Evensky & Katz Wealth Management

Trailblazer IMPACT Award

Brains and a good business sense will take you far, but passion is what really propels a firm. At least that's what Deena Katz, of Evensky & Katz, says is at the root of her firm's success. "We are passionate about educating the next generation and providing an environment where clients feel comfortable and trust their advisor, without worrying what things are on their advisor's mind—other than a client's care and comfort."

These convictions fuel all aspects of the business, including its internal structure, investment philosophy, involvement in the RIA industry, and commitment to growing a new generation of financial thinkers and leaders.

"It's not just a legacy of our company that we want to leave, it is a legacy of the next generation having the same values and passion about this industry that we do," says Katz.

Homrich Berg

Best-In-Business IMPACT Award

It would be easy for Atlanta-based wealth management firm Homrich Berg to rest on its considerable past successes. The firm is close to celebrating its 25-year anniversary and enjoys a client retention rate of more than 98 percent.

Instead, a culture of unflagging commitment to innovation and reinvention keeps the firm vibrant, efficient, and consistently exceeding its clients' expectations.

"Our promise to our clients is to provide the best possible customized and holistic approach to wealth management," says founder and CEO Andy Berg. "To continue to deliver on that promise, we have to stay as close to the cutting edge as possible."

Paracle Advisors, LLC

Pacesetter IMPACT Award

"How can we make this simpler?" That's the question the team at Seattle-based financial management firm Paracle rallies behind every day.

"When we talk about simplifying complex financial topics, it's not about dumbing it down," explains Anne Marie Kessler, one of the firm's four principals. "It's about respecting our clients' time. Ultimately, we want to enable them to spend less time on their finances and more time doing the things they find rewarding and fulfilling."

It's a philosophy that Kessler believes drives Paracle's nearly perfect client retention rate and has helped the firm grow an average of 29 percent per year.

Sullivan, Bruyette, Speros & Blayney, Inc.

Trailblazer IMPACT Award

Greg Sullivan, managing director at Sullivan, Bruyette, Speros & Blayney, says three ideas have stuck with him over the years and helped him build a successful firm.

"One is: If it ain't broke, break it," he says. "Another is: How can you be better, faster, and cheaper at what you're doing? And the third is: If I were the client, what would I want?"

This persistent drive to innovate and improve shows up in all aspects of the business, including its involvement in the RIA industry, its leadership structure, and its commitment to developing a new generation of leaders.

Foster Group, Inc.

Best-In-Business IMPACT Award

CEO and Founder of Foster Group, Jerry Foster, credits the firm's success to a steadfast commitment to its mission statement, which begins: "We are catalysts for positive life change."

"Everything we do is based on that idea," he says. "When we talk about the financial solutions we provide or the technology we use, it's all through that lens."

That mission pushes Foster Group to think about the bigger picture in every decision, an approach that clients clearly appreciate. Today, 9 out of 10 clients come to the firm through word-of-mouth referrals.

Glassman Wealth Services

Pacesetter IMPACT Award

Barry Glassman believes in the power of focus. At Glassman Wealth Services, which he founded in 2009, the focus is squarely on clients. "We ask ourselves, 'What would we do for this client if they were our only client?'" says Glassman, the firm's president and chief investment officer. "A phrase that drives us is 'It's not enough.' Excellent customer service is a minimum standard in today's world. We have to do more."

This emphasis on clients has helped the firm achieve a stunning growth rate of more than 50% over the past three years. But simply increasing assets isn't the point, Glassman notes. "We measure success in terms of whether we're helping our clients meet their goals. We've found that leads to new clients and asset growth."

Richard Stone, Private Ocean

Leadership Award

Putting clients' interests first is a cornerstone of the independent RIA industry, and it is a practice that has been at the heart of Richard Stone's career as a financial planner for the last four decades. In 1973, Stone co-wrote the industry's first Code of Ethics. Now co-founder and chief executive officer of Private Ocean, based in San Rafael, California, Stone is passing his commitment to high ethical standards on to the next generation. "I relish educating and putting forth what I believe is the best model," says Stone. "We can change people's lives, and that is a great opportunity that few professions get."

Budros, Ruhlin & Roe, Inc.

