Philanthropy Focus: US Bank and the UHNW, Pt. 1—Wealth's Impact

Ascent Private Capital Management, the UHNW division of US Bank, incorporates philanthropy from the beginning of the engagement with clients

Managing the assets of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) clients can be challenging—and rewarding—enough, but when you add in philanthropic goals it can take the process to a whole new level, says Michael Cole, president of Ascent Private Capital Management, the UHNW division of US Bank. In this three-part series, we will look at some of the ways Ascent manages the process.

According to Cole, the UHNW want more from their advisors than simple money management, and he and his division have taken that to heart. In fact, says Cole, they has changed its whole process to incorporate philanthropy from the bottom up and even configured its staff differently to accommodate what he says are the true desires of the UHNW: to manage the impact of their money, not just the money itself.

Ascent is a young division, just launched in April, with its first offices opening in Minneapolis and Denver later in the year and plans for additional offices in 2012. Its newness may be reflected in its approach to working with UHNW individuals, since it uses family dynamics communications specialists with specialized psychological backgrounds to work with its clients on such issues as family dynamics, communications, vision and values and understanding the strengths of various family members.

Cole (left) says that not only does Ascent have people with law degrees and financial certifications, but also “people with organizational psychology [degrees], and we will add people with history and genealogy [backgrounds].” That’s not to say, he adds, that family dynamics is a practice unto itself, but that it should include, along with the management of wealth, the impact of wealth.

“Having someone with a background in organizational psychology and wealth dynamics, along with traditional [degrees like] law, taxes, etc., gives a much better experience to our clients,” he explains.

According to Cole, the issue of wealth management is much broader than most firms accommodate. “We recognized that our clients who have been fortunate enough to make or inherit substantial sums of money want to do more than just manage wealth,” he says. “They want our assistance in managing the impact of wealth.”

Ascent’s platform was designed around the recognition that wealth is more than money, and that its client base is “aligned with what we see as a worldwide secular trend around wanting to make a greater impact on families and the world at large. Part of this is philanthropy, but it’s broader than that,” says Cole, also covering impact investing, entrepreneurship and more. “We see clients, who maybe are not names that you know, who also want to do things like making an impact with their wealth, leaving a better world for future generations and investing for greater good and positive impact.”

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