The super-rich have long been known for their privacy and discretion, guarding the details of their personal lives with ferocity and skillfully avoiding the overtures of unknown parties. To do this typically requires the alignment of key staff and family members in a way that creates a virtual defense for patriarchs and decision-makers. In some cases, these "defenses" have been in place for years (or decades), insulating the core and allowing them to exercise tight controls on the involvement they have with other people and organizations.

Anyone who's tried to reach a wealthy prospect without a personal introduction or endorsement has likely hit these impenetrable walls-scaling them almost always calls for an "inside" connection.

No one has escaped the effects of the strange and unsettling economic environment of the past year, and it has revealed new behaviors in nearly everyone. Anecdotal and empirical research gathered throughout 2009 indicates that those controls are loosening under certain circumstances, particularly when it comes to wealth management. But, please don't misunderstand; the wealthy (and especially the ultra-wealthy) still value their privacy. In fact, we've received a notable amount of pushback to participating in blind surveys that query their attitudes, mindsets, preferences, concerns and plans- despite the promise of anonymity.

However, their frustration with finances, investment portfolios and advisory relationships has caused many of them to consider new ideas from professionals and specialists outside their current network. They're doing this with the hope of rebuilding their lost wealth and restructuring their portfolios and estate plans to minimize risks and better face future challenges. In some respects, this means these wealthy individuals and families are more accessible than ever to the people beyond their established friends, confidantes and advisors-the trusted inner circle they have constructed for advice, guidance and recommendations.

I've even heard a few firsthand accounts of successful "cold calls" from experienced advisors with truly unique propositions. These will be few and far between, but should be used as inspiration as you assess your new business targets and contemplate new approaches that will broaden your reach, take advantage of the unusual climate and pave the way for a prosperous new year.