Founded in 1998 by Harmon Kong and Mark Iwamoto, Apriem Advisors is an independent, registered investment advisor firm based in Southern California. Today, we manage more than $650 million for hundreds of families. True to our Latin-based namesake, we strive to provide our clients with the highest degree of service while handling all facets of their finances, helping them reach the goal of financial security and freedom. Our clients receive one-on-one advice and individualized, strategic planning from our wealth and portfolio managers, culminating in a unique boutique experience that is far above what large corporate firms can offer.
Success. Experience. Respect. Harmon Kong and Mark Iwamoto were fortunate to gain all of these after dedicating nearly a decade of wealth management to clients in large, corporate financial firms. So what would make these trusted advisors walk away from a stable, long-term and lucrative career? Kong points to a time when he was expected to manage more than 500 household accounts while continuing to meet corporate expectations to add new top-tier clients to the firm. With such large volume for each manager, Kong notes there was no time to actually service his clients, let alone talk to each of them and intimately know their personal financial needs or goals. Due to the sheer volume of accounts, most were “managed” by a computer template that allowed firms to slot clients in a one-size-fits-all portfolio system. When Kong and Iwamoto noticed that the corporate agenda did not always line up with the client agenda, they wondered, “Who would we hire to manage our money and what would we expect in personal service?”
When the large firm implemented a “call center first” policy, Kong noticed wealth managers would no longer be the first point of contact to their own client. A customer service representative would answer questions based on company scripts and transfer clients only when needed. This meant that, even though Kong was gaining more clients, he had less personal contact with them. There was little accountability and nearly nothing left that resembled personal quality service. Kong and Iwamoto knew there had to be a better way. It was this moment that marked the end of their careers with large, corporate financial institutions and the birth of Apriem.
With this new mission firmly in place, Kong and Iwamoto embarked on a prosperous journey and grew Apriem Advisors into an award-winning and nationally recognized firm backed by unparalleled client service and unique focus on underserved corners of the economy, including women and industrial retirees. Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Apriem opened two additional offices in 2017 to better serve clients in Los Angeles and San Diego counties. In 2018, Apriem celebrated its 20th anniversary by renewing its commitment to serving clients to highest degree and launching the Apriem Cares program to further strengthen and empower communities at every level.
Apriem had a clear vision for a new private firm — it included excellence in service, integrity, and advice built on two important pillars: relationships and purpose. Clients come first, and each wealth and portfolio manager is dedicated to engaging clients and developing real, personal relationships with them.
It all starts on a human level — knowing clients’ needs and goals which gives purpose and individualizes each financial plan. Being proactive in the investing space — not just reactive to the market – and allowing a margin of time to properly service each client are cornerstones of the company. Apriem’s purpose is to manage clients’ assets in such an efficient and effective way that clients can get back to the most important business in life — family and friends.
In addition to the unique approach in servicing clients, the way Apriem manages, invests, and even structures fees is fundamentally different than most large financial institutions. For years, these corporations have charged clients each time a transaction is made on their behalf inside a commissionable product. This structure only encourages advisors to continuously move the client’s money — whether it is in the best interest of the client or not.
Since the late 1990s, it was on trend to not only charge the client a management fee each month, but also a financial planning fee. However, financial managers were just that, managers — not long-term strategic planners. They charged the clients twice, but only provided one service. Apriem recognized the extreme disconnect of managing money but not understanding the financial goals of a family. A portfolio cannot be balanced without knowing the total picture, including other financial aspects of a family picture such as taxation, asset protection and estate planning. Apriem was an early adaptor of combining the services of financial planning and investment management for one inclusive fee.
At Apriem, there is neither a sales angle for financial products nor any commissions from investment transactions or the sale of investment products. With an unbiased position, Apriem plans and manages finances to create the best results for clients. The firm was built to be a fee-based asset manager that includes the personalized planning. After all, how can wealth be managed effectively without knowing the ultimate goal? Apriem is not an advisory organization — it is a financial management firm first. Management always encompasses a sound plan which addresses all aspects of financial planning including, but not limited to: life insurance, estate planning, long-term care, healthcare, charitable giving, asset protection, cash-flow analysis, risk management and more.
In addition to customized wealth management services, Apriem also employs other targeted strategies when practicing investment management as a part of the “big picture” of investing and diversifying portfolios. These services include: Tactical Index Strategies, Dynamic Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) Strategy and Income Strategies.
When it comes to vetting and selecting trusted custodians for our clients’ portfolios, Apriem completes annual due diligence to ensure we work alongside innovative companies who share a philosophy that lines up with Apriem. With this in mind, the primary third-party custodian is Charles Schwab. Charles Schwab is a long-time leader in the field of investing and leading-edge technologies; more importantly, the organization’s philosophy in client service and investing is fully aligned with that of Apriem. Apriem is a part of the Charles Schwab Advisor Network (SAN) program, which includes approximately 200 prescreened preferred companies representing about 4 percent of their registered investment advisory firms. Apriem has been invited every year for the last decade to be part of this exclusive program and regularly receives client referrals from Schwab.
Apriem operates as a family. By also managing their own families’ assets — parents, siblings, kids, friends and their own – the team members at Apriem have real skin in the game and invest in the same places clients are advised to invest. It is the Apriem promise that there will never be an investment recommended to a client that a company member would not make personally. Sharing success with clients is a point of pride.
As a part of the “extended family,” only the most trusted and vetted outside professionals are brought in to work with clients when appropriate. Creating a collaborative work environment delivers optimal results. Professionals that Apriem partners with daily include attorneys, CPAs, and insurance agents. If there is a piece of a client portfolio that requires outside professional care, the necessary expert is brought in – either independently or as the client’s existing professional – in order to build the best team and give the client optimal solutions and results.
No matter where a client may fall within the tiers of income and assets, it’s important to note that Apriem’s planning strategies are completely individualized. Today’s new normal includes more market volatility, but with Apriem there are processes and protections in place. Many client investment decisions are driven by emotions which could be dangerous to portfolio performance. Trades and changes happen rapidly on a global scale, from a click on a computer or swipe on a phone. One core strategy Apriem employs is a Tactical Index Strategy. Utilizing time and resources to analyze markets and evaluate trends and patterns can help remove the emotion from investing. No one plan is the same as the other. Examining clients’ finances as a whole, listening to their goals and needs, recognizing the existing market and advising properly are Apriem’s priorities.