Best-In-Business Award

"We were founded on a deep commitment to the concept of fee-only advisory work," says Budros, Ruhlin & Roe principal Peggy Ruhlin. Since 1973, the firm has dedicated itself to this idea, and has worked hard to cultivate a deep understanding of its clients. To keep the focus on client experience, rather than internal competition, the firm uses a unique team structure to ensure clients have access to the best the firm has to offer. "It's not a matter of gaining the best thinking of a single advisor," says principal Dan Roe. "It's a matter of gaining the best thinking of all of Budros, Ruhlin & Roe."

Green Square Capital, LLC

Pacesetter Award

Any business can set aggressive goals for growth. But it takes a rare combination of strategy and execution to achieve them. Green Square Capital has left little to chance in pursuit of its bold goal of managing $10 billion in assets in 10 years. Principals Steve Sansom and Darrell Horn believe in building an environment of total transparency to keep the firm's staff aligned as it pushes toward the $10 billion mark. "If you come into our office and walk the halls, you'll see our core values in a frame," Sansom says. Open communication—both internally and with clients–helps the firm deliver an exceptional client experience.

Jane Williams, Sand Hill Global Advisors LLC

Leadership Award

"When women can clearly articulate and honor their priorities and life values, they take off." says Sand Hill Global Advisors founder, Jane Williams. For nearly 30 years, Williams and her team have focused on helping women deal with complex financial situations, like divorce or the death or incapacity of a spouse. "One of our main objectives," Williams says, "is to improve our client's financial literacy by demystifying 'financial management' and removing the jargon." Instead, she says, the firm provides personal and holistic support, using plain English to give its clients the tools to positively impact their financial futures. Sand Hill has also founded the Women's Wealth Network, and has been closely involved with the development of similar financial literacy programs for women across the country.

The Colony Group, LLC

Best-In-Business Award

Founded by Kirby Hamilton in 1986, The Colony Group manages over $1 billion in assets and serves more than 700 high-net-worth individuals, organizations, and institutions. The firm has a dedicated management team—rare among advisory practices—that enables its professionals to focus on their specialties. "We're more than just a collection of practices sharing one roof," says CEO Michael Nathanson. "Our organizational structure enables us to operate at maximum efficiency." Increased efficiency means more time to focus on clients. The firm prides itself on its responsiveness and near-100-percent client retention rate. The Colony Group has also been recognized as a leader in the industry by Barron's, Forbes and Worth and nationally ranked by Wealth Manager, Financial Advisor, among others.

JMG Financial Group, Ltd.

Best-In-Tech Award

"It's important not just to look for ways to solve today's problems, but also to have a vision of how to solve the future's problems," says Don King, chief information officer for JMG Financial Group, Ltd. Unsatisfied with the CRM products available in the mid 1990s, JMG decided to build its own—just the first step in the firm's ongoing process of technology development. JMG, which currently manages over $1 billion in assets, leverages its in-house technology team to integrate different technology systems that help deepen client relationships. According to JMG, technology that puts essential client service information at employees' fingertips frees them to focus on the human aspect of client service. "Our business is a personal business," King says.

Mt. Eden Investment Advisors

Pacesetter Award

When Keith McWilliams and John Packard formed Mt. Eden Investment Advisors in 2004, 100 percent of their clients followed them to the new firm. Today, Mt. Eden still boasts high client retention and loyalty, which McWilliams attributes to the firm's client-centric philosophy and practice of proactive service. The firm, managing just over $600 million in assets, lives by Packard's motto, "Call the client before they call you," stressing the value of strong, personal relationships that allow advisors to anticipate their clients' needs. "I think clients really appreciate that we're brave enough to go a little deeper than most firms would," says McWilliams. He plans to double the firm's revenue over the next three to five years, hoping to attain a critical mass where they can deliver the optimal client experience.

Wetherby Asset Management

Best-in-Business Award

Debra Wetherby explains that she started Wetherby Asset Management in 1990 to fulfill her vision of exceptional client service through collaboration, teamwork, and integrity. The firm now serves nearly 500 households and manages more than $2.4 billion in assets. Almost all new clients have come through referrals, and that is by design. Wetherby decided early on that the firm would make no cold calls. "Rather," she says, "people would choose us because they knew we were good and because we came to them through someone they know and trust." The independence to act in clients' best interests is central to what makes the work so rewarding to Wetherby and her partners. "It's not just about making money," she says. "It's about doing something we believe in."

