Ascent Private Capital Management has hired an historian to manage an asset that some families cherish as much as their money: their legacies.

“We know that managing the wealth of families is much more than managing their money,” said Scott Winget, Ascent’s senior managing director and head of wealth impact planning. “Using a family history helps establish what a family’s values are.”

Ascent, a private banking unit of U.S. Bank, has hired Karen McNeill as director of family history and believes it is the first in the private banking industry to create such a staff position.

McNeill, who joined the bank on June 1, will research family histories and genealogies for client families by drawing on letters, diaries, photos and other archives. She will then give presentations of her work at family reunions and meetings.

That makes her something of an asset manager, despite her lack of investment training.

“I hadn’t thought about it at first, but when I found out what the job was I thought it would be a fantastic fit with my background,” said McNeill, who has a doctorate in history from the University of California, Berkeley and 15 years of experience working on personal history projects with individuals and private and public sector organizations.

The work—using a family’s history as an integral part of legacy building and wealth transfer—is part of a growing trend in the area of family wealth management, particularly among ultra-high-net-worth clients like those Ascent serves.

“You ask questions about the past, what values shaped the family history,” said McNeill, who will be based in San Francisco. “When you learn how the family has prepared heirs in the past, you may find common ground for building a family mission statement.”

While a number of financial advisors work with historians, McNeill’s duties are unique in a bank setting and Ascent believes it is the first wealth management practice inside a bank to have a staff historian, Winget said.

“We’re able to take [a family history] and build a mission statement for the future,” Winget said.

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