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This chapter is from the book

Taking Control of the Wealth Management Process

Using the Strategic Wealth Management Framework requires leadership. Leadership is necessary to define and reinforce your family purpose, govern your business, and manage your family’s leakages. You must accept personal accountability for managing your wealth, regardless of whether you want to manage simply and conservatively or with focus and risk. It doesn’t matter whether your goal is to build the next Rockefeller dynasty, launch a new start-up business, save for retirement, or hand over day-to-day responsibilities for wealth management to an advisor who has earned the moniker “trusted.” In all cases, you, as the wealth owner, must take personal charge of your wealth management by assuming a role I refer to throughout the book as the “Wealth Strategist.”

Sometimes the Wealth Strategist is an individual. Sometimes several, or better yet, all adult family members work as a team to play the role. Typically, a first-generation wealth creator takes on the role himself or herself. In a multigenerational context, either model can operate successfully. However, if you still have a family business, business leadership is often separated from the Wealth Strategist role. The Wealth Strategist’s role is governance and succession planning for the entire family enterprise, of which the business is one critical component. Managing a complex multigenerational family and managing a successful business are just too much for one person to manage effectively, and the required skills are different.

In the multigenerational context, just as it is important for business leadership and financial managers to be accountable to the owners, it is important for Wealth Strategists to serve at the pleasure of the family. Autocratic leadership is a characteristic of many successful entrepreneurs, but as an American family governance structure it tends to be fundamentally unstable, even when the position is earned through merit and sanctioned by the previous generation! One of the big challenges for second-generation leaders of family enterprises is in shifting the culture from autocracy to a more democratic form of family governance, even as your family business might continue to need strong, autocratic executive leadership. As families plan succession from one generation to the next, it’s important to think about the characteristics required to be a successful leader in the next generation, not just the preceding one. Business-owning families have another transition that they often have to struggle through: shifting the family’s involvement from business leadership and governance to business governance that relies on nonfamily professional senior management.

Successful Wealth Strategists have a skillful hand in leading their families through these transitions. For those with substantial wealth and a multigenerational timeframe, a managed transition of the Wealth Strategist role from one generation to the next is a critical task. In turn, my great-grandfather, my grandfather, and then my father played the role of Wealth Strategist. Today, I share the Wealth Strategist role with my brothers William and John and our sister, Nori. My sister-in-law, Melissa, my wife, Susan, and I also lead Wealth Strategist Partners, serving as Chief Investment Officer to our family and a handful of others. As a rule, our family believes in gradual generational transitions, not as a delaying tactic by the older generation to retain power, but to give ourselves time to diligently work through the inevitable issues that arise. Time has been our ally in working out complex family and financial dynamics. I hope it can be yours too.

You and your family stand to benefit greatly from having designated Wealth Strategists in place to work closely with advisors and family business leaders. As a chief investment officer to a handful of wealthy families and a teacher of wealth management, I know that the relationships I’ve built with designated Wealth Strategists from other families over the years make wealth management activities a lot easier and more efficient for everybody. If I’m able to work with a designated Wealth Strategist, we can optimize our working relationship in numerous ways. We use our time more efficiently, we make better investment decisions during times of stress, and our decisions are based on a clearly understood set of operating principles and investment goals. As an educated client, you’ll delegate responsibility more effectively, and you will distinguish confidently and accurately between good and mediocre performance.

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