Advisors to ultra-high-net-worth families are facing a daunting task.
How exactly do they attract new clients when they work in such a niche space? Well, believe it or not, there’s a reasonable chance the answer to this question lies within their current client base.
Most advisors to UHNW families, which we define as having a net worth of at least $35 million, are working primarily with Baby Boomer clients. But the key to the future of their practice is their client’s Millennial children and even grandchildren.
There is an entire generation of young adults on the cusp of inheriting vast sums of money from their Baby Boomer elders. They’re at the beginning of their adult lives, graduating from college, launching careers and starting families. As their parents and grandparents gradually move into retirement and beyond, UHNW Millennials will assume responsibility for wealth that, in many instances, has lasted for generations.
These Millennials are desperate for the type of financial advice that advisors to UHNW families specialize in, which includes things like financial planning, wealth management and handling debt. But in most cases they don’t know where to turn to find it even though their parents have direct access to such a resource.
A 2016 UBS study on Baby Boomers and their Millennial offspring points out that while the vast majority of wealthy Millennials are looking to work with a financial advisor, only a third of them are currently doing so. This is a far cry from their Baby Boomer counterparts, who typically work with advisors, the research notes.1
In my April commentary, I pointed out that when the time eventually comes for UHNW Millennials to get their inheritance, they’re far more likely than not to fire the family advisor and find one of their own. Why is this the case, you might ask? Because in most cases, the family advisor works directly with only one person, typically the patriarch or matriarch, and they don’t have a real relationship with the children or grandchildren.
Since publishing our own in-depth study of UHNW Millennials, I’ve had a number of very successful advisors tell me just how hard it is to establish genuine relationships with their client’s Millennial heirs. Countless times I’ve been told: “They only see me as Dad’s advisor, not their advisor.”
UBS’ research captures the scope of this challenge, revealing that nearly 40% of Millennials have never interacted with their parent’s financial advisor.2 Of the Millennials who’ve met their parent’s advisor, only 32% say there was discussion of their own financial needs. 18% of the Millennials surveyed said they’ve met their parents’ advisor and discussed their financial needs with them, but still aren’t a client.
A Relationship-Building Exercise for Advisors
As advisors look to cultivate the next generation of clients, it’s important to remember that the best relationships—whether they’re business-related or personal—are founded on mutual respect, friendship, compassion and a level of intimacy.
With this knowledge as a guiding framework, advisors should apply the same analytical skills they use in constructing portfolios and sizing up investment opportunities; and do an honest assessment of their client relationships.
For argument’s sake, let’s say that on a scale of one to 10, your relationship with the patriarch/matriarch is a solid 10, it’s a six with their spouse and a zero with the children. You can move the relationship with the spouse closer to 10 by communicating how important it is for you to be able to give their children the same level of care, attention, respect and intimacy as the primary family decision-maker because it will help solidify their financial future.
Stress to both parents exactly what’s at stake and lean on them to help forge a relationship with their children. In Dec. 2015, we published Proving Worth, the industry’s first in-depth look at the unique perspectives and values of UHNW Millennials. We learned that Millennials are genuinely hungry for expert financial advice, and they want it from someone they can trust.
Speaking from my own personal experience, I know how difficult and awkward those initial conversations can be between an advisor and family members who aren’t the primary financial decision-makers. But if you apply the same level of attention and care to these conversations that you do in your regular client interactions, it can go a long way towards expanding your book of business for years to come.
This is the fourth installment in our monthly series about issues facing UHNW families and their advisors. To learn more about what UHNW Millennials want from their advisor, read an executive summary of the Proving Worth study, or gain access to the full report.
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These views represent the opinions of OppenheimerFunds, Inc. and are not intended as investment advice or to predict or depict the performance of any investment. These views are as of the publication date, and are subject to change based on subsequent developments.