The Legacy Conversation Advisors Must Have to Succeed in the Great Wealth Transfer

Tom Cormier

Opportunity Lost and Found 

The financial planning and services industries are at a crossroads and never before has the future been less certain for Advisors. Eroding trust is one of many challenges that make it all the more difficult for Advisors to gain assets under management and maintain control.

This comes at a time when the greatest transfer of wealth from one generation to the next is thought to produce a growth opportunity for Financial Advisors and Estate Planners. However, because the human element has been largely ignored in the past, the exact the opposite is playing out.

Fortunately, Advisors can seize a rare opportunity to alter the course by having a meaningful legacy conversation with clients and prospects.

Heirs ‘Get’ the Cake But ‘Need’ the Recipe 

When Financial Advisors and Estate Planners ask clients what they want to accomplish with their wealth, the response often reflects their why.

“We want to make sure that our kids and grandkids don’t have to walk the same rough path that we had to.” Or in a similar sentiment, “We want to make a difference in the lives of our family for generations to come.”

The nobility of these assertions is evident but the reality is that far too many succession plans fail. While there are structural / organizational reasons for failure, the overwhelming cause is through failings in human nature.

When the professional Advisor’s focus is solely on building and preserving financial assets to pass on thecake to heirs, the recipe to create the wealth is often lost. And when wealth is divorced from the wisdom that created it, the net result is waste.

Advisors not only have a fiduciary responsibility to bring this to the attention of their clients but it can greatly affect the future success of their business.   

Find a Need and Fill It

To achieve long term success in business FAs and EPs must achieve three objectives:

  1. Acquire Clients
  2. Manage / Preserve Assets
  3. Retain Clients

While Advisors possess the skills and resources to manage client assets, acquiring new clients is becoming increasingly difficult due to fierce competition and the growth of robo-advisorscommoditizing the investment advisory business.

The solution lies in the old adage,
Find a need and fill it.

To acquire new clients, advisors need to differentiate themselves in competitive landscapes, and retain clients by strengthening relationships.

Coincidently, clients overwhelmingly want a solution to pass down their wisdom along with their wealth, which presents a unique opportunity.

A 2012 Allianz Pulse Survey asked Baby Boomers to rank priorities when passing down an inheritance, and measured their response on a scale from 1-100%. By significant margin the results show a much greater desire to pass down their values than their valuables.

Passing down their family history and stories ranked highest with a score of 86%, while in sharp contrast leaving a financial legacy ranked lowest in priority at only 10%.

Regardless of this lopsided preference, very few Boomers have made provisions for passing on their family history and values with their will or estate plan, primarily due to lack of awareness, resources and professional guidance.

What they need is a trusted Advisor to initiate the legacy conversation, and there is nobody better suited for this than the Advisor entrusted with their financial legacy. 

The ‘Family’ Legacy Conversation 

Historically, advisors have typically failed to include the matriarch and heirs when discussing the client’s financial affairs. This could help explain why 98% of heirs will fire their parent’s advisors after receiving an inheritance, according to PriceWaterhouseCooper Global Private Banking/Wealth Management Survey in 2011.

Many advisors are already losing clients at an alarming rate as the great wealth transfer accelerates, and the pace of attrition is only going to increase. This issue is gaining recognition within the financial services community along with the search for effective solutions.

The Legacy Stories Handbook was featured in a TED Talk by top 100 Advisor, Shari Burnum, at the 2016 Raymond James Advisor Development Conference.

Introducing the concept of holistic financial planningto a thousand elite advisors, Ms. Burnum explained why advisors must change the conversation or risk losing future business.

It is not hard to see that Advisors who don’t start engaging in the legacy conversation may soon find themselves left out of the conversation altogether. The good news is that Advisors can distinguish themselves by being the first among competitors to introduce prospects and clients to the concept of holistic financial or estate planning, and retain more of their clients when life transitions occur.

After years of building a book of business Advisors are faced with the prospect of losing up to 98% of their company value and as much as 98% of their income along the way. Establishing a trusted relationship with the family’s matriarch and heirs increases the likelihood that Advisors can survive this emerging trend.

A survey of 1,000-plus investors conducted by MFS Investment Management in 2013 found 75% of clients said their children had never even met their FAs.

By simply inviting the matriarch and heirs to participate in a legacy conversation, Advisors establish themselves as the Family Advisor, creating an emotional bond that can lead to increased loyalty and generate more referrals

Making the family aware of the wisdom and life lessons that are in their midst and helping them start their own legacy conversation is a gift that keeps on giving, one that can make the Family Advisor nearly irreplaceable. 

Benefits of Ongoing Legacy Conversations 

Building a comprehensive legacy portfolio requires more than a single meeting. Continuing the legacy conversation beyond the introduction can exponentially enrich, expand and grow a solid client base.

There is library of life experiences to share and the matriarch and heirs can contribute a wealth of their own perspectives that are valuable to building the family’s legacy assets.

Once family members get a sense of their personal legacy in the initial meeting they’ll realize the importance of investing time to build the family legacy… together.

Whether with the client alone or with different family members, Advisors can set a regularly scheduled time to continue the legacy conversation, much like the book Tuesdays with Morrie, and offer to record the sessions for posterity with a simple digital voice recorder.

The value added to existing services by conducting these sessions is immeasurable yet requires only an hour or so for each meeting. In most cases, these sessions can easily bolt on to whatever meetings are already planned or arranged.

The benefits for offering regular legacy conversations cannot be overstated and include opportunities to:

  • meet with clients more frequently without talking only about the money
  • discuss changes in the family dynamic and offer solutions
  • deepen relationships where Financial Advisors become Family Advisors
  • meet extended family as they are brought into the legacy conversation
  • meet business partners, associates and colleagues who may become clients
  • generate high quality referrals as the family becomes more engaged with their own legacy
  • generate fee-based revenue for facilitating the sessions with simple packages.

Conclusion 

The Allianz Survey shows Boomers want to pass down their family history and stories, and they need a trusted Advisor to guide them.   

Advisors are facing an uncertain future with the DOL Fiduciary Rule requiring they know their clients.

In the midst of all this tumult, a level of trust can be earned by demonstrating that a client’s wealth is about more than just the money. It’s also helping them understand that their life lessons and values are the glue that binds the generations of the family.

If ever there was a fortuitous time to start the legacy conversation, this is it!

Click here to watch my web class replay of, “How The Emerging Legacy Trend Can Start New Conversations and Generate More Business!”