The Silicon Review
Liz Miller founded Summit Place Financial Advisors in 2008 after 20 years in the financial services industry as a security analyst and portfolio manager. Over the years, she watched her clients struggle with the increasing intricacies of wealth due to changing tax laws, estate planning innovations, and an explosion of investment choices. Many of her client families started looking to her for answers to varied financial questions that were not specifically related to their investment portfolios. This led Liz to realize there was a need for a financial services firm that could deliver and coordinate a broader range of wealth services across multiple generations. She launched Summit Place Financial Advisors to address this need.
Today, Summit Place stands out in the crowded financial services industry by targeting a growing and unqiue market niche: those with $5-$25 million in invested wealth whose financial complexity demands more than mass-market solutions. Many successful families reach a point where they realize their next financial decision is no longer straight forward and may even require advice from multiple professionals to identify the best solution. Summit Place offers coordinated financial services based on a full view of its clients’ circumstances. “We help clients consider how all parts of their financial life work together, and we communicate with all their professionals, sharing expertise and building vetted solutions to present to our clients,” said Liz Miller, Founder and President of Summit Place Financial Advisors.
This approach is particularly apt for Summit Place’s niche, as their clients’ needs can often be nuanced and multi-faceted. While many people may be able to find straightforward financial solutions with an internet search, Summit Place Financial can often suggest better solutions for its clients who may have more complicated considerations including existing estate plans, multi-generational goals, and philanthropic priorities.
In a brief interview with us, Ms. Miller talked to us about how the company maintains its client-centric approach. She also spoke in detail about the measures that help the New Jersey-headquartered company keep up with the changing times. Read on for the excerpts from the interview.
Q. Who are your clients? How have you helped them over the years?
Summit Place has been particularly sought out by clients that experience recent increases in wealth that bring many new decisions such as those that inherit wealth, sell a family business or become successful executives who rise to a new level of compensation complexity with restricted stock, non-qualified options and deferred compensation arrangements.
We have had a number of families come to us after inheriting unexpected levels of wealth. While they are still working through grief, families such as these share that they feel surprised, overwhelmed and sometimes even burdened by addressing life-changing wealth. This is a very difficult transition, and we understand the mixed emotions and feelings of weighty responsibility. We start by listening to our clients’ experiences and questions to truly understand where are their highest sources of stress and their highest priorities. We then help them establish a step-by-step plan to gain confidence and control of their new wealth. We help coordinate their new investments with accountants and attorneys to assure that everything is settled cleanly and accurately, attempting to simplify as much as possible for their future. Then we stay by their side, as a partner, helping them begin to contemplate and embrace changes in their future life enabled by their wealth.
Q. What are your other focus areas?
We are an investment centric firm in that we manage our clients’ investments in-house and build portfolios around their individual goals and needs. In addition, we review and counsel on a client’s entire wealth needs including executive compensation plans, retirement and education planning, tax management, risk management and estate planning. For clients that are still building wealth that may include helping to establish basic estate planning documents, analyzing executive compensation plans, regularly reviewing insurance policies or perhaps considering home purchases or refinancing options. For clients that have achieved significant wealth, we may be discussing some of the same items at an increased level of detail and we are additionally discussing lifestyle planning, charitable priorities and advanced estate and gift planning.
Q. What makes Summit Place Financial great?
We thrive on a great culture that relies on loving the business and sharing and communicating that love with our team and our clients. To sustain a client-centric firm, our employees are empowered to think creatively and innovatively. To achieve that, everyone is encouraged to continually build their experience and expertise by attending workshops or industry conferences; together we regularly read different business books at a monthly lunch and learn; and we plan off-site retreats to consider our future priorities and try new things together, building true friendships with each other. Equally important, we provide our services to a select group of clients, assuring that our team has ample capacity to take care of every client fully, thoughtfully, and proactively. We do not look to grow our business by volume or create an environment in which advisors or checking which client has hit the top of a computer screen for the day. Summit Place is unique because we take the time to constantly consider each client with the same thoughtfulness and understanding we build among our team.
Q. What plans for transformation are you pursuing to remain relevant now and in the future?
One of our core values is “Excellence.” We define it as always working to stay ahead of our clients’ needs and our industry’s opportunities. We say “We are passionate about constantly seeking opportunities to enhance your plans, your investment strategies and your experience with us.” We are currently enhancing our technology stack to not just meet the evolving expectations of our clients, but to stay ahead of the opportunities. Our latest investments will bring more integrated information flow within our organization and more flexible access for our clients, allowing us to meet their information interests wherever they are. For some clients, that is still mailed reports and in-person visits. For other clients, today, that is 24/7 access to their whole financial picture and remote access to us when most convenient for them.
Liz Miller, CFP® CFA®, is a seasoned financial executive with over 30 years’ experience in the financial services industry. Liz is the founder and President of Summit Place Financial Advisors, LLC , an independent SEC registered advisor, offering personalized investment management and financial consulting to elite families and individuals.
Liz currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards as well as Vice President of the Alumni Board of the Sphinx Society of the University of Pennsylvania. She also serves on the URI External Advisory Board of New Jersey Institute of Technology. Liz is a member of the Financial Planners Association (FPA), the CFA Institute, the National Speaker’s Association (NSA) and the Women’s President Organization (WPO). She is the author of “Clutter-Free Wealth: A Goal-oriented Guide to Gaining Control of your Affluence” and is also a member of the editorial advisory board for Trusts and Estates Magazine. Each summer, Liz journeys to the Chautauqua Institution to join the faculty of their Special Studies program.
Liz earned a B.S in economics from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. from Columbia University. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and a CFA® Charterholder.