How Is Your Firm Working to Span Generations?

Happy March!

Here in the Carolinas, trees and flowers are blooming, tons of pollen are dropping, and we are warming up.

It also means that we are in the throws of conference season.

For me, this week is a prep week. The wind up before the pitch as I aim to hit the road to meet with our clients and key partners as well as speak at conferences.

As part of my conference prep, I find it essential to take a fresh look at what advisors should consider most.

  1. Focusing on the Family (Office)
  2. Forging Strategic Partnerships In Financial Services - Rachel Cameron 🎧
  3. Creating a Michelin-Star Client Experience with Kyle Van Pelt
  4. Milemarker on the Road

Let’s spring forward and get into it.

Focus on the Family (Office)

I’ve been working with various family offices since 2010 or so.

I was first introduced when I had to deal with only numbered accounts for the first time. In case you’ve never seen data this way, there are no names, only numbers mysteriously representing large sums of private funds, fixed income, and ambiguous properties.

Eventually I began to work with a growing number of firms, some of whom had over 20 people dedicated to running the day-to-day back-office software for a couple of billion-dollar family offices. It seemed like either total overkill or that the software wasn’t built for their needs, at the time. It was a strange problem to watch, but equally interesting is the number of financial advisory firms who have family office aspirations. It seems easier, at first glance, to serve a smaller number of ultra high network families than a large number of those with less assets.

The Family Wealth Transfer

You can’t sit through anyone’s conference talk without someone saying some large number representing the upcoming generational wealth transfer (84T being the most common number today).

We all know that we have to be ready.

But here’s what most people don’t say.

The generational wealth transfer really isn’t for RIAs. The fact is that “more than 70% of heirs are likely to fire or change financial advisors after inheriting their parents’ wealth,” according to Cerulli.

In the United States, family offices primarily serve as conduits for intergenerational wealth transfer, with a resounding 76% focusing on this objective.

A 2014 Vanguard study says this is as high as 95% of children who fire their parents' advisor.

Regardless, most firms are not relationally prepared for their clients' deaths, and all signals point to a breakdown in communication with anyone other than the primary client.

Your Surge Meetings May Lead to Purging Clients

Most advisory firms are focused so much on scale and simplification that they cannot scale impact for clients who are having a truly multigenerational moment.

Unfortunately, most ‘saved time’ often winds up being used to figure out more ways to scale and simplify instead of enhancing the depth of the firm’s communication. Instead of trying to figure out how to serve a family client with greater depth, we wind up focusing on finding more families to serve.

Don't get me wrong, this doesn’t have to be a binary choice.

Just the other day, someone asked me what the top thing I recommend advisors do to grow their business.

My answer. Call your clients.

No agenda; just see how they are doing.

Ask honest questions and get to know more about what is going on in their lives and care about their answers. Make notes. Follow up. Care.

I know that many of you do this, but it’s true that we are all slammed with triaging the urgent and are busy wearing too many hats.

A lot of advisors worry that they will annoy their clients. The last time I checked, getting a call from a person who has the best perspective on if you are doing okay financially is never a waste of time.

Here’s what I know about humans in 2024 - most people, including your clients, are lonely. They’ll want to hear from you.

Building Your Family Office

Of course, you don’t have to build a family office.

Many of the large aggregators out there are seeking to deliver family office-level advanced solutions to help you better serve your clients. The firms I am serving every day are diligently working to give advisors back focus and undivided attention on client service and experience.

Independent firms can reach their client experience goals on their own with significant investments into their workflows, services and staff. It’s possible to up your game, but it will mean that someone at the leadership level will need CEO behaviors and not be in a client service seat. Accidental CEOs who long for time face to face with their clients are often the ones who feel the sting of attempting to master multi-generational client relationships the most.

At Milemarker, we help firms take intentional steps to redefine their clients. Rather than focusing solely on one individual, we think about households that roll into larger client relationships.

The Smith Family

The Collins Foundation

The Rothburys

Your network of COIs is never more important than when you begin to build out households beyond the four walls of one home. The resulting data web created in those moments needs solutions you can rely on to help you reach excellence.

How is your firm working to span generations?