Bristlecone Advisors

Best-in-Tech Award

Keith Vernon and his Bristlecone Advisors team committed to building a robust technology infrastructure before expanding their small multifamily office. "The technology needs for a multifamily office are unique and complex," Vernon says. "We recognized early that our ability to grow efficiently while providing consistent, institutional-quality service to our clients hinged on first building the necessary technology platform." That was the beginning of Aristata, a practice management system built specifically for family offices and multifamily offices. Vernon sees technology as an investment, not an expense, and says Bristlecone's investment has more than paid off through improved efficiency in the office and the ability to be more proactive with clients. Bristlecone now manages $437 million in assets for 33 households, and Aristata has been spun out into an independent company that licenses its technology to family offices and multifamily offices.

Heritage Wealth Advisors

Pacesetter Award

Paradoxically, Dee Ann Remo attributes her firm's rapid growth to patience. "You have to win the trust of every client," she says. "The primary ingredient is time." Since Remo founded Heritage Wealth Advisors in 2005 with Chase Hill and Steve Cooke, the firm has tripled in size, both in terms of assets under management and revenue. Financial planning is a key part of the integrated services Heritage provides. Their goal of understanding each client's complete financial picture enables them to better help clients with other financial needs, including tax planning and investments. "We pride ourselves on becoming our clients' personal CFO," Remo says. "We are their advocate in their financial lives." Regular communication with clients fosters strong relationships and boosts client retention.

All Independent Investment Advisors

Charles R. Schwab IMPACT Award

This year, in recognition of their exceptional achievement in the face of extraordinary challenges, we are proud to recognize all independent investment advisors with the Charles R. Schwab IMPACT Award. Through vision and leadership, independent advisors have guided their clients through unprecedented economic times. And despite the vicissitudes of the market, advisors' commitment to their clients and to their communities remains steadfast. To underscore the importance of this special award, we have doubled our usual charitable contribution. We are donating $50,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in honor of independent advisors.

Joan Bavaria, Trillium Asset Management Corp.

Charles R. Schwab IMPACT Award

Founded in 1982, Trillium Asset Management Corporation is the oldest and largest independent investment advisor focused on socially responsible investing. Founder, president, and CEO Joan Bavaria started the company to serve clients who want more than a financial return from their investments. The firm currently manages more than $1 billion for individual clients and organizations. Through her own firm and as the founder of the Social Investment Forum, Bavaria has helped expand the field of mission-based investing. In addition, Trillium strives to set an example as a well-run firm. "If we are asking a company to do something," Bavaria says, "we are scrupulous about doing it ourselves."

Litman/Gregory Asset Management, LLC

Best-in-Business Award

A two-man startup in 1987, Litman/Gregory now manages $3.7 billion in assets. The firm prides itself on its fierce independence—whether starting an innovative mutual fund when everyone else thought it was crazy or sticking by its investment strategy while the dot-com boom enticed others. "When I think back to what has been behind our success, I really think it's the values that guide our thinking," Ken Gregory says. Litman/Gregory supports all its decisions with research and values long-term benefits over short-term gains. The founders are zealous about hiring creative thinkers who will serve clients with integrity and excellence, believing that the individuals they work with are the firm's most valuable assets.

Clarfeld Financial Advisors

Best-in-Tech Award

At Clarfeld Financial Advisors, everything—including the use of technology—is driven by the firm's core mission: to serve as their clients' "financial confidante." To build its practice—the firm has grown 20 to 30 percent a year—Clarfeld invested in technology that would allow for growth while maintaining consistently high service. If the right thing wasn't available, the firm built it. One example is its proprietary CFA Report Generator, an intuitive system designed to customize each client report to individual specifications, including not only an investment report but research, commentaries, benchmark numbers, stock-option analysis, and more. The office is almost completely paperless. All paper that comes into the office is scanned and shredded, not photocopied and filed, making it easy for the staff to access documents electronically and provide prompt, consistent service when a client calls.

Vista Capital Partners

Pacesetter Award

Vista Capital Partners' growth hinges on a unique investing philosophy, standard-setting client services and a work environment that attracts (and keeps) top talent. They've created an organizational structure that allows the firm to focus on growth and client service simultaneously. Co-founder Doug Johanson focuses on investment and operations, while his partner, Michael O'Reilly, heads up business development. Each client works with a team of three that includes a senior portfolio manager, a portfolio manager and a portfolio administrator. This structure, combined with a detailed 16-point client-service checklist, keeps client relationships at the fore and maintains a consistency of service that is second to none. Vista's commitment to its business model enables the firm to grow at a manageable rate and offers employees the career challenges they're looking for.

