Thursday, June 20, 2013

Passing the generational torch

As I watched the Audi commercial of Zachary Quinto (new Spock) vs. Leonard Nimoy (old Spock) (via Barry Ritholz), I am reminded of the issues surrounding the process of passing on the torch from one generation to the next and how it affects the financial services business. A research report from Pershing LLC showed that financial advisors are potentially leaving a lot of money on the table by ignoring their clients' children:
Some $30 trillion in assets is expected to be shifted to younger generations over the next 30 years, according to Pershing LLC, a subsidiary of Bank of New York Mellon. And advisers typically lose half of the assets they manage when those assets are passed from one generation to the next, a 2011 study by consulting firm PriceWaterhouse Coopers found.

In a survey of 317 advisers conducted in February and March, Pershing found that more than half of their affluent clients had adult children, but advisers had talked about finances with only about a third of those children.

Advisers who don't want to lose those assets should get up to speed on how to win the next generation. The basics: Attract them with engaging events and modern practice-management methods, then retain them with solid financial planning.
The suggested solution is to spend time wooing the kids:

You can start by coordinating a family meeting so your clients can introduce you to their children. Make estate planning the focus so you can explore the family's expectations for their wealth - and try to ferret out situations where the parents and the children might have different financial objectives that could complicate your serving both of them at the same time.

Offer to provide complimentary financial planning to your clients' children. These accounts won't pay big, but the parents will appreciate it. Then hand off those accounts to younger advisers in your office. Not only will this be good practice for them, they'll probably be better at relating to the younger clients.
Focus more on the needs of Gen X and Millennials by "Remodeling for a hipper look":
Consider making over your office to make it more appealing to the next generation, said Wayne Badorf of Wells Fargo Asset Management, a practice-management expert. Put a few magazine-loaded iPads in the lobby, install Wifi and add energy drinks to your complimentary beverages.

You may need to revamp your online image. As long as your compliance officer approves, use your site to link to financial podcasts and interesting websites. And make it a portal for clients to access their statements and make updates to accounts.

Overly conventional thinking
I believe that such approaches are likely to yield disappointing results. When I speak to affluent Baby Boomers, their fears are that their children will not have the tools to properly manage their wealth. Their darkest fear is their kids acquire the Paris Hilton syndrome. A common refrain is, "What happens when my twentysomething son/daughter gets this [six or seven figure] windfall drop in their laps?"

Indeed, the SEC found that financial literacy is a serious issue amongst Americans. A Dodd-Frank-mandated study of financial literacy and concluded that Americans have a low level of financial literacy:

Studies reviewed by the Library of Congress indicate that U.S. retail investors lack basic financial literacy. The studies demonstrate that investors have a weak grasp of elementary financial concepts and lack critical knowledge of ways to avoid investment fraud.
A 2009 FINRA study found that investors way over-estimated their own financial knowledge. They were fairly confident about their own abilities, but when asked some basic financial concepts, their understanding was appalling lacking. Here are the questions, which shouldn't be that difficult for anyone who has some basic financial understanding:
  1. Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1% a year and inflation was 2% a year. After one year, how much would be able to buy with the money in this account? [More|Less] (64% correct)
  2. If interest rates rise, what will typically happen to bond prices? (21% correct)
  3. Supposing that you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2% per year. After five years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow? [More than $102|Less than $102] (65% correct)
  4. A 15-year mortgage typically requires higher monthly payments than a 30-year mortgage, but the total interest paid over the life of the loan will be less. [True|False] (70% correct)
  5. Buying a single company's stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund. [True|False] (52% correct)

Financial literacy + Instilling passion = Value creation
There is a silver lining in this dark cloud. The FINRA study showed that higher income groups were more financially literate than the general population. Nevertheless, I believe that the road to recruiting the next generation of clients is involves a dual-track approach of financial education and instilling a passion for creating wealth. The latter is important because it shifts the attitude of the next generation from viewing the inheritance as consumption (the Paris Hilton symdrome) to wealth generation.

Katherine Lintz of Financial Management Partners seems to have hit the right notes in her approach, according to this Bloomberg report:
They call it “money camp.” Twice a week, 6- to 11-year-old scions of wealthy families take classes on being rich. They compete to corner commodities markets in Pit, the raucous Parker Brothers card game, and take part in a workshop called “business in a box,” examining products that aren’t obvious gold mines, such as the packaging on Apple Inc.’s iPhone rather than the phone itself.
The results have been astounding:
Lintz, 58, is on to something. Her 22-year-old firm was No. 2 among the fastest-growing multifamily offices in the second annual Bloomberg Markets ranking of companies that manage affairs for dynastic clans, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its September issue. The assets that FMP supervises grew 30 percent to $2.6 billion as of Dec. 31, just behind Signature, a Norfolk, Virginia-based family office that expanded 36 percent in 2011 to $3.6 billion.
I believe that Lintz has found a formula that many financial advisory firms catering to the HNW market has ignored or didn't know how to approach - the issue of how to recruit the next generation of clients. By combining financial literacy education and an approach that instills a passion for creating wealth, her firm has made its AUM much stickier and fashioned an important tool to recruit older clients who are concerned about these issues of how to pass the family torch.

Investment firms, analysts and advisors spend a lot of time talking and thinking about how companies create value. This is one way of how investment firms can create values for themselves.

Cam Hui is a portfolio manager at Qwest Investment Fund Management Ltd. ("Qwest"). This article is prepared by Mr. Hui as an outside business activity. As such, Qwest does not review or approve materials presented herein. The opinions and any recommendations expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or recommendations of Qwest.

None of the information or opinions expressed in this blog constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security or other instrument. Nothing in this article constitutes investment advice and any recommendations that may be contained herein have not been based upon a consideration of the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific recipient. Any purchase or sale activity in any securities or other instrument should be based upon your own analysis and conclusions. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Either Qwest or Mr. Hui may hold or control long or short positions in the securities or instruments mentioned.

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