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Symphony Asset Management Review

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Symphony Asset Management Review

Symphony Asset Management, LLC

Symphony Asset Management, LLC is an investment advisory firm headquartered in San Francisco. The firm employs 28 financial advisors overseeing $18.8 billion in assets under management (AUM).

The management of institutional accounts is Symphony’s main focus. While the firm lists individual clients on its Form ADV, many of these accounts belong to employees of the firm rather than new clients. If you’re an individual looking for a financial advisor, try using our advisor matching tool to find options in your area.

Symphony is a fee-only firm, as the entirety of its compensation comes from fees it charges clients. This is distinctly different from a fee-based firm, which would not only receive client fees, but also income from outside sources, like insurance commissions. By forgoing such commission-based compensation, a fee-only firm can avoid some conflicts of interest.

Symphony Asset Management Background

Symphony Asset Management was founded in 1994. It is an independent subsidiary of Nuveen Investments, LLC, which is in turn a subsidiary of Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA), a large, nationwide financial services company. The firm’s leadership team consists of five investment professionals: co-heads of investments Scott Caraher, James Kim, Jenny Rhee and Himani Trivedi and business head Scott Grace.

The firm’s staff holds various advisory certifications, including chartered financial analysts (CFAs) and certified public accountants (CPAs).

What Types of Clients Does Symphony Asset Management Accept?

Symphony provides services to a variety of institutions. These clients include private investment funds, registered investment companies, pension funds, structured debt vehicles, separately managed accounts (SMAs), foundations, endowments, sovereign wealth funds and more.

Symphony Asset Management Minimum Account Size

The minimum account size for institutional clients is typically between $50 million and $100 million. This variance is dependent upon the strategy that’s used. Individual commingled private fund investments have a minimum of $5 million.

Symphony’s SMA programs generally have a $100,000 minimum investment, though this can vary from strategy to strategy.

Services Offered by Symphony Asset Management

At its core, Symphony is an investment advisory firm. It has a number of proprietary investment strategies that it applies to clients’ accounts on a risk-adjusted basis. Here’s a breakdown of these and other services at this firm:

  • Institutional SMA programs
    • Customizable investment management negotiated individually
  • Private investment fund investment advice
  • Collateralized loan obligations
    • Firm acts as collateral manager for structured debt vehicles
  • SMA dual contract and wrap fee programs
    • Works indirectly with individuals through these accounts
  • Model-based programs
    • Firm provides portfolio models to programs sponsors on a non-discretionary basis

Symphony also serves as a sub-advisor for multiple open- and closed-end funds for its parent company, Nuveen. These funds are known as the “Nuveen Funds,” and they’re publicly available for investment.

Symphony Asset Management Investment Philosophy

Symphony primarily relies upon both debt and equity strategies to drive results for client portfolios. The firm's debt strategies include senior bank loans, high yield bonds, convertible bonds and asset backed securities. Other specific strategies used by the firm include long-short credit, convertible arbitrage, events driven opportunities and long-only credit.

When it comes to equity investing, Symphony heavily relies on fundamental and quantitative analysis methods while generally employing bottom-up security selection. The firm places a particular emphasis on analyzing the capital structure of all investment candidates.

Symphony largely invests with a long-term time horizon in mind. In order to provide the best possible advisory services, the firm utilizes a variety of data sources including computer models.

Fees Under Symphony Asset Management

Symphony takes an annual percentage of each client’s AUM as a fee. The percentage it charges is determined by a number of factors, such as asset class, investment strategy and more.

Symphony’s SMA and model-based programs often charge wrap fees. That means clients will pay a single, all-encompassing fee for services. Symphony’s annual fees for these accounts are usually around 0.40%, and the fees charged by the outside wrap program sponsors usually go as high as 3.00% of clients’ AUM. Unbundled, Symphony’s standard fee for SMA programs is as high as 1.00%.

Hedged private funds carry an annual management fee of 1.00% to 2.00%. Long-only private funds carry an annual fee of 0.45% to 0.55%. Investment services for collateralized loan obligations range from 0.30% to 0.50%. Finally, mutual funds carry an annual fee of, at most, 1.00%.

What to Watch Out For

Symphony does not offer financial planning services like retirement planning, tax planning or estate planning. So if you’re looking for financial planning, this firm will not be able to meet these needs.

Symphony charges a performance-based fee on certain accounts. This creates the potential for a conflict of interest, because, as the firm’s Form ADV states, “performance-based fees may create an incentive for Symphony to make investments that are riskier or more speculative than would be the case in the absence of a performance-based fee.” That said, the firm and its advisors are obligated to operate under fiduciary duty, keeping your best interests in mind at all times.

Disclosures

Symphony Asset Management does not have any disclosures on its Form ADV, which means that it has a clean legal and regulatory record.

Opening an Account With Symphony Asset Management

Investors who have interest in Symphony’s investment strategies can reach out to marketing@symphonyasset.com. You can also call the firm at (415) 676-4000.

Where Is Symphony Asset Management Located?

Symphony is headquartered in San Francisco at 555 California Street. It also has secondary offices in Los Angeles and New York. You can do business with Symphony even if you don’t live near one of the firms’ offices.

Tips for Financial Planning

  • While Symphony does not work with individual clients, many advisors in your area likely do. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Wondering how much your investments will grow over time? Use SmartAsset’s investment calculator to figure out what you can expect your money to do for you. 

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 the cost of living in retirement for that location.

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

Methodology To determine how long a $1 million nest egg would cover retirement costs in cities across America, we analyzed data on average expenditures for seniors, cost of living and investment returns.

First, we looked at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the average annual expenditures of seniors. 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. Using this data, SmartAsset calculated the average cost of living for retirees in the largest U.S. cities.

We assumed the $1 million would grow at a real return (interest minus inflation) of 2%. This reflects the typical return on a conservative investment portfolio. Then, we divided $1 million by the sum of each of those annual numbers to determine how long $1 million would cover retirement expenses in each of the cities in our study. Cities where $1 million lasted the longest ranked the highest in the study.

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