Investment products have become transactional, with growing compliance narrowing competitive difference. Traditional financial planners in a crowded vanilla brand market need to differentiate themselves with superior energy, product knowledge and service.
A more creative approach is needed to attract, retain and gain referrals from growing numbers of high-net-worth clients, and for you to build closer, more fruitful adviser/client relationships.
The brave new world of planning demands innovation in products and services to engage increasingly wealthy Baby Boomers to both grow and distribute their wealth. This generation – and even more so, the Gen Xers – want to be in control of their assets and want to be able to instruct their advisers, rather than passively follow an adviser’s plan which they often find disempowering, confusing and unexciting.
You can empower your clients by firstly identifying their values. Then take the values and work with them to identify their legacy objectives. Go beyond their financial objectives to reveal and plan for their personal objectives involving their family – the passing on of important family values, their wisdom and their personal information. Then help them plan to achieve their social objectives – how they want to give back to a society that seems to have been very good to them.
Recently, after I gave a presentation to a group of professionals, one of the participants came up to me afterwards and said: “Robb, I just want you to know that I happen to be one adviser who does ask the question about my client’s charitable intent.”
I replied: “Paul, that is fantastic. Exactly what question do you ask?”
“I ask every one of my clients if they have any charitable interests,” Paul said.
“Don’t tell me, Paul,” I replied. “Almost every one of your clients responds by saying, ‘No, not really’. ”
He looked surprised, then said: “How did you know? That is exactly what happens!”
I explained that clients who are unaware of the amazing and life-changing possibilities would give a non-committal answer. Charitable intent is often something that must be uncovered by understanding client values, stories, wisdom and purpose with specially designed questions.
You do all this by giving your time, showing an interest, being bold and asking great open-ended questions and then really listening to the answers. Next, begin planning to assist your client in identifying solutions and tailor an individual plan to meet their needs. Be prepared to work closely with their other trusted advisers to ensure a holistic multidisciplinary solution.
As an adviser you will have already mastered the art of formulating great questions – now apply that skill to formulate your own questions beyond the strictly financial planning realm.
Your questions need to be well crafted and designed to help you and your clients understand what is important to them and how they may want to use their wealth to make a difference in the lives of others – and not just over-endowing family members.
Help your clients identify how much is enough to see them through and how much is adequate and what vehicle is best to provide a helping hand to future generations. From this exercise, excess wealth can be identified.
Some clients really don’t have any charitable intent, and that’s fine, but many do. They want to build on their success to build a legacy of significance. And you can help direct their philanthropy in a more strategic way.
Ask the questions that will uncover:
•Their motivations (often triggered by a major life event)
•Their commitment to a key issue and region
•The objectives they want to achieve
•Level of comfort – still ad hoc, or structured and strategic
•The degree of involvement
•The most appropriate giving program/plan
Then work with your clients to live their values and translate their motivations into actions, with the most effective investment and philanthropic vehicles identified, along with a plan for whom they may want to help and how. This is how you assist high-net-worth clients to build a legacy of significance, and there is no-one better able to do this than you, their financial planner.
Your clients can begin to create a living legacy by thinking carefully about who they care about, who they can help and how. A living legacy is not found in a Will; it is created in one’s lifetime and is moulded over time by regularly revisiting family and personal values and stories, then deciding how to pass on the wisdom acquired in your life, from the lessons you have learned along the way.
One tax-effective vehicle for building social legacies and strengthening multi-generational families is the family foundation. It provides wealthy individuals with the opportunity to transfer family values, build motivation in the younger generations and keep the family together for generations, while contributing significant benefits to society.
In Australia we are just beginning to experience the greatest intergenerational transfer of wealth ever known.
Those who offer their clients a values-based approach and present solutions in an integrated, holistic manner will be the big winners.
Dr Robb Musgrave is CEO of Legenis – www.legenis.com, a company that focuses on the installation, administration and maintenance of family foundations as a part of the financial, personal and social aspects of living legacy creation