Exciting Changes at Align Financial!

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In early February, Align Financial officially ended our relationship with strategic partner Raymond James to become a fully independent Minnesota Registered Investment Advisor. At the same time, we’ve established a new relationship with Fidelity as our custodian and trading platform.

We are very excited about the transition to Fidelity and recognize that our clients may have questions about how these changes will impact you and your money. We’ve done our best to answer some of the questions that might come up. But please let us know if we missed anything, and we’ll update this document for others’ benefit.

So why are we making this change?

Clients who have been with us prior to our days on the hill in Hermantown know that it’s taken a lot of hard work and patience to get here. In fact, it’s always been Tanya’s vision to have Align Financial be a truly independent, fee-only financial planning firm. This steps up our fiduciary obligation and means we only work for you. We are no longer an agent of a broker-dealer (Raymond James for the past six years, and Wells Fargo and US Bank prior to that), and are only an advisor to our clients.

Perhaps the most meaningful step leading up to this event was our rebrand to Align Financial in 2018, when Tanya left her partnership at Ascential Wealth to deliver an experience that felt more authentic to her and better served our clients. At the time, Tanya believed continuing the relationship with Raymond James as an “agent” for the broker-dealer was a simpler transition for clients and the firm. So we took our time, did our due diligence.

Now, after nearly three years operating as Align Financial, we have no doubt our decision to become a fully independent firm will allow us to provide a better, more meaningful experience to our clients. And with Fidelity being a family-owned firm since 1943, we are confident in their ability to maintain a customer-centered focus for the long term. Being privately owned allows them to make smart decisions about their business without swaying to the demands of a public market as we’ve witnessed in many large institutions.


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Answers to Your Questions About Our Transition to Fidelity

What does this transition mean for clients?

The most noticeable change for clients is that your investment accounts will no longer be held with Raymond James. Once you complete the necessary paperwork to remain a client of Align Financial, your assets and account information will move to Fidelity. All future statements and trade confirmations will come from Fidelity, and you’ll access your account information through Fidelity’s client portal. Raymond James will not have access to your financial information once the transfer has been completed.

Will my financial plan or investments change?

Not unless your financial circumstances or goals change. While certain aspects of your experience as a client with Align Financial may evolve over time, our core financial planning and investment philosophies remain unchanged. We developed our investment management process after 15 years of watching big firms use inconsistent (or nonexistent) and often biased processes for investment manager selection, allocation changes and rebalancing.

We believe in a simple but sophisticated and disciplined approach to managing our clients’ investments. It is important to us that our clients should understand their investments, and the process we use to select and manage your portfolio should be consistent. In order to do this, we’ve created an evidence-based approach to the steps in our investment management process; including – goals-based risk assessment, strategic asset allocation, manager selection and rebalancing. Most importantly, we do not try to time the market.

Will the way we communicate change?

You can continue to expect regular, proactive review meetings which have served as a cornerstone for our work together. We also hope communication will only improve under this new model, as we will have more flexibility to share information with you in creative and timely ways.

Will my fee change? How and when will my accounts be billed?

Nothing is changing in terms of the fees you currently pay or our billing cycle. The only difference is that your account information will be made available through Fidelity instead of Raymond James moving forward. It will still show up on your quarterly statement, just like it does now. And, as of our transition to Fidelity, you will also receive quarterly fee statements electronically for your benefit.

How long will my accounts take to transfer over, and how will I know when it’s done?

Generally, if your transfer is eligible for online submission, it takes about 5 to 7 business days to complete your transfer. If for some reason you own an investment that makes your account ineligible for online submission, it could take a few weeks (because of snail mail) to complete, but we will let you know if you are one of these unique cases.

And remember, since Fidelity cannot accept orders to trade based on your transferred assets until your assets have been delivered to Fidelity, it’s extremely important to complete your transfer paperwork as quickly as possible to avoid any disruption in the management of your accounts.

You will receive a notification via e-mail from Fidelity and Cooper when your transfer is complete. Please email cooper@align.financial if you have any questions about the status of your transfer.

What happens to all my account history? Will my cost basis transfer?

Your cost basis information will transfer when you complete Fidelity’s online transfer submission process. Cost basis data is typically passed within ten days after the transfer. We also have your Raymond James history ready to be transferred, so we’ll be able to have annual historical performance dating back to your account opening at Raymond James.

Will my periodic transactions be interrupted? How do I make sure I get my money?

Cooper will be managing the timelines for any of you that are taking regular distributions in an effort to avoid any missed or delayed checks. So be sure to complete your forms as soon as you receive them.

Will my money be safe with Fidelity?

We have complete confidence in Fidelity as a custodian and clearing agent. As custodian, Fidelity will hold your money and investments and produce your account statements and tax forms every year. They have been managing other people’s money since 1943 and currently have $3.3 trillion in assets under advisement. Yes, you read that right: $3.3 trillion. So we are in good company.

And with over 20 years of experience working with independent RIAs like Align Financial, Fidelity’s track record and reputation as a custodian and money manager are among the best in the industry. In addition, Fidelity provides us access to some of the brightest investment analysts, a dedicated cyber security and technology support team, and all the important oversight and compliance we need in an incredibly regulated industry.

What does it mean to be a fully independent, fee-only firm? Weren’t you independent before?

Operating through Raymond James’ independent channel gave us a lot of flexibility to craft a unique offering for our clients and deliver exceptional service. However, the Raymond James model also comes with certain constraints that we believe would ultimately prevent us from executing on all our best ideas. More importantly, being an agent for the broker-dealer still felt incongruent with the mission to act in our clients’ best interests. This way it is very clear–we work for you.

Also, Raymond James’ proprietary technology platform served us well for the past six years, but as the industry evolves and more exciting technologies become available, we want the freedom to leverage any and all tools and resources that improve our clients’ experience and outcomes. Operating as an independent RIA and partnering with Fidelity as our custodian and clearing agent allows us that freedom.

What happens to my money if something happens to Tanya or Align Financial?

As always, we aim to have all our bases covered. And since 2018, we have had a succession agreement in place with another firm with talented advisors to step in, should something happen to Tanya. But keep in mind, Cooper would still be here to support you through this transition. Your assets will remain safe at Fidelity until you move them to a different custodian or direct them into the care of another advisor. You would have the option at that time to interview the new advisors, or find a new one; but in the interim, your accounts would be in good hands. We are more than happy to discuss our succession plans in more detail if you’re curious.