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Family matters when deciding where ones wealth should go. Thats the idea behind a newly designed kit intended to help advisors steer wealthy households through the complexities unique to their situation.

The impetus behind Phoenix Companies “Exploring the Family Dynamics of Wealth” was twofold, says Walter Zultowski, senior vice president of marketing for the Hartford, Conn.-based insurer.

“We saw there was a lot more being written about the emotional issues of wealth, raising children, sudden wealth syndrome, how wealth can get in the way of planning,” Zultowski says.

“From producers, wed hear a planning idea got stalled not because of the idea–there was no argument from the client–but the family created an additional dynamic,” he says.

In looking for ways to handle conflicts of interest among the family of wealthy clients, many producers expressed an interest in using methods popular with the very wealthy market, such as going on a retreat, Zultowski says.

Producers who work with wealthy families might not be able to take a whole clan to a resort, but they can take them to dinner, or arrange a family meeting. The kit was designed to facilitate such a strategy, Zultowski says.

Although the program centers around building consensus, the interest of the client, or the family member who has done the most to accumulate the wealth, remains the advisors primary concern, Zultowski says.

“In the model, we talk about the family founder, the individual who made the wealth; hell have the most say,” Zultowski says.

“The advisor is providing a process by which the family can come together, not the answers,” he continues. “Were not teaching advisors to be clinical psychologists; its helping family members to see the issues.”

Based on Phoenixs Wealth Management Model, the kit includes an illustration of the model that depicts factors that have an impact on or contribute to family wealth, such as governance, heritage and philanthropy. An advisor can show the illustration to a clients family to help them better understand the concepts involved in wealth management, Zultowski says.

The kit also includes a guide to facilitate a family meeting; a comprehensive questionnaire designed to stimulate discussion in a number of areas; a family wealth resource guide and a CD-ROM that an advisor can use at a family meeting.

Phoenix considers the resource guide the “backbone” of the kit. It provides the fundamentals of and advice on a number of issues relevant to old- and new-money families, including inherited wealth; the family business; philanthropy; new wealth and children–all of which can cause conflict within a wealthy family, according to Phoenix.

Zultowski says the kit is not designed to thrust advisors into the role of psychologist; rather, it gives them a way to handle issues that would arise whether they were prepared for them or not.

Advisors who talk about business succession issues with family of wealthy clients are already in such a position, he says.

“Its only an advisor who has a level of trust who can take the next step,” Zultowski says. “The family wont be comfortable discussing those ideas with an advisor whos just coming in. Theyre already opening up all their financial information to them.”

If an advisor working with the kit feels she has gotten into a situation beyond her knowledge, shed be able to contact help, Zultowski says.

Phoenix worked with Terry Hunt, a licensed psychologist, in preparing the kit. In addition to his academic credentials, Hunts personal background lends him extra cachet on the topic of wealthy families: he is a third-generation heir to a multinational business concern, according to information from Phoenix.

Hunts services are available at a discount to advisors working with the Phoenix kit, Zultowski says.

The kit is valuable to advisors of wealthy clients in more ways than one, he says, because it is a continuum of services.

“There are educational materials for the advisor, then the advisor starts to use the ideas, including the family meeting and questionnaire, and finally she can work with Hunt or a local psychologist of her own choosing.

“The kit itself runs the gamut,” Zultowski says. “Its an ongoing practice.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, October 22, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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