Wealth Manager vs Financial Advisor

Written by: Mary Gerardine

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Wealth Manager vs Financial Advisor

Even though the terms “wealth manager” and “financial advisor” are often used interchangeably, there’s actually quite a few differences between the two roles.

This Wealth Manager vs Financial Advisor article breaks down the roles, responsibilities, and value propositions of each profession.

Whether you’re just starting to accumulate wealth or are looking to optimize your existing assets, understanding these distinctions can be your first step to making an informed decision about your financial future.

Let’s get started.

What’s the Difference?

While being a wealth manager and financial advisor involves offering financial guidance, both roles often cater to different client needs and offer varying scopes of services.

What Does a Wealth Manager Do

Wealth Manager is a type of financial advisor who specializes in providing comprehensive financial services to high-net-worth individuals, families, and sometimes organizations.

Unlike general financial advisors, who may focus on specific financial tasks like retirement planning or investment management, wealth managers offer a broader range of services designed to manage an individual’s complete financial situation.

Their core responsibilities include:

  • Investment Management: One of the key responsibilities is overseeing the client’s investment portfolio. This includes deciding on an appropriate asset allocation, selecting specific investment products, and regularly reviewing performance
  • Tax Planning: Private wealth managers focus on strategies to minimize tax liability through various investment vehicles, deductions, and other tax-efficient methods
  • Retirement Planning: They help clients prepare for retirement by providing strategies that maximize retirement income while minimizing risk
  • Estate Planning: Wealth managers also help in the structuring of wills, trusts, and other estate planning tools to ensure the smooth transfer of assets to the next generation

Wealth managers may hold additional certifications to demonstrate their expertise. The Wealth Management Specialist (WMS) and Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWMA) are specialized credentials, tailored for financial professionals serving high-net-worth clients. These certifications often require rigorous study, examinations, and compliance to ethical standards.

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Alternatively, you can have a look at our article on How to Become a Wealth Manager.

What Does a Financial Advisor Do

Financial Advisor is a financial professional who helps individuals manage their finances by providing advice on a range of financial matters.

These advisors can work with a broad range of clients, from those just starting their financial journey to those who are more established. Their role is generally less specialized than that of a wealth manager and is often suited for those with less complex financial needs.

Their core responsibilities include:

  • Investment Advice: Financial advisors assist in developing a financial plan and investment strategy tailored to a client’s financial goals and risk tolerance. They may help with asset allocation and selecting investments such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds
  • Retirement Planning: They offer guidance on how to prepare for retirement, including recommending specific retirement accounts like IRAs or 401(k)s, and suggesting appropriate investment options
  • Tax Planning: While not as specialized as the tax services offered by wealth managers, financial advisors can provide general advice on tax-efficient investing and basic tax strategies
  • Estate Planning: Basic estate planning advice is another service commonly offered, which could include recommendations for creating a will or setting up a basic trust
  • Insurance Needs: Financial advisors often assess a client’s insurance needs and may recommend various types of insurance, such as life, disability, or health insurance

Financial advisors can have various certifications, such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), which require them to adhere to certain ethical standards and best practices.

For more information, check out our in-depth How to Become a Financial Advisor article.

Certification Requirements

Whether you’re considering a wealth manager or a financial advisor, it’s important to know that each may hold a range of certifications demonstrating their area of expertise.

These credentials not only highlight the specialized skills they bring to the table but also signal the standards of professional and ethical conduct to which they are held.

Financial Advisors

Financial advisors can obtain a variety of certifications to demonstrate their expertise and commitment to ethical standards.

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP): One of the most commonly recognized certifications. This requires candidates to complete extensive coursework, pass a comprehensive exam, and fulfill continuing education requirements
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): This is another well-regarded designation. This focuses on investment management and requires passing a series of rigorous exams
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC): This designation is similar to the CFP but without the board exam requirement

These certifications are not mandatory to practice as a financial advisor, but they are highly respected within the industry and can give clients additional confidence in the advisor’s expertise.

Wealth Managers

Wealth managers, who typically serve high-net-worth clients, can hold a variety of specialized certifications to demonstrate their expertise.

  • Wealth Management Specialist (WMS): A WMS designation is a professional credential for financial professionals who have completed a course of study covering risk management, investments, insurance, tax, retirement, and estate planning issues for high-net-worth individuals or businesses
  • Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWMA): This designation focuses on advanced concepts (wealth planning, portfolio management, investment principles, tax) that enable you to provide your clients with comprehensive financial strategies

These are just some of the certifications that a wealth manager can obtain. They often require completion of in-depth courses, successful passing of exams, and compliance with strict ethical guidelines. While not mandatory, such credentials are widely respected and can offer clients additional assurance of a wealth manager’s capabilities.

Which Qualification is Better for You?

Determining which qualification is “better” between a wealth manager and a financial advisor depends on various factors, including career goals, preferred client demographic, and the range of services you wish to offer.

Both roles come with their own set of opportunities and challenges, and the right choice is largely influenced by your preferences and objectives.

Below are some of the factors to consider when deciding which career path is right for you:

  • Earning Potential: Generally, wealth managers have the potential for higher earnings due to their specialized services and affluent client base. However, the pressure and expectations are also higher
  • Certification Requirements: Becoming a wealth manager often includes obtaining advanced certifications (like the AWMA) that may demand rigorous educational commitment, while financial advisors opt for more common certifications like a CFP or a CFA
  • Clientele: Wealth managers often work with high-net-worth folks requiring specialized services like estate planning, tax optimization, and more sophisticated investment strategies. Financial advisors work with a broader range of clients, including those with simpler financial needs like retirement and insurance
  • Scope of Service: If you enjoy providing a wide array of financial services and want to focus on comprehensive planning, you may find wealth management more rewarding. Financial advisors may or may not offer a broad range of services, depending on their certifications and areas of expertise

Note: Neither qualification is “better” than the other; it all comes down to what you want to accomplish in your career. Your personal interest in finance, problem-solving, and client interaction should also play a role in your decision.

If you are interested in having a look at both qualifications, we recommend checking out Kaplan Financial’s Wealth Management page.

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Wealth Manager vs Financial Advisor FAQ

What’s the difference between a financial advisor and a wealth manager?

Financial advisors offer a range of services to help clients manage their finances, such as retirement planning and investment advice. Wealth managers provide financial services, often aimed at high-net-worth individuals, including tax planning, estate planning, and more specialized investment strategies. Learn the difference between these two roles with our Wealth Manager vs Financial Advisor article.

What do wealth managers do?

Wealth managers provide comprehensive financial services primarily to wealthy clients. They offer investment management services, tax planning, estate planning, and other financial matters. They work in wealth management firms and other financial institutions that manage a client’s complete financial situation, from asset allocation to philanthropic activities, customizing strategies to individual needs and goals.

How do I become a wealth manager?

To become a wealth manager, you’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, or a related field. Gaining work experience in financial planning or investment management is also key. Earning advanced certifications like the WMS or AWMA can provide a competitive edge. For more information, visit our How to Become a Wealth Manager page.

What do financial advisors do?

Financial advisors assist individuals in managing their finances by offering advice on investment strategies, retirement planning, insurance, and basic tax planning, among other services. They work in financial planning firms, banks, brokerage firms, or insurance companies. They guide clients in making informed financial decisions that align with personal goals and financial situations.

How do I become a financial advisor?

To become a financial advisor, you need a bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, or a similar field. Acquiring certifications like the CFP can add credibility. Getting relevant work experience is also essential for building a client base and honing your skills. To get started, check out our article on How to Become a Financial Advisor.

Read More

For all related articles, have a look at our Financial Advisor Resources page.