These two disparate groups look to you for dramatically different services.
America's affluent are hardly a monolithic group that can be compartmentalized into a few categories. Like the rest of this heterogeneous society, the affluent exhibit a rich (no pun intended) diversity in their relationship to their wealth-old and new, active and passive, engaged and detached, entrepreneurial and entitled.
This diversity creates a number of complex issues advisors need to consider. None of these issues is more important than the relationship between client and advisor. Marty Carter, family communications advisor for Charles D. Haines LLC in Birmingham, Ala., observes that old-money folks are more comfortable with financial advisors than their new-money counterparts. They are less anxious about their wealth (they trust it will be there), and they are accustomed to being served (they trust their advisors), Carter says. While old money expects concierge services, new money tends to view such services as extravagant. As Carter says, new-money clients who are inclined toward conspicuous consumption of tangible assets still tend to be reticent about spending a lot of money on services.
Cathy Longo of Accredited Investors in Minneapolis concurs that old-money clients are more comfortable than new-money clients with letting advisors run the show. While new-money clients have a difficult time giving up control, advisors have a tough time getting old-money clients even to read their financial statements. One consequence of old-money clients' assumption that things are being taken care of is their particular distaste for staff turnover. According to Longo, although this attitude drives up the cost of financial services by putting established relationships at a premium, new advisory firms need to pay closer attention to an issue with which family offices have long contended.
However, not all old-money clients are so devoted to their financial advisors. As Dick Wagner of WorthLiving LLC in Denver, notes, "Many old-money clients feel victimized and objectified by the money management process. Advisors need to get out of their little boxes and start treating people as people. Being raised in old money is a different way of growing up. It's a pretty lonely experience actually." Wagner recalls the classic story of the little boy, driven to school everyday in a chauffeured limousine, being laughed at by the other kids and not understanding why he was different.
The difference in experience naturally leads to a difference in financial service needs. As Boulder, Colo.-based Myra Salzer says, "Working with inheritors is very, very different from working with clients who have earned their money. Our office is not strong on option planning because our clients don't have stock options. We don't work much with retirement plans because our clients were born retired."
Longo once asked a client what he did before he retired, to which he responded, "Before I retired I was a baby." While new-money clients obsess on financial services and retirement projections, old-money clients find value in the softer, lifestyle services-having all the family insurance coverage coordinated, having travel arrangements taken care of, management of household staff, bill paying-as well as the education of the next generation about wealth and philanthropy management.
The issue of concierge services sparks quite a lively debate among advisors. Carter warns about the dangers of family offices enabling their clients. "Old-money kids grow up absolutely clueless about the cost of things." Her office, Charles D. Haines LLC, is moving away from providing concierge services.
Hausner applauds the move away from concierge services. "If a client has never written their own bills, how can they ever know about budgeting? If family offices don't make sure generational clients are financially competent, they foster enormous dependency and make their clients easy targets for unscrupulous financial advisors."
Salzer agrees. Much of her work is coaching and simplifying. Wealth Conservancy Inc. does not do weddings, travel planning or similar concierge services. "We spend a lot of time unraveling what our clients own, simplifying the big picture and putting it into perspective," she says. "We also spend a good deal of time flow-charting the trust documents in which our clients are primary, partial or tertiary beneficiaries."
Consolidating client portfolios so they can see the big picture (what percentage of their money is in large-cap growth, hedge funds, real estate, etc.) is an inherently labor intensive business. Software can only deal with accounts that are on the Internet or are downloadable. "Account aggregation software is not going to download the 5% ownership in the 28-story building my client owns, or the oil and gas reserves, or the 5% ownership of a closely held manufacturing company," Salzer says.