fee based advice

Aligning Principles and Economics

Clients, we recently wrote about our quest to align our pricing with our values. The advisors of Leibman Financial Services service $50 million in advisory assets through LPL Financial. The fees charged could better reflect your contribution to investment results through effective investing attitudes and behavior. We are going forward with changes by year-end.

We believe that people can learn to frame things more effectively, to see the long term, to find out a temporary drop is NOT a loss. New clients usually require more intensive communication (and hand-holding, in some cases). It makes sense to charge them a little more, and reduce costs for you longer term clients.

For the vast majority of you, “heads you win, tails you don’t lose.” Generally, if the new schedule indicates a fee reduction, that will go into effect as soon as possible. If it shows an increase, we will leave the pricing the same. Current pricing is a hash, depending on when accounts were originally opened. So we will be communicating with each of you.

The new table rewards your persistence three ways.

1. A fee reduction after two years, shown in the table below.

2. Additional reductions after eight and sixteen years, about 3% to 6% depending on household account value.

3. The potential for assets to grow over time tends to put longer-term clients into higher value brackets, with lower fees.


In a few cases (particularly for newer clients), the table may indicate a higher fee than what we currently charge. Please do not be alarmed—we are not going to try to jack up our rates on anyone we are doing business with. Consider yourself grandfathered in.

Clients, with this project we have attempted to align our economics more closely with our values. We will be in touch about your specific situation. If you would like to discuss this or any other issue at greater length, please write or call.

Additional reading:

About learning to live with volatility: They Say You Can’t Handle the Truth

About discretion to act on your behalf: Freedom to Decide vs. Freedom to Debate

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Freedom to Decide vs Freedom to Debate

© Can Stock Photo / JohnKwan

One definition of ‘discretion’ is freedom to decide what should be done. 95% of our investment advisory clients have granted us discretion to trade individual securities on their behalf, for their benefit, in line with their objectives.

In 2016 this privilege was key to making bond purchases, which had to be done on a bulk basis. In other words, one large purchase in the market was divided among scores of our client accounts. The issue is that we cannot talk to eighty or a hundred clients in a short enough time frame to place a bulk order.

The logistics can be daunting. When we learn that a bulk purchase has been negotiated, then we must make sales that same day in all affected accounts to raise the money to pay for the bonds.

Fortunately, we developed a rules-based framework that enabled us to handle all the work on a timely basis. In late 2016 we used the same concept to develop a protocol for trading stocks. This new method is astoundingly effective.

On one day, we placed more than five hundred individual stock trades. We had concluded that a sector we owned was going to have a lot of trouble maintaining revenues and profits and needed to be sold. At the same time, we were excited about the bargains we had found elsewhere in the market. (You can read more about our strategies here.)

We have a high duty to advisory clients, whose situations and accounts we must monitor over time. Even with our new-found efficiencies, we have less and less time for commission-based brokerage business. Because we lack freedom to decide, we only have freedom to debate.

By that we mean to place calls, discuss potential investments, argue or not, and perhaps obtain permission to make a trade in exchange for a commission. The ‘freedom to debate’ part of our business is under $10 million and shrinking. The ‘freedom to decide’ piece is approaching $50 million and growing.

We are committed to our three key activities: talking to you, researching investments, and managing portfolios. We can do the most good for the most people if we have freedom to decide. This is why we ask you for that privilege and obligation. If you have any questions about this, or any other aspect of your situation, please call or write.

In a fee-based account clients pay a quarterly fee, based on the level of assets in the account. In deciding to pay a fee rather than commissions, clients should understand that the fee may be higher than a commission alternative during periods of lower trading. Advisory fees are in addition to the internal expenses charged by mutual funds and other investment company securities. Clients should periodically re-evaluate whether the use of an asset-based fee continues to be appropriate in servicing their needs.

Investing involves risks including the possible loss of capital. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.