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  • Writer's pictureGregory Deer

Fixed fees or percentage of assets under management? Choosing the right fee structure for your financial planner

Updated: Apr 4

Introduction


When looking for financial advice, many people ask ‘what’s better for me, an adviser charging fixed fees, or a percentage of my invested assets’.


It’s a decision that can have a big effect on the amount of money you have available to meet your future ideal life.


At MUVADO, we only offer fixed fees for our financial planning and financial advice. Fixed fees might not be the right option for you, and you could be better off with a percentage-based fee model. There is no perfect method of charging adviser fees.


This article is going to explain the pros and cons of both of these financial adviser charging structures in an honest and transparent manner. This way, by the end, you’ll be in a position to make an informed choice about which model is the best fit for you.


We even have a free calculator that you can request from us to indicate if you’d be better off monetarily with a percentage fee model or a fixed fee model – just drop us an email and we’ll ask for some standard information for our analysis.


Fixed Fees


Financial planners who charge fixed fees set a predetermined amount for their services. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when evaluating fixed fees.


Advantages


Transparency and Predictability

Fixed fees provide transparency as you know the exact cost of the services upfront. This structure helps in budgeting and allows for predictable expenses, which can be particularly beneficial if you’re seeking cost certainty.


Unaffected by Asset Fluctuations

With fixed fees, the amount you pay remains the same regardless of changes in your investment portfolio's value. This can be advantageous when investment markets are increasing as your fees won't increase only due to a rise in asset value.


Suitable for Various Asset Levels

Fixed fees can be more beneficial for individuals with substantial assets, as the fee remains constant regardless of the asset size. This structure ensures that clients with larger portfolios do not face disproportionately higher fees and compensate for clients who are paying lower fees but receiving a similar service with the same company.


Disadvantages


Higher fees for clients with lower asset values

Fixed fees often end up being higher for clients with lower assets available for investment when compared to the % of assets under management method. 


Fee does not adjust with market fluctuations

Fixed fees remain constant irrespective of what is happening in investment markets. During a temporary market fall, the fee remains the same although the market is performing badly.


Changing financial circumstances

Fees can jump up in levels depending on the service level required. If your financial circumstances become more complex, there could be a sudden increase to the financial adviser fees payable.


Percentage of Assets Under Management (AUM)


Financial planners who charge a percentage of AUM typically base their fees on a percentage of the total value of the assets they manage. Consider the following factors when evaluating the AUM fee structure:


Advantages


Alignment of Interests

AUM fees are often linked to the performance of your investment portfolio. As the value of your assets increases, the fee paid to the financial planner also increases. This structure incentivises the planner to strive for portfolio growth, aligning their interests with yours.


Scalability and Flexibility 

AUM fees can be advantageous for individuals with smaller portfolios, as they allow for a lower upfront cost. This structure offers scalability, meaning your fees grow in proportion to the growth of your assets, accommodating clients with varying levels of wealth.


Pay-for-Performance

AUM fees are tied to the investment results achieved by the financial planner. Clients may perceive this fee structure as fair compensation for generating positive investment outcomes. It emphasises the value of effective portfolio management and encourages the planner to deliver strong performance.


Disadvantages


Higher value clients pay a subsidy

Sometimes financial adviser companies using an AUM model do not operate profitably on lower value clients. Therefore, the higher paying clients effectively subsidise a service for lower value clients of the company.


More money = more fees

The only determinant of the level of fees payable using the AUM method is how much money you have. It assumes that as your portfolio grows that you should pay a higher fee. The amount payable is also unpredictable.


Misaligned interests

Charging based on the amount of assets under management could lead to sub-optimal allocation of a clients’ assets. The financial adviser is incentivised to retain and grow assets under management to pay fees and can also see fees drop during temporary market falls. This could lead to poorer outcomes unless it’s well managed.


Considerations for Decision-making


Complexity of Financial Needs

It makes sense that the fee paid is related to the complexity of your financial needs. You should be satisfied that the amount of the fee reflects the overall service provided and whether it should be related to the amount of money you have invested, or a fixed fee.


Investment Portfolio Size

For individuals with substantial assets, fixed fees may be a more cost-effective option. Conversely, AUM fees may be advantageous for those with smaller portfolios, offering a lower initial financial commitment.


Performance Expectations

If achieving investment growth is a primary objective, an AUM fee structure may be more aligned with your goals. This could incentivise the financial planner to actively manage your portfolio and deliver favourable outcomes.


Fee Transparency and Predictability

Consider your preference for fee transparency and predictability. Fixed fees provide clarity regarding the cost of services, while AUM fees can fluctuate based on changes in asset values.


Conclusion


Choosing between fixed fees and a percentage of AUM as the fee structure for your financial planner involves careful consideration of your financial situation, investment goals, and personal preferences.


Fixed fees offer transparency and cost certainty, while AUM fees align the planner's fees with investment performance. Assess your unique needs and discuss fee options with potential financial planners to determine the structure that best suits your requirements and offers a fair value proposition.


We always recommend speaking to multiple financial planners to find your best fit. If you’d like MUVADO to be one of them, simply book a call here.

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