Where do I begin legacy conversations with clients? What are the attributes of families who are good candidates for discussing a life-long legacy? These questions are so important for embarking on a powerful relationship with clients and building the bridge for their future generations to continue to work with you on their family wealth.
Opening the Relationship
Early on, I realized it was not about closing the sale or deal, it was about opening the relationship. When you open a relationship, ask yourself what level of a relationship is needed so that when it is the appropriate time for a transaction to occur, it is very natural.
There are action steps for both clients and advisors to find success in relational advising, and in bridging wealth over to future generations in the family.
- Understanding your own values. Do you have a way of reaffirming what you stand for? What are the non-negotiable items in the way you live your life? You can spend some time yourself to uncover these if you need to, but then how do you make them known to others? If one of my clients left the room, they would be able to explain a lot about what drives me and describe my character pretty closely. Why? Because I have spent time with them. You will accomplish more by opening a relationship before you start the transactions.
- Everything in life starts with a conversation. I have learned years ago that I should go into a first-time meeting with one thing. A blank sheet of paper. The people that are legacy focused are not product focused, and the same principle applies with advisors toward their clients. Products are a byproduct of the clients’ desire to really engage in a trusted conversation.
- Develop a process. Develop material with short essay questions that take them on a journey of discovering their family legacy. Uncover what they care about, and how that will eventually play into their goals. Ask them about the five areas of wealth:
- Good relationships
- Spiritual Development
- Intellectual Growth
- Financial Resources
In financial services we tend to focus on financial resources the most. Quite frankly, in legacy planning, that is not what they care about. Where their minds are stuck is the first one— their relationships. Start there. The balance sheet with all of the assets under financial resources is just a tool to bring value to the other four areas of wealth. It exists to enrich their relationships, their learning, and their physical well-being.
- Uncover their multi-generational values. Have you developed a values exercise where you can facilitate a values conversation with two generations of one family? When you get into proactive action steps in legacy planning, it is a family affair. Are they planning with their family or are they planning at their family? Conventional estate planning 30 years ago was planning at your kids, and unfortunately it is still practiced today.
- Incorporate charitable giving conversations. As a part of your values conversation, ask about what causes are close to everyone’s heart. Talking through generosity plans strengthens your relationship with clients. To reinforce the importance of understanding and sharing your own values, talk about your own generosity to spark the conversation. Less than half of advisors discuss their own charitable giving with their clients. Among all individuals who discuss philanthropy with an advisor, 53% say that they would place greater value on the philanthropic advice if the client was aware of the advisor’s own philanthropic engagement. Talking about charitable giving as a group leads to understanding their passions and goals and leads to inter-generational understanding of how to carry on those goals.
Encouraging planning with the family and seeing multi-generational discussion and value-based conversations will always yield a higher degree of long-term success.
Be curious not for the size of their balance sheet but be curious to know the size of their heart. If you lead with this in mind and use the building blocks above for opening a relationship with your clients, you will build the bridge for their future generations to know you, trust you, and you receive the gift of becoming a part of their success in transferring not only their family wealth, but their family legacy.
 2018 U.S. Trust Advisor Study