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William Blair & Company Review

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William Blair & Company, L.L.C.

Since the 1930s, William Blair & Company has been providing wealth management services to high-net-worth individuals and their families. Headquartered in Chicago, this global firm has financial advisors in more than 20 offices worldwide. It currently oversees more than $25 billion in assets. 

William Blair & Company Background

William Blair opened in 1935, when it was founded by William McCormick Blair. Today, it’s a wholly owned subsidiary of WBC Holdings, which in turn is owned by employees of William Blair. The firm has more than 200 employees in the U.S. and has domestic branches in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, New York and San Francisco. 

The firm operates as an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and as a broker-dealer registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). It is affiliated with William Blair Investment Management (WBIM), LLC, which works with institutional clients. 

William Blair & Company Client Types and Minimum Account Sizes

William Blair & Company works with high-net-worth clients, individuals, small institutions and wrap program clients. Account minimums vary, depending on the program: 

  • WBIM Sub-Advisory/WBIM Separate Accounts - $2 million
  • Private Wealth Management (PWM) Accounts - $50,000
  • Platform Separate Accounts - $100,000 (some third-party managers may impose higher minimums)

Services Offered by William Blair & Company

Advisors meet with clients several times to determine investment objectives and asset-allocation strategies that can help them reach those goals while adapting to changes in their financial lives and risk tolerance. When delivering investment advice, the firm considers the following subjects:

  • Retirement planning
  • Education funding
  • Wealth-transfer objectives
  • Risk tolerance
  • Cash-flow needs
  • Time frame
  • Philanthropic goals
  • Tax profile

The firm’s wealth management division provides holistic financial planning guidance in various areas including ones not directly involving securities. These can include: 

  • Philanthropic strategies
  • Estate and multigenerational planning
  • Retirement planning
  • Investing with tax efficiency strategies in place

With the authorization of its clients, the firm may hire its affiliate WBIM to serve as a sub-advisor to certain accounts. 

William Blair can also serve as the investment manager or sponsor of wrap-fee programs. For some accounts, William Blair has entered into agreements with asset management platform providers like PWM Advisors. 

William Blair & Company Investment Philosophy

William Blair aims to design portfolios that align with the client’s risk tolerance, preferences and investment goals. When examining securities, it relies on fundamental analysis and technical analysis. It also draws from its own proprietary research to identify favorable investments for its clients’ portfolios.

The firm does not limit its scope to specific securities but considers the wider investment universe to build portfolios with. Depending on your profile, your investment strategy may include: 

  • Mutual funds
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
  • Individual stocks and bonds 

Fees Under William Blair & Company

William Blair doesn’t publish its investment advisory fee schedule, but it generally charges these fees as a percentage of clients' assets under management. These fees are payable quarterly either in advance or in arrears. 

These investment advisory fees are independent of other expenses, such as brokerage commissions, custodial fees and mutual fund fees. 

What to Watch Out For

William Blair also operates as a broker-dealer, and when its advisors serve as brokers they receive commissions. This can present potential conflicts of interest. That said, as an SEC-registered investment advisor, the firm must uphold its fiduciary duty to provide advice solely in the best interest of the client. 

Disclosures

In its most recent SEC filings, William Blair reported three disciplinary events within the last 10 years. One involved a foreign (Swiss) regulatory authority and two involved U.S. agencies. Of the two American actions, the fines were $5,000 and $4.5 million. The larger fine involved alleged negligence and failure to disclose required information about 12b-1 mutual fund fees. William Blair consented to the entry of an order instituting cease-and-desist proceedings without admitting or denying the findings. 

You can find more information about this and other disciplinary matters by accessing the firm’s Form ADV on the SEC's Investment Adviser Public Disclosure site. 

Tips for Finding the Right Financial Advisor

  • Want an advisor who'll always put your interests first? (When advisors act as brokers they have a lower suitability standard to uphold.) Then you need what's called in the industry a fee-only advisor. Use our free matching tool to fine one near you. Within minutes, you'll receive recommendations for up to three local advisors who can meet your specific needs. 
  • Before you decide on a financial advisor, ask how much liability insurance they have. The right answer should cover how much you plan on putting in the advisor’s hands. So if they say $25,000 per incident and you have $50,000 to invest, that’s not enough coverage.

All information was accurate as of the writing of this article.

 

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