Ultra-high-net-worth clients who frequently request services beyond traditional financial planning can create a challenging balancing act for advisors who serve this highly sought-after client base.
To make sure clients are well-served, advisors must be highly organized and clearly communicate their additional services, experts say.
Organization – in terms of both time management and budgeting – is vital for single and multi-family offices that often struggle with catering to the wide-ranging needs of UHNW clients, says Charlie Grace, managing director for the Chicago-based Family Office Exchange.
Grace urges advisors to project and budget for the expenses and time that specialty projects will require. Anticipating certain specialty services that may be needed -- and doing multi-year budgeting for them – can help advisors from veering from their core mission of providing financial planning, he says.
"Having time sheets can be an effective way of keeping track of these special projects," says Grace. "Making sure the desire of the clients doesn't get in the way of staying targeted on the primary objective is important."
Michael Zeuner, managing partner at WE Family Offices in New York, says that advisors should also make it clear to clients what non-financial services they provide. Zeuner’s firm offers family governance, communication and education services, but he doesn’t consider these as additional services. "For me it's not an added service, it's a core part of our office," says Zeuner, a co-founder of the Institute for the Fiduciary Standard. "They are as important as the investment advisory and financial planning services."
The WE Family Offices website clearly spells out the governance, communication and education services the group provides. When clients ask about other lifestyle services, like babysitting or travel planning, the firm refers clients to specialist providers, Zeuner says.
THE ‘RIGHT RESOURCES’
"The challenge of a family office is to have the right resources," he adds. "Balancing out resources and third party experts is important to making the family office business model work." But even when third party providers are involved, it’s still important for advisors to take a supervisory role, Grace says.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, and the threat posed to discretionary income due to continued volatility, many families have become more alert about how they handle lifestyle issues with their advisors, Grace says.
The same may be true for their advisors. Grace says 2008 provided a wakeup call for many family offices, reminding them to make wiser choices about how to allocate resources toward specialty services, realizing that more time needed to spent be on investment planning.
"I see family offices being sharper and more focused on this issue," says Grace. "They are making sure that these costs are rational."