 2018. The allegation has to do with the disposition of asbestos during a renovation and is not related to the advisor’s financial duties or role. As of June 2019, he is waiting to contest the allegation at trial.
Johnson Investment may recommend Johnson Mutual Funds, which it sponsors and advises on behalf of its wholly owned subsidiary, Johnson Financial, Inc. These referrals may present a conflict of interest, since advisors have a financial incentive to recommend affiliate services. The firm, though, states that it believes that “compensation charged by our affiliates is competitive.” It also states that clients are under no obligation to invest in its affiliate mutual funds.
Opening an Account With Johnson Investment Counsel
To contact Johnson Investment, send a message on its site, https://www.johnsoninv.com/contact. Alternately, call headquarters or the office nearest you:
Cincinnati (headquarters) - (800) 541-0170
Cincinnati-Kenwood - (844) 389-2761
Cleveland - (440) 877-9990
Columbus - (866) 365-4523
Dayton - (800) 851-9114
Chicago - (312) 519-8474
Detroit - (248) 412-9010
All information is accurate as of the writing of this article.
Tips for Finding a Financial Advisor
- Ask how advisor candidates get paid. Those whose only compensation is the fees they collect from you will likely have fewer conflicts of interests than those who also receive commissions. That said, if any advisors say they are fiduciaries, that means they will work in your best interests.
- Use SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool to connect with up to three suitable advisors in your area.