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Why Clients Struggle with Receiving Wealth Advice

What is the value of Wealth Advice?  What is Wealth Management?  What are the benefits of Wealth Advice?

It is not easy to explain these to clients as clients have different needs and wants, knowledge and experience, are at different life stages and also personalities and behaviours.

Many clients struggle with receiving Wealth Advice, and it is not difficult to understand why:

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The term Wealth Management was first heard in 1933, years after the stock market crash of 1929 and during the Great Depression. Why?  Possibly, on hindsight – what if the losses could be lessened?

No. 1 Learning Starts After Mistakes or Crises

Most clients believe they can manage money on their own, especially in their age (25 – 35).  Until they get busier, more pressure at work, personal problems, family problems and start losing track of their money.  They will start to forget to do something that results in missed opportunities or loss of money.

As they enter into their prime working years (age 35 – 50), they either get caught up with managing career, children or parents.  With increasing income and extra savings, they start to upgrade their lifestyle and investments.  Fortunes might reverse as they get hit by retrenchment and personal or family issues.  Or worst, an extended economic crisis in their prime.

Getting onto their years (50-120), problems start.  Health issues increase, they are unable to grasp economic changes, and their ability to understand & learn drop.  Naturally, they turn conservative and focus on preserving money, taking high risk only on an isolated approach.

Then they realise taxes such as estate duties could change over time.  Or holding certain investments might have taxes due to law changes.  Inflation rate may also go up.  Their frustration grows due to their lack of financial knowledge and as economy and society advances (in other words, more layers and more complex).

The lucky ones learn through the mistakes of others.


No. 2 Wealth Advice Means Higher Returns

Portfolio Projection

One of the key reason why clients have Wealth Managers is to grow their money.  Why would you pay a fee for wealth advice unless you can make more money?  This is one of the biggest misconception about wealth advice.

A wealth manager can manage investments, is not an investment expert, but can be an investment expert.

A doctor (GP) can diagnose an illness, is not a top surgeon, but can do an immediate surgery (if he or she knows how).  The outcome is either positive or negative.

An investment expert can be (possibly) further defined:

  • A person with deep knowledge on the subject
  • A person who knows how to execute and transact
  • A person who has a broad understanding
  • A person who has extensive experience
  • A person who can create positive returns for a period
  • A person who can create positive returns for a long period
  • A person who can manage the risks
  • A person who knows where to find the information on these
  • A person who knows how to interpret the information
  • A person who knows how to point out wrong information
  • A person who knows how to explain all these
  • A person who can teach all these
  • A person who has a strong opinion on all these
  • A person who knows how to run an investment firm
  • A person who owns an investment firm
  • A person who monitors all these
  • A person who knows nothing, but makes a lot of money from investments

The ones that clients are generally interested in are highlighted in blue.  Unfortunately, when clients carry this expectations, they might be disappointed with the wealth advice.

Some of the top investment managers keep an extremely low profile.  Some do not want others to know what they are doing.

They might only get the wealthiest families to invest money with them.  Their funds could be closed-ended or closed for subscriptions.  In other words, they don’t take in subscriptions no matter how large the investments will be, unless they open up the subscription.


No. 3 Clients’ Expectation

Investment Advisor

If you have a higher income or more money, don’t you ever feel you have arrived and start to give instructions on what to do and how to do things.

Unfortunately, this is one of the reason why clients struggle with receiving wealth advice.  They usually delegate the work to wealth managers or have stringent requirements such as what they want and don’t want to do.

They might listen and discuss about wealth management, but they usually barely understand (given financial industry & products are not easy to understand, even for the experts).

A Wealth Discussion: I will set up an account with Bank A, Bank B and my Financial Advisor C, with $200,000 each. I will compare the returns at the end of the year.  I don’t want high risks.  I don’t want long term bonds.  I don’t want foreign exchange exposure.  I want low risks products, no gearing and a few percent returns higher than deposit rates.

Many wealthy clients also prefer not to share too much about their wealth with others.  These may invite unwanted attention, especially becoming the natural targets of kidnapping, blackmails or scams.

This means clients may also expect the Wealth Managers not to know too much about what they are thinking of, how much they have and not to do too much (complications) on their money.


No. 4 Mega-Wealthy Clients Need Wealth Managers But …

Affluent Clients

Mega-wealthy clients always need wealth managers.  But for most clients, do they really need a Wealth Manager?

Do they need basic financial planning or do they need wealth management advice? What are they trying to achieve with having a Wealth Manager and receiving Wealth Advice?  What if the advice went wrong?  How much are they willing to pay for advice?  Would and should clients pay 1% to 2% of advisory fee yearly?

Unfortunately, most clients, do not grow up visiting Private Banks, having Private Bankers on the dining table discussing about economic trends and financial products.  Due to their lack of knowledge and understanding, they couldn’t really figure out how to discuss and receive wealth advice.

Even if they are born in a mega-wealthy family, their parents may not want their children to know too much of their massive fortune, and in the process, remove children from the discussion.

Most wealthy clients do not need Wealth Managers to grow their money.  Their rate of wealth growth is already extraordinarily high.  They get Wealth Managers to track and execute their instructions.  They may also get them to preserve their assets by investing in traditional portfolio.

How they really work with wealth managers is to get high quality wealth advice: such as educating their children and family on managing wealth, structuring solutions for their businesses, investments and family assets, coordinating experts to help with different financial needs such as buying real estate in Los Angeles, Paris or Shanghai.  Sometimes, to take advantage of investment opportunities or to hedge business risks.


No. 5 Tax and Complicated Filings

Portfolio Advisory

In some countries, tax filings are so complicated such that you don’t have a choice but to get a Wealth Manager or Tax Accountant to do it.

And since there are tax-deductible investments, having a Wealth Manager who can reduce tax and optimize asset allocation becomes important.  In other words, even during a negative portfolio period, clients are better off due to reduced tax payments.

And with tax rates exceeding 20%, 30%, 40% in some countries, if paying 2% advisory fee can reduce tax from 40% to 20%, why not?

It is great if clients are willing to pay 2% for advisory and filing.  Unfortunately, since tax filings and investment deductible calculations are so complex, most clients start to delegate the full responsibilities to their Wealth Managers, and lose the opportunity to learn how to manage their wealth.


These are some of the reasons why clients struggle with receiving wealth advice. How are the first meetings with your clients like?

  • Are your clients receptive to receiving your wealth advice?
  • What percentage of their wealth or assets are under your advice?
  • How many years does it take before you get to manage half their assets?

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