“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” This line appeared in a short story written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1926, and even after all these years, there’s a good deal of truth in it—truth that needs to be understood by those who want to serve high net worth clients as business advisors.
You might be surprised to learn that the first thing I recommend to business advisors who aspire to serve the wealthy is to be comfortable with how they feel about money, and understand the issues they may have regarding it.
You should think back to your first experiences with money, as well as the messages you heard about money from your family while you were growing up. Without that “baseline,” it will be quite challenging to serve as an advocate to high net worth clients—although there’s much more to the psychology of money, which I’ll discuss in future blogs.
Once you have a firm grasp of your relationship with money, you then can move on to attempting to meet the high level of expectations that wealthy clients will have. Actually, what high net worth clients want isn’t much different than their less-well-off counterparts, but the stakes are quite a bit higher, as is the scrutiny.
In a nutshell, high net worth clients desire:
- Objective advice
- Relationship stability
The ultra wealthy will also be quite cost-conscious—they didn’t amass fortunes without keeping a sharp eye on the bottom line. And, you can never forget that they have plenty of choices when it comes to selecting their business advisors, since they’re coveted as clients, and they talk with one another, so word about good or bad performance quickly gets around.
In addition to overseeing “dollars and cents,” it’s also important as the business advisor of high net worth clients that you understand the impact decisions made today have on legacies and inheritances. You may need to broaden your view of what wealth is, and address issues such as openness (or lack thereof), difficult family members, and value transfer.
At the core of every relationship is going to be trust, since those with the most to lose need to have complete confidence in those they select as business advisors. Five of the most important elements of trust are:
- Integrity—having a reputation for honesty
- Competency—being technically knowledgeable and able to provide interpretative data
- Consistency—showing good judgment in all situations
- Loyalty—protecting clients’ interests at all times
- Openness—sharing information freely and being comfortable in your own skin
One resource I recommend to business advisors who want to enhance their chances of securing high net worth clients is “Families of Wealth” by Charles Collier. Among its many takeaways is learning the importance wealthy people place on human, intellectual, social and financial capital. Remember, the rich are different, but knowing how to address their needs as a business advisor is the first step toward developing long-term, lucrative relationships.