Lewis J. Altfest, L.J. Altfest & Co.

Charles R. Schwab IMPACT Award

Lewis J. Altfest is a pioneer in fee-only advising. He started his independent financial advisory firm in 1983 because he wanted a closer relationship with clients based on putting their interests first. "I was intent on bringing a new level of objectivity to the financial services profession," he says.

He quickly became a leader in the industry, championing fee-only advising not only through his own firm but through teaching, writing, and helping to develop the National Association of Personal Financial Advisers. And just as the field has grown, so has his New York-based firm, L.J. Altfest & Co., which today manages assets of $550 million. Altfest, who developed the investment management system called TPMTM (Total Portfolio Management), is often cited as one of the leading financial advisors in the United States.

Moneta Group Investment Advisors LLC

Best-in-Business Award

"As a Family CFO, we are first and foremost a client's advocate, and it's our responsibility to advise that client on how to best manage, grow and protect the family's assets," says Moneta Group Chairman Peter G. Schick.

The approach has been well received by the more than 2,000 households served by the firm's 27 principals and nearly 200-member support staff. In the last five years, Moneta Group has grown from approximately $3 billion in assets under management to more than $6 billion today–without increasing its number of clients.

Friedman & Associates

Best-in-Tech Award

In six years, Friedman & Associates doubled the number of clients it serves, tripled assets under management and added more services–all without hiring another administrative employee. "I literally was able to do twice the amount of business with the same number of support staff," President Greg Friedman says. "I attribute that hugely to our increased productivity with technology."

Friedman, who seeks a technology solution whenever his firm has a need, nevertheless takes a disciplined approach to technology acquisition. "Technology serves only two purposes," he says, "one, to provide a higher level of client service, and two, to increase efficiency and profitability."

Abacus Planning Group, Inc.

Pacesetter Award

In less than ten years, Abacus Planning Group has grown from serving just a handful of clients to a 16-person firm managing more than $500 million in assets for 145 clients.

President Cheryl Holland credits the firm's rapid growth to its client-centered approach. "We always try to act as if the client is sitting in the room with us," says Holland.

Abacus has created a strategic plan to leverage its greatest strength–its people. The firm established a compensation philosophy, mapped out career paths, agreed upon cultural norms, created Abacus University, developed an annual incentive program and has set the pace for growth in more ways than one.

Tim Kochis, Kochis Fitz

Charles R. Schwab IMPACT Award

It is hard to ignore the many contributions that Tim Kochis has made to the independent investment advisor profession throughout his more than 36 years in the business. The co-founder and CEO of Kochis Fitz, a premiere Bay Area wealth management firm, Kochis has dedicated his time and expertise to building an excellent reputation for the industry worldwide.

Of his work on behalf of the industry, Kochis said, "Our profession has really come of age. For me, personally, the greatest benefit has been the fun of collaborating with so many hard-working, talented people in supporting the growth of this profession."

Plante Moran Financial Advisors

Best-In-Business Award

Plante Moran Financial Advisors' success has centered on three key areas: the relentless pursuit of exceptional client service, a sophisticated approach to staff development, and carefully managed growth. The firm is committed to the client experience, a hallmark since its inception, with a philosophy that favors serving clients independently and holistically rather than focusing on simply gathering assets and managing money.

Plante Moran Financial Advisors serves as an advisor to high-net-worth individuals, family business owners and corporate retirement plans. With assets under management of more than $4 billion at the time of the award, Plante Moran Financial Advisors had more than 100 staff members serving more than 1,100 individuals and organizations.

RegentAtlantic Capital, LLC

Best-In-Tech Award

"Our business is a personal service business," says Chris Cordaro, RegentAtlantic Capital's chief investment officer. "We are always challenging ourselves to deliver the personalized, world-class service that our clients deserve and expect. We continue to cultivate an all-star team, and we are passionate about looking at how we can apply technology to best leverage our talents in the interest of our clients."

RegentAtlantic Capital has made technology a critical part of its business success–at the time of the award, a team of just 30 members managed more than $1.4 billion in assets for 800 clients. Finding ways to standardize and centralize processes has been RegentAtlantic Capital's key to leveraging technology for mass customization. Additionally, the firm has been paperless since 1996, making its ability to chronicle documents for easy storage and recall seamless. Pioneering how independent advisors use technology, the firm was recognized for spearheading the development of a software program that uses artificial intelligence to rebalance client portfolios.