The Custodial Cost/Service Tradeoff

Well, I got a surprise today.  No, it wasn’t that my favorite life reinsurer, RGA, beat the earnings estimate handily.  Rather, it was that the Securities Division of the Attorney General’s office of the State of Maryland made my filing effective to be registered as an investment advisor in the state of Maryland.  What I expected to take six weeks, or even two months, ended up taking seven days.  (That said, I had to go back and forth with Maryland three times, but each time I responded to them in less than 90 minutes.  All my preparation made me ready for the challenge.)

That left me shocked, happy, and then saying, “Wait, I could get started sooner if I had a custodian chosen.”  But patience is needed here.  I face an interesting choice in who to use.  I have five candidates, and from a birds-eye view, they divide into three groups.  Two are inexpensive, two are expensive, and one is so complex that I can’t figure out what it is.

Now, naturally, the expensive ones offer more services, but I can’t tell how valuable they are.  The one I can’t figure out claims their automated trading algorithms more than pay for themselves.  I’m leaning toward the cheap ones because I am good with math, and until I get so many clients that I am going nuts, that would be best for my clients.  (I’ve created far more complex systems while programming as an actuary.  This stuff is trivial.  Why not save money for my clients?  After all, I’m here to serve them, right?)

But that is my challenge at present.  What I am going to do is ask each firm to give me a “demo” of their services, and try to get the odd one to clarify their pricing.  I will choose the one that will allow me to give the best service to my investors.

One intangible asset that I prize is my readers, and I thank them for their many comments and e-mails, even though I can’t respond to all of them.  With that, I pose the question to my readers who have faced the decision that I am making: Is it worth paying more in commissions to get higher services that might benefit your clients?  My guess is no, but I am open to being educated.

If inclined, e-mail me and let me know.

Full disclosure: Long RGA