Last month, CNBC ranked SB Capital Management as No. 64 on its list of the Top 100 Fee-Only Wealth Management Firms in the country. Since we were the only firm in Los Angeles to make the list, we derived a No. 1 ranking for LA to boot.
We were certainly flattered, but honestly, we were also somewhat surprised. We had not applied to be included in the survey; in fact, we had no contact with CNBC prior. Meanwhile, we have peers who regularly appear as guests on CNBC’s shows; they broadcast the network via flat-screen TVs that line their office corridors; and, perhaps most apparent to us, they touch a significantly larger and more varied client base. Wouldn’t it be in CNBC’s enlightened self-interest to showcase those firms instead?
This got me thinking about how we relate to the other firms out there. We never set out to build a leading stand-alone wealth management firm. Rather, our mission for SB Capital Management has always been to augment our niche tax and business management practices, not only to help differentiate Singer Burke Zimmer & Butler from other CPA firms but also to redefine what a tax and business management firm could or should be—a full-service “family office” for its clients.
Our clients come to us for myriad reasons, but it usually boils down to some variation of the same basic tune: the need for more simplicity in their economic lives. We wanted to provide a holistic solution for virtually all of their financial concerns under one roof with one accountable team and felt that nobody was really doing this in Los Angeles. Business management firms lacked the financial skills and focus to handle the investment needs of their larger clients. Wealth management firms lacked the infrastructure and domain expertise to handle the day-to-day and tax planning needs of creative, enterprising clientele.
A surprising number of third-party CPAs I’ve talked to over the years have shared how insecure they actually are about their clients leaning on them for investment advice. They sometimes understand the big picture and have a reasonable sense of risk management, but portfolio management—especially considering the volume of investment products out there—can be overwhelming if you’re not in the trenches every day. Moreover, as is the case for so many of us, the mounting complexity of our world is making time increasingly scarce.
It was not lost on us that one of the CNBC ranking criteria was working with third-party professionals such as CPAs. The legacy of a “team approach” at Singer Burke, which my dad will proudly list among his most important accomplishments, made the partners’ decision to build SB Capital a natural one. After repeated bad experiences with third-party brokers and financial advisors, they knew that having financial minds focused on investments in-house would increase the strength of the team.
I’d like to think that this CNBC ranking, which initially struck us as a bit random, may actually speak volumes to a growing recognition of what we have long contended is in the best interest of the client: the cultivation of specialized knowledge and real partnership. Unfortunately, this industry still has far too many generalists who cling to a “book of business” incapable of looking at their clients as people with very specific preferences and needs, not to mention complex tax characteristics. Our clients are exposed to a variety of domain experts, making our process uniquely holistic.
So we stand humbled and, I’ll admit, a little more validated. But not because we think we are the biggest, fastest-growing, smartest, best firm out there. Rather we are validated in the recognition that maybe we got it right—that our mission may actually foreshadow an evolving standard for “top wealth management.” So, please rest assured that since receiving this recognition, nothing has changed or will change with regard to our tireless devotion to our beloved client base. Our office is your office. Congratulations to you, too!