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At LifeStyle Financial and Tax Advisors, our sole focus is YOU.

Institutional Vs. Retail

Many smaller investors experience a different level of financial advice, pricing and selection compared to that received by large institutions and corporations. Bigger customers getting better selection and pricing is common across many sectors of business including finance. At LifeStyle Financial, we strive to narrow this gap.

A LifeStyle Financial Advisor is respectful of how hard you have worked to accumulate your savings —we think you deserve something better than retail. 

Our Financial Advisors can help you understand how the “big” financial industry works, including uncovering some of your current costs and risks that you may be able to avoid. We can show you how the retail financial industry uses similar sales and marketing techniques to other manufacturing and distribution industries. We often describe this as moving clients “from retail to wholesale” or “from retail to institutional.”

The “too big to fail” retail brokerage system is essentially the process of packaging goods and services that can be sold to the general public. 

Brokers, Advisors and Consultants

The retail financial industry, predominantly, distributes its products and advice through a broker – a person who introduces a willing buyer to a willing seller of a product. The broker’s job is to close the transaction between their “client” and the “market.” For brokering this transaction, they generally get paid a commission depending upon how much product they transact, irrespective of the benefit of the transaction to the client. In many cases, the commission they receive depends upon the benefit to the company that manufactured the financial product—the more lucrative the product, the more commission is normally paid to the broker.1

A broker has no responsibility to provide “best advice” to either buyer or seller. As a matter of fact, recent legal challenges have upheld their ability to simultaneously take positions against both seller and buyer. 

Retail products, such as mutual funds, are designed to give the general public easy access to financial markets. Distribution and marketing costs, together with internal trading commissions, are built into these retail products to make them profitable for the large retail brokerage firms to create, operate and distribute.

Institutional investments are usually handled by advisors or consultants. Their job is to act as fiduciary providers of advice for which they normally receive a quarterly fee based on the value of the client’s assets being advised. 

Institutional-level advisors and consultants can often help investors to bypass the additional costs of the retail brokerage market. Institutional account holders generally trade directly without the extra costs associated with retail distribution and marketing. 

The same money managers found within many mutual funds can also work directly with you and your advisor without the additional costs of retail products and funds. They will customize a plan that best meets your needs – giving you cost-effective, institutional asset management, transparency and expertise.

1The Levin-Coburn Report led by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, alleged that Wall Street firms reaped huge profits by marketing securities backed by subprime mortgages as safe investments to clients, even as the banks bet against these very same securities.

Investment Generalists

Typically, brokers offer a broad range of investment products but do not specialize in a single type or area of finance. They often use the term Financial Advisor, but they tend to focus on commissionable transactions and not Fiduciary-level, fee-based advice. We suggest asking these brokers "how they get paid."

Wealth Managers

Typically, Fiduciary Financial Advisors who take a comprehensive approach to meeting client needs. They use a highly consultative approach to constructing integrated financial options. They tend to work on an annual fee for services.

In its simplest form, wealth management comprises three phases:

  1. Using a consultative process to establish close relationships with clients in order to gain a detailed understanding of their goals and their most important financial wants and needs.
  2. Offering customized choices and recommendations designed to fit each individual’s needs. The range of interrelated financial services and products might include, for example, investment management, insurance, estate planning and retirement planning.
  3. Delivering these customized solutions in close consultation with the client. A wealth manager works closely with clients on an ongoing basis to identify their specific needs and design custom proposals to meet those needs.


Our team’s style of asset management is often compared to the techniques used by large institutions, endowments and funds. We have the ability to actively and directly allocate capital to asset classes across a wide range of sectors and regions without incurring additional fund-related “expense ratios.” 

Unlike the trading costs usually hidden inside many retail investment products, trading costs are fully transparent to our team’s investors. Our Best Price and Execution Policy is public record and we do not “mark-up” the price of trades. 

Our team’s investments are held within separate accounts that are supervised by third party custodians, such as Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, and are managed directly by institutional-level investment managers on your behalf. These institutional professionals directly purchase a customized selection of securities for your portfolio in accordance with your stated investment objectives and with the assistance of a financial advisor. These securities are registered in your name and traded on your behalf. The separate account structure can also provide clients with tax advantages when compared to retail mutual funds. 


Most institutional advisors and consultants develop and maintain a written Investment Policy for their institutional clients. This is typically a clear statement of your personal investment goals and guidelines against which performance goals can be measured. 

A LifeStyle Financial Advisor will work with you to develop your own personal Investment Policy Statement (IPS) and will regularly review progress toward your goals as you require.

A clear definition of risks and costs combined with a forward-looking income plan and expenditure projection are generally contained within your customized Investment Policy Statement. If you need to achieve a stated long-term income level, this can be tracked within the LifeStyle Financial IPS. 

For many retail investors, the full-time, professional managers who actually make the buy and sell decisions on their investments are not accessible. Generally, they receive secondhand information on how their life savings are being managed through a broker or advisor who may be sharing commissions and other fees with the managers of the fund in question. On the other hand, most institutions receive direct communications from their managers. 

As institutional managers, our team doesn’t sit in an ivory tower. We respect and appreciate the trust you put in us to manage your life savings. We strive to regularly and clearly communicate our thoughts, actions and direction to you, our valued client.
It just seems right to communicate clearly and directly. We know it makes many of our clients more comfortable, especially in times of volatility.


In our opinion, asset allocation is the single most important factor in determining your chances of receiving an acceptable or unacceptable investment performance. 
Clients of LifeStyle Financial’s institutional-level advice benefit from having professional, institutional asset managers and financial planners focusing on their overall allocation and the active movement of capital to attractive areas from unattractive ones.

Typically, clients within the retail financial system rely on their broker to dictate the percentage allocation to various asset classes. The broker, who spends a great deal of time marketing and selling his or her financial services, is the same person who must keep up with the asset allocation decision. The professional asset management teams within large financial firms generally focus on manufacturing their own products or trading on their own behalf (proprietary trading). They may not share the same investment objectives as their clients.

In our opinion, this is not an effective way to navigate the risks presented by today’s geographically diverse, fast-paced financial markets. 

Clients deserve full-time, institutional-level professionals working on their behalf and to be directly accountable when making the really important investment allocation decisions.
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