With so many retirees calling the Valley of the Sun home, that stage of life is never far from the minds of Phoenix-area residents. That is for the best, too, because arriving at retirement in comfortable financial shape will require smart planning and strong discipline for most.
It can be made a lot easier with some good help, though. Financial advisors and stockbrokers in the Phoenix area are numerous already, and their ranks continue to swell as more locals discover how valuable their counsel and expertise can be. Of course, these professionals are not all created equal, and picking the right advisor for one’s needs can be just as important as the decision to seek help in the first place.
Unfortunately, figuring out just which financial advisors stand above the crowd can be tricky. There are few existing resources for comparing performance levels, and the fact is that much of what distinguishes the top advisors is of a subjective sort, anyways. Undeterred, we set out to locate and rank the most accomplished and effective financial advisors and stockbrokers in the Valley, and we discovered some interesting things.
After soliciting nominations from a number of those best-positioned to assess the capabilities of professionals working in this industry, we delved into the backgrounds, skill sets, and records of the candidates. Talks with past clients then helped us to firm up our impressions, in most cases, as did the judgments of peers. In the end, we arrived at the ranking of the top ten financial advisors in the Phoenix area that follows.
#1: Andre Veres of Spence Cassidy & Associates
Our initial list of nominees held a good mix of financial advisors and stockbrokers at different stages of their careers. We expected at first to find that length of experience would dominate as the factor determining ultimate placement, but this proved not to be the case.
In fact, younger advisors performed very well throughout our search, with the single youngest nominee of all taking the top spot. A graduate of the state’s leading institute of higher education, the University of Arizona, Mr. Veres studied Business Management and Economics while also playing in the marching band there in Tucson.
Like several others who stood out in our rankings, Mr. Veres impressed us with his personal, individualized attention to his clients’ real needs and situations. Run-of-the-mill financial advisors, we have found, tend to give out many standardized recommendations, saving time for themselves that they use to take on more clients. Counsel of this sort can still be helpful, as many investors benefit from even common sense corrections, but it alone will never maximize a portfolio’s potential.
Andre stood above the other advisors in our list to a large extent because of his intense commitment to understanding and targeting each client’s individual situation. That necessarily entails a shorter client list than many others in the industry maintain, but the results speak for themselves.
One past client of Andre’s, for example, spoke of how his help had “completely transformed” her prospects for retirement. The off-the-shelf advice she had received from a previous financial professional had made a fair amount of sense, but Mr. Veres’s more tailored and specific recommendations almost immediately put her in far better shape as she heads toward a retirement that is only a decade away.
In addition to providing unmatched personal attention, Andre is backed by the considerable resources of Spence Cassidy & Associates. Like the other financial professionals in our list, he also carries all of the relevant certifications, including Series 7, 63, and 66 designations.
#2: Theresa Chacopulos of Wells Fargo
A personal touch was also a major factor in the elevation of our second-place financial advisor. That was not always a strength for Ms. Chacopulos, however, as her client list at one point in her career had exploded to over 3,500 entries.
She got things back under control, however, paring that total down ruthlessly until it shrank into the double digits, and emerged from the process much better positioned to give her clients what they truly need. That can include making use of sophisticated option-based hedges for certain clients or simply figuring out the best way to move a particular portfolio onto more conservative ground as retirement approaches.
As with Andre Veres, Ms. Chacopulos’s clients were outspoken in their praise of her dedication, skills, and tirelessness. They also benefit from the stability and reach of Wells Fargo, an institution that offers just about everything most investors could need.
#3: Christine Aronoff of Wells Fargo
Another of Wells Fargo’s most impressive performers made the top three of our list, with Christine Aronoff having called the bank home for over 16 years. With experience in accounting and brokerage, Aronoff makes for a particularly well-rounded entry onto our list, a fact that her clients invariably appreciate.
Focusing mostly on high-net-worth clients, Aronoff does a superb job of coordinating their investment strategies with the many other responsibilities that come with managing large sums of money. Like the other finalists on our list, she has made a name for herself by offering up her time and undoubted skills generously and in ways that make the most of each client’s situation. Although Ms. Aronoff is actually based in Tucson, she made and placed highly on our list of Phoenix-area advisors thanks to her willingness to cater to those living a short drive to the north.
#4: Allan Flader of RBC Wealth Management
Another home-grown financial specialist, Mr. Flader also received his undergraduate training at the University of Arizona, standing out enough for top honors. Alan is no stranger to placing well on ranking lists, either, having shown up on Barron’s surveys of the nation’s best financial advisors a number of times.
Mr. Flader is also an Accredited Wealth Manager, an RBC Wealth Management designation obtained by successfully completing a rigorous six-month program. Within RBC Wealth Management itself, he consistently stands out as one of the top performers, and his clients speak highly of his ability to craft savings and investment plans that are precisely tailored to their goals.
#5: Laura Ladrigan Cobb of Morgan Stanley
A nearly 40-year veteran of Morgan Stanley’s renowned wealth management division, Scottsdale-based Cobb is immensely experienced and savvy. She, too, focuses on high-net-worth families, delivering the kind of personalized, situation-tailored advice that these demanding clients invariably expect.
Impressive professional education credentials add further sheen to her already outstanding academic bona fides, making it clear that this is a financial advisor dedicated to staying on top of an ever-expanding body of knowledge. Cobb’s clients praise her sense of timing, too, noting that she often seems able to pick exactly the right moment for a new position to be established or a change of direction to be undertaken.
#6: Sal Flores of Flores Wealth Management
With deep roots in Tempe, Mr. Flores wins clients’ loyalties by making it clear just how much he cares about their financial futures. Having grown up in Tempe as part of a family that has called the area home for nearly a hundred years, it was natural that Flores would head across town to Arizona State University for his higher education.
Sal’s caring, involved outlook shines through just as much in his community involvement as in his professional work. With deep experience in the industry, he has plenty of valuable perspectives to offer to his clients, and they stood out as being among the most loyal of any we surveyed.
#7: Leah Hoffman of Robert W. Baird
Another top stockbroker and financial advisor with deep community ties, Ms. Hoffman was a principal of the widely lauded Hoffman & Hock, Inc., before deciding to fold that wealth management firm into the Baird group. Barron’s and the Phoenix Business Journal have both singled her out for distinction, and her activities leading and working with a number of important women’s groups have made her widely admired in the state, as well.
Hoffman’s clients find her to be an incredibly sharp and dedicated ally, and her performance figures easily qualify her for inclusion among the distinguished advisors on this list. She has also developed a reputation for being especially capable when it comes to planning how to a handle divorces, with accreditation as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst showing her dedication to guiding clients smoothly through such tricky situations.
#8: Trevor Wilde of Wilde Wealth Management
Holding up his end of the family business with admirable dedication and aplomb, Mr. Wilde is a graduate of the University of Arizona, where he also played football. Wilde Wealth Management has been recognized a number of times as one of the top-performing smaller wealth management firms in the state, and a portion of that acclaim is surely due to Trevor’s skills and dedication.
#9: Kent Hughes of Merrill Lynch
Another Merrill Lynch advisor makes an appearance on our list, with Mr. Hughes having the benefits of over three decades of experience in the industry to share with clients, nearly double the average across our initial pool of nominees. In addition to being a highly capable financial advisor for his individual clients, Hughes does excellent work advising charities in the area.
#10: Robert Kerrigan of First Financial Equity Corporation
A stalwart of First Financial’s advisory team, Kerrigan has a depth of experience that few can hope to match. By combining the far-seeing perspectives he has developed over the course of his career with a personalized focus, he has helped to make First Financial one of the most often-recommended firms of its kind in the Valley.