Wealth management is providing financial strategies and products to clients. Most definitions of wealth management emphasize “financial services and products.” Financial services cover areas such as income, estate, and asset protection planning. It also tends to include the different types of qualified retirement plans and non-qualified deferred compensation. Financial products are often investments, life insurance, and credit.  

An often inconvenient truth of the wealth management industry is that ALL financial services and products are commodities. Without question, some financial strategies and products are better than others. But, being better does not make them unique. In one way or another, what one elite wealth management practice can provide, another elite wealth management practice can also deliver. There are no financial services and products an elite wealth management practice can deliver that are inherently propriety.

At the same time, there exist some financial services and products that are more or less exclusive.  It is a matter of access. “There are some very sophisticated defined benefit plans enabling business owners to put away a lot more money, with much of it going back to them,” explains Vince Annable, CEO and Founder of VFO Advisory Group and co-author of Your High-Performing Virtual Family Office: Maximizing Your Financial and Personal Lives. “These qualified retirement plans are not unique, but they are not all that well-known.”

Even though there are NO unique financial strategies and products, the truth is that many self-proclaimed financial advisors and wealth managers are limited in their offerings. A relatively small percentage of wealth managers can deliver the full spectrum of state-of-the-art financial services and products. For many clients, their inability to provide bright-line, cutting-edge financial services, and products is not a problem. 

Being able to deliver state-of-the-art financial services and products alone does not, however, translate into elite wealth management. Elite wealth management is much more. Specifically…

Elite wealth management optimizes the financial lives of clients

According to Homer Smith, Director of the DK Family Office Practice, Founder of Konvergent Wealth Partners, and co-author of Optimizing the Financial Lives of Clients: Harness the Power of an Accounting Firm’s Elite Wealth Management Practice, “The only way to optimize the financial lives of clients is to be able to provide financial services and products from those that are considered basic to those that are state-of-the-art and do so because of a deep understanding of the needs, wants, dreams, and concerns of clients.”

When it comes to being technically proficient, wealth managers have the basics covered, and might be state-of-the-art. In contrast, elite wealth managers can deliver any viable financial service and product. Even when these wealth managers are familiar with and capable of implementing sophisticated financial strategies and using cutting-edge products, they are not necessarily elite. In these situations, there is a tendency for some wealth managers to “push” sophisticated financial strategies and products that eventually blow up.

While technically proficient wealth managers are generally more focused on financial strategies and products, elite wealth managers are focused intently on assisting clients to optimize their financial worlds.

“Uncovering what matters most to clients is crucial to helping them optimize their financial lives,” says Peter Sasaki, Managing Member and Family Office expert at Odeon Capital Advisors and co-author of Maximizing Your Single-Family Office: Leveraging the Power of Outsourcing and Stress Testing, “There are processes, such as Everyone Wins, that can empower any professional to develop a deep, meaningful understanding of their clients. This extensive level of insight, combined with comprehensive technical capabilities, is what elite wealth management is about.”

RUSS ALAN PRINCE is the Executive Director of Private Wealth magazine (pw-mag.com) and Chief Content Officer for High-Net-Worth Genius (hnwgenius.com). He consults with family offices, the wealthy, fast-tracking entrepreneurs, and select professionals.