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Philanthropy Focus: US Bank and the UHNW, Pt. 2—Entrepreneurs

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Michael Cole, president of Ascent Private Capital Management, says that ultra-high-net-worth clients wanting to have more of an impact than simply throwing money at a problem are reacting to something beyond simple ambition. (See part 1 of this series on the process and people that Ascent, US Bank’s UHNW division, employs.)

It has to do with Maslow’s pyramid, says Cole; those who have satisfied basic needs and are higher on the pyramid want to have a greater impact. (Abraham Maslow proposed a psychological theory that said basic needs, such as food and water, safety, and love need to be satisfied, in that order, before people look to fulfill other needs such as achievement and self-actualization. These five needs are often depicted as a graphic on a triangle or pyramid. The higher one is on the pyramid or triangle, according to the theory, the more he or she will pursue those more abstract needs.)

What may those specialized staff members with backgrounds other than finance do? Cole (left) says they work with families, and “take [them] through exercises to understand their shared and independent values. Understanding these, they find commonality around philanthropy and causes that are important to them individually, and shared values that are important to them as a family.”

Another difference in the way Ascent treats its clients with regard to philanthropy is by capitalizing on those clients’ entrepreneurial skills. Since, Cole points out, many of the UHNW families they see have established that wealth in some sort of entrepreneurial venture, but fail to use to translate those skills into running their families.

Those “core foundational tenets of establishing a business–planning, leadership process, etc. … All those things that apply in entrepreneurship,” says Cole, “families don’t do [them] in operating the family enterprise.”

Yet those traits, he adds, help them think more strategically as a family—and also help to solve another client problem: the passing along of wealth from generation to generation over several generations, which he says is only about 30% successful among the UHNW.

Those specialized employees “build education and stewardship retreats for [client] families,” customized to each family. Such events provide opportunities for family members to interact in different ways, “to find commonalities and make strategic decisions in philanthropy and other areas.”