Advisors know that tens of trillions of dollars in accumulated wealth is soon to change hands.

But embedded within the “great wealth transfer” is more opportunity than some perhaps realize.

As older Americans, particularly baby boomers—by one estimate the richest generation in U.S. history—leave their wealth to heirs, one pervasive industry narrative maintains that those heirs will inevitably dismiss their incumbent family advisors and look elsewhere for money guidance.

But it’s not necessarily so. In new research, we found that new heirs are often eager to continue working with the family financial advisor—if they already know and trust that advisor. The fact is that if advisors have already established relationships with those heirs before the family money is passed down, they have a great chance of keeping their roles with the next generation.

There’s a strong economic case for advisors to keep the next generation in mind. Advisors with younger books are growing their business at a faster rate than those with older books, according to research by McKinsey (as it said in its 2019 report, “The State of North American Retail Wealth Management.”) However, less than 25% of advisors’ current clients are under 50, according to Cerulli Associates (something the firm noted in its “U.S. Advisor Metrics” report for 2021). Engaging future “wealth inheritors” can help remedy that imbalance.

Who Are The ‘Wealth Inheritors’?
We interviewed 376 “wealth inheritors,” and for comparison 143 “wealth builders”—all of whom have a current or projected net worth of $1 million or more, and all of whom have a current or a previous financial advisor relationship or would consider one. Ten percent or more of the net worth of the inheritors is from (or projected to be from) an inheritance. “Wealth builders,” on the other hand, don’t have or anticipate such an inheritance.

The bottom line is that future wealth inheritors want an advisor: Nearly nine in 10 plan to have one when they receive their expected wealth. And an incumbent advisor can have an edge: 64% of current heirs who were introduced to the family’s advisor went on to work with that advisor instead of seeking out an alternative advice source. What’s more, 80% who first met the family advisor quite early on—as a child or a teen—ultimately decided to work with the advisor, while only 54% of those who met the advisor as an adult or young adult did.

Financial Goals And Preferred Advice Models
Wealth inheritors are focused on putting their money to work toward multiple competing goals, both personal aims as well as family and community-oriented goals, our research shows. Nearly nine of 10 assign top importance to having enough to support their retirement lifestyle and achieving financial stability and independence. But nearly six of 10 also want to pass wealth to future generations and fund the education of their children or grandchildren. Half want to give to charity or fund a financial legacy.

Inheritors are actively seeking financial advice from multiple sources. Though advisors are the top choice for advice and education (named by 65% of the respondents), many inheritors also rely on input from family or friends (cited by 60%) or from online research or trading sources (cited by 53%). Just 19% said they use robo-advice. And 54% of inheritors (next to only 35% of wealth builders) are working with more than one advisor.

Yet most inheritors won’t fully outsource their wealth management to an advisor: Nearly seven in 10 working with an advisor prefer to personally oversee some aspects of their financial plan.

Through our research, we found that this investor cohort wants holistic, well-rounded relationships with advisors who are true partners and help them focus on what matters most. Such investors also seem likely to favor advisors who position themselves as advice orchestrators, overseeing the client’s overall wealth and planning and coordinating the efforts of other specialists.

The Six Non-Negotiables
Taking advantage of the wealth inheritor opportunity does call for some intention and action. Our research suggests several key steps advisors should take:

1. Start early: Advisors should lay a foundation of trust with future inheritors by providing education and initiating discussion—as early as possible—on topics appropriate to their age and life stage.

2. Focus on strategy: Advisors should consider how to offer clients and their families a comprehensive, inclusive experience through a wealth transfer strategy, instead of merely presenting them with a wealth plan (strategic advice can help an advisor better connect with more family members).

3. Facilitate involvement: Advisors should consider offering a flexible fee structure and a client-engagement model that allows for varying degrees of investor involvement.

4. Link assets to goals: Advisors should discuss incorporating varied investment asset classes and vehicles into the portfolio, while also connecting the clients’ goals with their investment interests and explaining how that translates into portfolio construction.

5. Have the right team: Advisors should maintain a multigenerational, diverse service team.

6. Foster high performance: Advisors should align their service model and team strengths to support the needs of current clients and the future generations of wealth owners.

By understanding what wealth inheritors want and deploying a multigenerational approach, advisors can fully participate in an unprecedented shift in wealth ownership. Indeed, multiple opportunities should exist—even years before the wealth is passed on—for advisors to serve the interests of inheritors in ways that make for satisfying, enduring relationships.

Joy Crenshaw, CIMA, is head of advisor development at Nuveen, the global asset manager of TIAA.