As the pandemic continues to further complicate the world of finance, it is no wonder that three out of four Americans report having financial worries. Professional investment advisors help ease this stress by creating financial plans and providing investment advice. As fiduciary experts, investment advisors can enable you to maintain and build wealth and achieve your financial goals.
While there are many companies that offer financial advice, Nelson Capital of Menlo Park, California has been a cut above the rest since its inception back in 1975. Nelson Capital’s Principal and Director of Research, Darcy Nelson Smoot, CFA, explains, “Nelson Capital offers highly personalized services incorporating a deeper understanding of all aspects of our clients’ lives. We take the time to get to closely listen to our clients so that we can truly grasp their situations and what drives them. We counsel clients through pivotal moments because the decisions people make during life’s transitions have a dramatic impact on their future.”
A Client-Centric Doctrine
The story of Nelson Capital began in the mid-1970s when Darcy’s grandfather, Phil Nelson, left his job on Wall Street to professionally guide individuals and families, establishing the firm as a registered investment advisor (RIA). Phil’s goal was to enable his clients to live happy and fulfilled lives. “Phil Nelson created a client-centric doctrine that still drives Nelson Capital today,” says Darcy. “We place a strong emphasis on servicing our clients, above all else. This has led to high client retention and referrals to family and friends, which reflects the value of the services we provide.”
A multi-generational organization, Nelson Capital was taken over by Darcy’s father, Brooks Nelson in the late 1980s. Today, the firm provides a blend of wealth and asset management services for high-net-worth individuals and families who face complex financial planning and investment decisions. In contrast to working with an individual advisor, clients of Nelson Capital engage the intellectual resources of the entire firm, with dedicated relationship managers providing personalized attention and exceptional service.
What further sets apart Nelson Capital is their ability to form deep relationships with clients. This allows Nelson Capital to have an overview of every client’s entire positioning, from financial to social, which allows for an optimized financial plan.
“I like the metaphor of the “push/pull” dynamic: we need to be pushed out of our comfort zone, but we need to pull other women up with us.”
Providing Customized Expert Advice
Over the years, Nelson Capital has earned a great deal of recognition for their ability to create a full wealth analysis—including balance sheet, asset allocation, cash flow analysis, insurance reviews and more—for their clients. The firm’s heritage of financial planning, and philosophy of partnership with clients and their families, helps achieve their clients’ goals for every generation. “We incorporate asset projections including inflation assumptions, stress test these projections with Monte Carlo analysis, and offer scenario analysis when a client is deciding from a range of potential outcomes,” shares Darcy.
As an independent, employee-owned investment advisory firm, the services and advice at Nelson are truly unbiased. Nelson Capital has a “fee-only” structure, and does not collect any commissions, eliminating any potential conflicts of interest. The firm works closely with estate planning, tax, and insurance advisors providing holistic financial advice in collaboration with these trusted experts. Furthermore, Nelson Capital is bound by the “fiduciary” standard of care, which requires that an advisor act solely in the client’s best interest when offering personalized financial advice.
All relationship managers at Nelson Capital are either CFA charterholders or CFP® professionals, which means that client assets are in the most qualified hands possible. Leveraging an in-house research team, the firm is always on the frontlines, scouting for new opportunities to design customized and tax-efficient portfolios. A routine quarterly review process that addresses each aspect of every client’s portfolio further reinforces their respective plans. “This allows us to be nimbler during major market moves and to tailor portfolios based on individual needs,” reports Darcy.
Through this inventive and active management, Nelson Capital delivers remarkable results to clients at some of the most competitive service fees in the industry.
For Darcy, financial planning has been ingrained in her since she was a child. She observed first-hand the extraordinary service her father and grandfather provided to clients, enabling the clients to live happy, stress-free lives. From an early age, Darcy knew that she wanted to walk in the same steps as the generations before her.
Darcy graduated with a BA from Swarthmore College, majoring in Mathematics and English Literature. She began her career at Bloomberg LP in New York City, and in 2009 went on to work as an equity derivatives sales trader at Susquehanna International Group before joining Nelson Capital in 2014. Smoot has extensive experience in equity analysis and securities trading, is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), and is a member of the CFA Society of San Francisco.
Outside of work, Darcy enjoys staying active with her husband, Cliff, and their two young daughters, Aubrey (age 4) and Hannah (age 2). She shares, “We love exploring the great cycling and hiking trails that the Bay Area has to offer, and we are members of several educational museums in our area. Cooking is another passion of mine, and I love when my daughters join in and help.”
The Gender Gap in Wealth Management
Despite a recent change in tide, women have historically been underrepresented in the wealth management industry. Financial planning has long been a male-dominated industry, though women like Darcy have demolished barriers and earned a place at the head table. She feels that “there are simply fewer women in more senior levels, and so it is critical to continue to build at every level to ensure that women have more career opportunities all the way up the career ladder.” In meetings with prospective clients, Darcy has noticed that some women are conditioned to being left out of the discussion: “We need to involve more women in conversations about their finances, to build their capacity to make smart decisions with their wealth, and to build their confidence in running their finances.”
At her firm, Darcy makes a concerted effort to connect with other women in the wealth and asset management industry through networking events and mentorship opportunities. Important as it may be to establish the foundational layer of networking, it remains equally important to elevate women at various levels and continue investing in their talents. “We need to incorporate more women into the business, and that starts with hiring and promoting women. I am enormously proud of our team, which is 60% women,” smiles Darcy. To young, ambitious women out there on their own professional journeys, Darcy says, “I like the metaphor of the “push/pull” dynamic: we need to be pushed out of our comfort zone, but we need to pull other women up with us.”
Today, we are in the midst of a massive transfer of wealth to younger generations as well as a boom of new first-generation wealth. Looking ahead, Darcy and her team of experts continue to innovate and evolve, engaging all generations of client families and offering them top-notch financial planning services. “We put client interests above all else. We believe that if we take care of clients, the firm and its employees will also be taken care of. This guiding principle has remained at the core of everything we do,” explains Darcy.