Choosing a Financial Advisor: Understanding the Types & How the Game Has Changed

Posted: 3-28-24 | Drew Boatright

Choosing a trusted advisor for any aspect of your life is a big decision—and your money is no exception. While many professionals may call themselves financial advisors or a similar title, there are distinctive and critical nuances to recognize within the industry when considering the best fit for your family’s needs.

Wall Street Bank Advisors vs. Independent Advisors

The traditional model of a big bank advisor continues to be a prominent service model today. These firms are characterized by centralized control, proprietary product offerings, and commission-based fee structures. In these institutions, there are often compensation incentives tied to which investments are being placed, where banking assets and mortgages are being held, and similar financial products. While there are some well-intentioned advisors who navigate these conflicts well, there is also a great opportunity for bad actors in this environment driven more by their own gains than their client’s goals.

In contrast, investors are increasingly seeking out independent firms for advice in managing their finances, according to Cerulli Associates.1 Working with independent advisors gives clients access to the full world of investment and financial planning solutions. Their compensation model is primarily comprised of planning fees and/or a percentage of assets under management. This evolution has helped reshape the client-advisor dynamic by fostering transparency, personalized service, and a broader array of solutions that align more closely with individual financial planning goals.

Fiduciary vs. Broker

Another major difference between an independent advisor and a typical bank advisor is the level of care owed to the client. The fiduciary standard that an independent RIA is obligated to uphold embodies the highest legal and ethical obligation to prioritize the client’s best interests above all else. Its significance in private wealth management cannot be overstated, as it fosters trust, transparency, and a client-advisor relationship built on mutual interests rather than the potential conflicts inherent in product-driven models.

In a broker business model, the advisor has a lesser obligation to their clients known as a suitability standard. A product recommendation simply has to meet minimum thresholds to be appropriate, considering factors such as liquidity and risk tolerance rather than being identified as the best fit for the client’s needs.

Consider this choice as being comparable to going to a doctor’s office and expecting trusted medical advice, but instead being promptly given a prescription with little to no diagnostic procedure. In medical and financial advice alike, this product-first behavior should be a red flag that a commission or other incentive may be driving the recommendation more than the client’s best interest.

The Bottom Line

In the ever-evolving landscape of financial advice, the choice of hiring an advisor can have profound implications for one’s financial well-being. As investors increasingly gravitate towards independent firms, the shift towards transparency, personalized service, and a fiduciary commitment is unmistakable. Much like entrusting your health to a dedicated medical professional, choosing a financial advisor who aligns with your best interests is paramount.

At Innovia Wealth, we are an independent registered investment advisory firm, and our professionals act in a fiduciary capacity. Our mission is to provide expert advice and individualized recommendations built on deep personal relationships to deliver clients with a better wealth management experience. To learn more about how we can help with your wealth management goals, contact us or schedule a 15-minute introductory visit today.


1 Cerulli Associates. “Independent and Hybrid RiA Channels Lead in Advisor Headcount Growth,

About the Author: Drew Boatright, CFP®, CAIA

Please contact our team to discover how we can best serve you.

Contact Us