Investing 101: Wrap Fees Explained

If you’ve looked into hiring an investment adviser or advisory firm to help manage your investments, you may have seen some offer various advisory services bundled together under one comprehensive fee. These types of service fees are called wrap fees and are offered as sponsored packages by many advisory firms.
With wrap fee programs, your advisor or firm serves as the “sponsor” for the program; essentially the liaison between you and your service offerings. Typically, the fee for these types of programs is determined by the overall value of your investment account. While it may seem easy enough on your end to just pay one flat fee for a bundling of advisory services, there are things you need to watch for when considering wrap fee programs.

Understanding Wrap Fees

Wrap fee programs sound like a great idea, and they are – for some. When considering a wrap fee program, you’ll first need to determine what you’ll actually be paying in wrap fees.
Investment advisers and firms like to push sponsored wrap fee programs onto investors with the claim that bundled services make the investment process easier. They offer investors a one-stop-shop for managing investments and wrapped fees means easy payment. However, wrap fees may end up being more costly than a la carte services. Depending on your investment goals and activity a wrap fee program may not be the right choice.
If you’re approached by your adviser with a wrap fee program, consider the services you currently use. Make sure you have an understanding of what fees and services are contained in the wrap fee program. All wrap fees offer slightly different services and fees, so understanding what’s in them is essential. Depending on your portfolio and needs, wrap fees may end up costing you more for services you don’t even need.

Here’s a tip:

Wrap fees are typically based of the value of assets. For accounts with frequent trading a wrap fee program can be a great option if it covers transaction fees. However, if you don’t have frequent trade activity and/or your transactions aren’t subject to a fee, a wrap fee program could actually end up costing you more.
Of course, this only serves as a general rule-of-thumb. You will need to consider access to all the other services a wrap fee program offers. It is essential that you understand all the services and fees tied to your wrap fee program. Unfortunately, some advisory firms attempt to take advantage of investors by improperly disclosing or falsely advertising costs and services for wrap fee programs.
If you want more info on wrap fees and typically wrap fee program services, check out this SEC Investor Bulletin.

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