Established in 2011 by Marcelo Castro Alves, Focus Investment Advisors is an independent investment advisory firm located in Miami, Florida. The client-centric, highly transparent, flexible and results-oriented company offers clients personalized services and investment portfolios, facilitated by an expansive network and vast industry knowledge and expertise.
Focus Investment Advisors specializes in serving Latin American and European clients with private, offshore wealth management solutions. Beyond the performances of the firm’s investments and assets, the most important measure of its success is attaining the trust and confidence of its clients. Its performance and proven track record over the past five years has helped the firm develop a reputation as an unbiased, client-driven success story.
In five short years, Focus Investment Advisors has grown from managing $20 million in assets to over $120 million. As a result of its performance, it was nominated as a Five Star Miami Wealth Manager in 2012 and again in 2016. This is a registered investment advisory company that is compliant with national, international and multinational regulations. The firm holds strict fiduciary responsibility, always acting in the best interest of its clients.
“We don’t sell products. We do the advisory. We do the selection of investments with our clients, the portfolio management, the asset allocations, that’s the service that we do,” founder Marcelo Alves said. “We also offer guidance in terms of structure for clients. How is the client going to have the account open, in his name, in a trust, in an offshore company, in a U.S. company? This is very important nowadays.”
Alves has extensive industry experience with private investment banks, as well as global private clients, high net worth individuals, private foundations and small- to mid-size corporations.
Alves is multilingual. He is fluent in Portuguese, German, French, Spanish and English and has a strong foundational knowledge of Italian. As such, he is ideally poised to service its Latin American and European clients.
Focus Investment Advisors does not offer proprietary investment products; rather, investment decisions are based solely on the client’s objectives and risk profile. As it provides customized financial solutions for its clients, the firm suggests an aggregated investment account size in excess of $1 million.
“Working directly with your bank or with a broker-dealer, there is always a conflict of interest because they work for their respective employers. They have their own goals and their targets to reach for their employers. They have to generate profit for their employer, not necessarily for the clients. We don’t get paid by the banks and the broker-dealers. We don’t have salaries agreements with them. We work for the client, not the bank,” Alves noted.
Growing the business means growing clients’ assets under management and the firm’s client base. “Because we are independent, we don’t work for the banks; we work for the clients. So our main goal is to provide them with worldwide solutions, depending on the clients’ goals and needs.” As it operates with a global network of custodian banks, it can adapt where needed.
Focus Investment Advisor’s relationships with a number of institutions afford clients the opportunity to take advantage of the most suitable services and offerings in jurisdictions that align with each client’s unique needs and profile interests.
“We are able to adjust,” Alves said. “Flexibility is very important nowadays. If you don’t have flexibility, you are done. We, because we are independent and because of our size, are able to do so.”
By remaining flexible and independent, relying on a network of institutions, the firm avoids conflicts of interest that can result from sales-based, incentive-driven tactics where success does not take into consideration risk, return and cost characteristics.
Its independence approach not only helps it provide multifaceted financial reports and bank analyses, but it has enabled the growth of the company and supported its adaptation within this complex, framework of changing regulations.
Alves acknowledged the ever-changing nature of the regulatory environment within which the firm operates. “Investment Advisors’ business models must have the flexibility to thrive in such a fast-evolving environment and also be able to meet growing regulatory obligations, as well as investor demands for transparency and different products to help their portfolio steer clear of market volatility.”
As Focus Investment Advisors already maintains a strong commitment of fiduciary responsibility to the client, these regulatory changes will have a greater impact on banks and broker-dealers. Firms that rely on smaller clients will find it increasingly difficult to turn a profit, given the changing circumstances.
As the regulatory environment is rapidly changing, the firm has made the decision to adapt in the interest of remaining nimble. It is outsourcing with compliance companies, CPAs, lawyers, and other professionals who understand the regulations thoroughly.
“It takes so much time from us, so either you are flexible to outsource and try to focus on offering client solutions, wealth management and other businesses that we are trying to develop like the real estate and asset protection,” Alves explained.
As the market changes, Focus Investment Advisors continues to expand its services. It has hired a company specialized in setting up real estate fund structures and helped them with ideas to design it over the past year and has rolled out its expanded services including asset protection solutions through an affiliated insurance agency separate and apart from our investment advisory service. Asset protection includes life, long-term care and disability insurance. All of these are increasingly important aspects of wealth management for clients. “It’s no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.”
“We decided to have this real estate fund created. We did not develop it ourselves, but we brought this fund into play to help our clients as a way to diversify their portfolios. It’s intended to optimize the risk-return tradeoff.” Real estate will offer clients alternatives to traditional financial products, as real estate diversifies portfolios helping to mitigate risks in periods of high market volatility.
Focus Investment Advisors are consultants, not salesmen, and as such, offer clients unbiased information and services. This helps clients to make well-founded decisions with their wealth. Clients receive personalized solutions to fit their objectives, and these solutions are supported by a strong client-advisor relationship with transparency in consultation, information, results and support. The firm prides itself on being able to know which bank, in which jurisdiction, is the best fit for clients.
It ensures that the top available options are presented to its clients to secure the best possible results, and this includes the identification of hidden costs and fees. The firm aggressively negotiates with financial institutions on its clients’ behalf.
Though technology has connected our world in ways never before imagined, it presents a new series of risks and market volatility that must be taken into accounted. “Nothing will ever be the same again. Transparency and data sharing are unavoidable, and for us, for the offshore private wealth advisors, the only answer is transparency and tax efficient, compliant solutions.”
Risk in the form of cyber-crime and issues like Panama Papers are seriously altering the landscape through compliance-related challenges. It is anticipated that many advisors will retire rather than adapt to the new regulations. Compliance is costly, and this will eliminate many of the smaller players from the market.
Focus Investment Advisors will be forced to be more selective with its clients, ensuring that clients are also willing to be adaptable to the changing regulations. “You have to know what is going on in the world to be able to offer the client solutions,” Alves noted.
“We see a big wave of clients moving from Europe – European clients being managed in Europe, transferring their assets to the U.S. to be managed under the U.S. regulations. So the asset managers, the portfolio managers, the bankers, the broker-dealers in Europe clearly have a problem, if they don’t understand the U.S. regulations and so if they don’t have access to this market. Their loss is our gain.”
Focus Investment Advisors is poised to remain viable and successful long into the future. By adapting to the changing regulatory environment in the world and understanding the role of being independent, it remains ahead of the market to deliver client-centric solutions consistently.
“To offer flexible solutions for the client, that’s the most important thing,” Alves said. “Banks, broker-dealers, they don’t offer solutions for the clients. They want to deal with their own issues, and they tell clients that is what it is. We want to offer solutions for our clients. We don’t just work with one bank in one place; we find solutions at other banks in other places. That’s our differentiation.”