For the past few years, we’ve been using the tagline “Managing Complexity, Delivering Simplicity.” Sounds nice, maybe even pithy. But what does it really mean, and why would anyone care?
Speaking from my own experience, both in servicing clients for over thirty years and in handling my own financial affairs, I can tell you that the answer is pretty simple; when you accumulate wealth, you accumulate complexity too. Fighting through that complexity, making sense of and managing the details, and simplifying what we can, when we can, is among the things that our team at Strategic Wealth Partners does best.
We are fortunate to work with many clients who are quite wealthy, and we have done so throughout our firm’s 15+ years. My co-founder, Dave Copeland, and I have another couple of decades of prior experience doing the same. Throughout our careers, we have prided ourselves on the depth of our connections to these clients, and that has become ingrained in the SWP culture.
This experience, and the strength of our service model, has given us a front-row seat to our clients’ financial lives. We do much more than craft an investment portfolio; simply put, our clients rely on us for all sorts of financial issues, big and small.
Recently, we took a fresh look at the types of work we do for some of our larger clients and realized that all these activities can best be described as Family Office Services.
Unfortunately, the term Family Office Services has become quite ‘buzzy’ these days. Everyone seems to be talking about it in one form or another. There’s a well-worn saying in this space, “If you’ve seen one family office, you’ve seen one family office.” That’s very true, and it’s largely because there’s no clear-cut definition of what the services entail or who delivers them.
Candidly, a lot of what we’ve seen in the industry can best be described as marketing fluff. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of great firms out there doing great Family Office work. But there are far more pretenders than contenders.
After doing a lot of this work for many, many years, and closely following our clients’ evolving needs, we recently launched a new page on our website that sums up our services this way:
We help families with especially complex financial lives bring their dreams and ambitions to life.
More specifically, some of the specific ways we are helping our clients include:
Getting you organized (and helping you stay that way). Last October, we were delighted to welcome Jackie Melinger and her team of Client Advocates from My Personal Bookkeeper (MPB) to the SWP team. The MPB team can pay your bills, manage your medical insurance claims, facilitate your charitable giving, and more. They’ll even analyze your spending. Even though you may have far more than you need, you likely still want to know where the money is going… and make sure you are not spending needlessly.
Coordinating your entire team. We frequently gather our clients’ attorneys, accountants, insurance advisors and others together with the singular focus of making sure everyone is rowing in the same direction and squarely focused on your needs. These meetings are always productive and result in everyone having a deeper understanding of the big picture and working together more cohesively.
Developing the right investment plan. Incorporating all your unique circumstances into a cohesive investment strategy is at the heart of what we do. We’re not trying to beat some arbitrary benchmark; rather, we want to get you where you need to be while prudently managing the risk to your already substantial portfolio. Our sophisticated approach often incorporates non-traditional investments for certain clients. We have used “alternative” strategies since our founding, and we strongly believe they can be hugely additive when used wisely.
Synthesizing all your investments. Sometimes, our wealthiest clients have other advisors. Our state-of-the-art performance reporting system can seamlessly pull data on other accounts and incorporate it into your portfolio – so there is no need to log into multiple websites and consolidate data yourself.
Serving as another set of eyes and ears. If you have substantial wealth, you likely see myriad one-off investment opportunities. Our team can help you vet these investments and advise you whether – and how – they might fit into your portfolio.
Managing – and understanding – all those deals. If you’re one of those clients who has collected a bunch of small private investments (think real estate, venture capital, private equity, intra-family loans and other stuff), our reporting system can provide valuable insights. We’ll gladly interface with the sponsors themselves (or their portals) to pull data on distributions and values. We’ll even facilitate capital calls, track what you’ve funded and what you haven’t, and hunt down all the K-1s. And we’ve created some amazing reports that provide lots of great information.
Tracking of your entire net worth. We typically prepare a net worth statement for our clients, at least annually. Working with you and your team, we’ll pull together the necessary data to give you a complete picture, including what is owned by whom, whether it’s inside or outside your estate, and how the pieces fit together.
Managing all those trusts and other entities. As your estate grows, or your business interests expand, you’ll likely find that keeping track of everything is really messy. Our team can help you understand the big picture while also tracking all those frustrating little details – things like making sure gifts are made, insurance premiums are paid from the proper account, even getting cash in the right place at the same time.
Planning, planning, and more planning. Traditional financial planning focuses on things like putting your kids through college, saving for retirement, building a solid portfolio, getting the proper insurance in place, and many other topics. For the very wealthy, these particular topics may not be especially relevant – but that doesn’t mean that planning isn’t still important. The opportunities to work with your attorneys on an incredibly powerful wealth transfer strategy, or with your accountants on effectively managing taxes, or with your insurance advisor on preserving your wealth, can be extraordinarily impactful.
Setting up future generations for success. It’s been incredibly rewarding to watch my peers’ kids grow into young adults, take over family businesses, become entrepreneurs, or just to start managing their own affairs. For those clients with generational wealth, we help prepare the younger generation for the responsibilities that come with all that wealth. We’ll coach them on being financially savvy, help you explain your values and desires with them, and sit by your side to make sure they’re prepared to take the helm.
Helping you think about your legacy. For many ultra-high net-worth clients, philanthropy is as important as any other goal. Once you have more than enough, the focus frequently turns to thinking through what your legacy should be, including how to use your assets to serve both your family and the world around you. We can help you think through integrating your charitable objectives with your overall estate and wealth transfer plan, while also considering the important tax implications.
The list could go on and on, but hopefully this provides some insight into how we at SWP think about serving the needs of our Family Office clients. The scope of services will surely expand over time as we continue to collaborate with clients and learn about their needs, or as the world around us evolves, or as new technologies are developed. On that last point, we’re currently investigating a software tool that seems to have amazing potential to help wealthy families organize their affairs. Hopefully, more to come on this soon.
Over time, my own family’s needs have grown to be increasingly complex. My wife Laurie and I are both entrepreneurs, so we’ve experienced the challenges and rewards of owning businesses. Each of us has experienced partial liquidity events, we have navigated the challenges of settling parents’ estates, and of course, our wealth has grown.
So personally, I’ve started using many of the above services, and it’s already been hugely impactful. I’m excited to continue this journey for my own family, and we’d be delighted to explore how we can help yours.
Please reach out to me or a SWP team member if you’d like to discuss any of our family office services in detail.
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