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It’s our belief that clients should be treated like valued customers at a private bank instead of just accounts at a brokerage firm.  This means we provide honest and objective advice, put their interests ahead of our own and expand our services to include the reporting, accounting, financial planning, and tax advice they deserve.  We always stress that “the money is just part of the client” and not the other way around.

This commitment grows from our belief that the “Sell Side” money management process used by many is broken.  We believe clients deserve an advisory relationship that is free from conflicts of interest and where advisors are truly fiduciaries for their clients.

Since words like “sell side” and “fiduciary” sound like Wall Street jargon, let’s translate that into the language of Main Street!

Most “Sell Side” advisors work for brokerage firms; names well known to many individuals and small institutions.  A “Sell Side” advisor wears two hats:  one to serve their employer and another to serve their client.  Their employer earns revenue by selling securities which pay commissions such as mutual funds and annuities, or by marking up stocks or bonds.  Hence the name; “Sell Side.”  This need to earn commissions often conflicts with client’s need to build portfolios, since many good securities don’t pay commissions.  Hence these “Sell Side” advisors have to balance the revenue needs of their firm with their client’s need to obtain low cost, high performance investments.  The conflict degrades the honesty of the relationship.

A fiduciary is an advisor that places his or her client’s interests before their own.  “Sell Side” advisors cannot be fiduciaries because they have to think of their firm’s needs first; generating commissions before they address the needs of their clients.

We think the process where the salespeople earn commissions is fine for clients that know what they want and come to buy it.  Cars are sold this way, for example.  But, when clients don’t know what they want, they place themselves at risk trusting sell side brokers and their firms to make decisions for them.  Where to draw the line between serving the employer and serving the client is a grey area and open to abuse.  We believe a commissioned salesperson cannot really be an impartial “advisor.”  It’s not the right process for a fully discretionary investment advisory relationship.

Polaris Advisors was formed in 2003 specifically to address this issue.  Since then, we have developed and expanded our business model in the form of that provided by a bank trust department.  Without the needs and restrictions of a brokerage employer, Polaris Advisors can act as a fiduciary for our clients, and we are free to provide the additional accounting, consulting, tax and reporting services clients want.

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