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Who is the Client?

By Family OfficeJuly, 2023March 18th, 20242 min read

There has been a lot of talk about the risks intergenerational wealth transition poses to wealth managers. As the rising generation assumes control of family wealth, they often active seek a change of advisors just for change’s sake, and/or prefer a relationship with someone who (they perceive) better understands their needs and/or is closer to them in age.

From the advisor perspective, one important question to ask is: who is your client? While your relationship might have started with the principal, if the wealth is generational then it is likely being managed for the benefit of the entire family.

This can be a provocative question when put to the client – “Who is my client: you, the entire family, or something in between?” Answers can range from “I made it, and it’s mine until I say otherwise” to “I worked hard for my family” and anything in between. This is a great conversation starter to set the context and scope of a wealth management engagement. If indeed the client is the entire family, then that opens the door for the advisor to talk to other family members, and perhaps also facilitate family discussions about wealth (if they have the skills to do this).

While a question like this might seem silly, it’s important to avoid assumptions on either side and help manage expectations.

Consider This: With whom in your family do your wealth managers have relationships? What is your strategy regarding age-appropriate discussions with rising generation family members about wealth management and attitudes to wealth?

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