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