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What Advisors Can Learn From Ultra-Wealthy Clients


Specializing in ultra-high net worth wealth management can offer valuable opportunities to learn from your clients. By definition, ultra-high net worth refers to individuals with assets over $30 million. These affluent investors may seek out your knowledge and expertise in managing those assets, but they may have insights of their own to share. In working with these types of clients, you may be in a position to enhance your skillset while delivering top-tier service that’s attuned to their individual needs, goals and expectations.

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What Ultra-High Net Worth Wealth Management Involves

The ultra-wealthy have unique needs when it comes to managing their assets and they often require a higher level of sophistication on their advisor’s part. The core principles remain the same, in that an advisor’s job is to help their clients realize their financial goals. However, working with a larger pool of assets can present more complex challenges when it comes to things like tax planning, diversification and wealth preservation.

For instance, a client with an eight-figure net worth may hold a sizable portion of assets in offshore accounts or foreign investments. The advisor who’s working with that client will need to understand the legal and regulatory frameworks for managing those assets to ensure that they’re doing so ethically and in compliance with any applicable laws or rules.

A billionaire philanthropist, meanwhile, may be focused on establishing a private foundation for charitable giving that will continue to operate beyond their lifetime. Or they might need help with legacy planning to preserve wealth across future generations, which is complicated by their having an extensive family network. In either case, an advisor can guide them on the best ways to accomplish their goals.

What Advisors Can Learn From the Ultra-Wealthy

An ultra-high-net worth client working with a financial advisor.

One of the benefits of working with affluent clients is that they can teach you how to better serve them if you’re receptive to the cues they’re giving. You can also pick up on some of the strategies and practices these clients rely on to build and maintain wealth.

Here are some of the most helpful things you can pick up through a career in ultra-high net worth management.

Lesson #1: Don’t assume a client has a plan. Every so often, a celebrity death makes headlines but not for the reasons you might think. There have been countless cases of ultra-wealthy celebrities who passed away without an estate plan in place, leading to financial chaos for those fighting for a share of their assets.

Whether you work exclusively with ultra-high net worth clients or a mix of clients from different financial backgrounds, don’t let assumptions lead you astray. When in doubt about the status of a client’s estate plan or any other aspect of their financial plan, ask. A simple question can open the door to an important discussion that could help prevent complications later on.

Lesson #2: Time is just as valuable as money. Ultra-wealthy clients may live busy lifestyles that leave no room for a wasted moment. As an advisor, the lesson you can learn from that is to treat every second of your interactions with clients with the greatest care and attention.

That means being prepared, punctual and responsive to your clients’ requests for information or assistance. If you’re meeting with a prospective client for the first time, don’t go into the meeting blind.

Do your research beforehand so that you know who you’re meeting and can better anticipate any questions they might have for you. Ideally, prospects and clients should walk away from their meetings with you feeling that it was time well spent.

Lesson #3: You’re not just working with one person. When you sit down with an affluent client to discuss their finances, they may be the only person in your office. But they’re not the only individual that you’re planning for.  

For instance, your client might have a spouse, children, grandchildren or other loved ones who have an interest in how their wealth is managed. Or they may be running a Fortune 500 company that employs hundreds of people who would be affected by any succession planning decisions your client makes.

Other parties may not have a direct say in the decisions your client makes but they may feel the impacts of them all the same. When working with the ultra-wealthy, it’s important to remember that the big picture may be much bigger than you think and that’s something to account for as you shape their financial plans.

Lesson #4: Risk must be respected and anticipated. Regardless of how a client obtains their wealth—whether it’s through inheritance, marriage or building a successful business—they most likely have zero interest in losing it. As their advisor, it’s your job to understand their boundaries for risk and what they are (or aren’t) willing to do when it comes to managing their assets.

There’s another dimension to the risk discussion to consider as well. The ultra-wealthy may, by nature, be wary of receiving advice from advisors when there isn’t a solid foundation of trust in place. That could be risky if they’re forgoing recommendations that would ultimately benefit them and increase their wealth long-term.

Taking time to cultivate trust with your clients by actively listening to what they have to say can help you overcome any reluctance on their part to take your advice. Your practice should be a safe space for your clients in which they can feel comfortable expressing their fears or doubts and asking questions as they arise.

Lesson #5: You get what you pay for. It’s a reality that one of the attractions of working with ultra-high net worth clients is the opportunity to increase your earnings. More assets under management means more fees you can collect. However, your clients expect you to deliver services that are equivalent in value.

Affluent clients may not mind paying higher fees to you if you’re delivering top-tier services and overdelivering above and beyond what you’ve told them you’re going to do for them. That isn’t necessarily measured in investment returns either. Superior customer service can go a long way toward gaining your clients’ loyalty, even if investment returns sometimes fall short of projections.

However, if you consistently overpromise and underdeliver that’s a fast way to lose those clients. And remember, the wealthy talk to one another. If you’re hoping to gain new referrals from your existing clients, you’ll need to give them a reason to tell their friends about you.

If you’re looking to acquire new ultra-high-net-worth clients, consider using a lead generation service. SmartAsset’s Advisor Marketing Platform (AMP) offers financial advisors services like client lead generation, automated marketing and more. Learn about SmartAsset AMP today.

Bottom Line

A financial advisor providing wealth management services for ultra-high net worth clients.

Ultra-high net worth wealth management can be an extremely rewarding field if you know how to navigate it. Letting your clients act as a guide can increase your odds of success as you work to scale your firm.

Tips for Growing Your Advisory Business

  • You may be able to find more of or niche clients with a lead generation service. SmartAsset AMP (Advisor Marketing Platform) is a holistic marketing service financial advisors can use for client lead generation and automated marketing. Sign up for a free demo to explore how SmartAsset AMP can help you expand your practice’s marketing operation. Get started today.
  • Having a professional website can help to catch the eye of wealthy investors who may be searching for an advisor online. If you have yet to develop a site or are interested in revamping an existing site, researching examples of website design for financial advisors from top firms can yield some helpful ideas and inspiration.

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