Over the years, we have had the privilege to serve a wide range of corporate executives: CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CMOs, Founders, Directors, and VPs, to name a few.
These clients have unique long-term goals, resources, and values, but we continue to see one common denominator: all are extremely busy leading their companies forward, leaving little time to focus on their personal wealth management strategy.
In this article, we’ll share a bit about how we serve this unique group of clients and the planning challenges (and opportunities) that come with executive compensation. As always, we invite you to connect with our team to discuss any of the ideas covered.
It Starts With Planning
For every client that we serve, our work begins by understanding their unique financial life. What does their personal balance sheet look like? What milestones are on their horizon? What is their tolerance for market risk? What are the key drivers of income, and what does their overall cash flow look like?
We ask these same types of questions when working with corporate executives but tend to find unique complexities when it comes to their compensation and cash flow. For many executives, it’s not uncommon for them to be managing four or five “asset buckets” at any given time:
Investment portfolio – Brokerage accounts, Roth or Traditional IRAs from previous employers, inherited IRAs, etc.
Benefit Programs – Deferred Compensation, ESOPs, Capital Accounts, or Pensions
Equity compensation – Restricted stock units (RSUs), Non-qualified stock options (NSOs), Incentive stock options (ISOs), Performance shares, etc.
If you are an executive, these individual “buckets” make up your total portfolio, and it’s important to understand how changes in one area may change your risk and return profile of the whole.
At SWP, our central premise is to provide comprehensive guidance that covers all aspects of your wealth. In practice, this means considering how your annual tax bill would be impacted by selling NSOs, or how changes to your deferred compensation plan should impact your 401(k) asset allocation. Through this work, we provide value (both in dollars and time) to the executives that we serve, and for me, managing this type of complexity is one of the most enjoyable aspects of our work.
Managing Concentration Risk
While the composition of your financial life is likely complex, you probably also face unique risks. One of the biggest risks is “concentration risk.”
Concentration risk can occur anytime your financial well-being is highly exposed to just one company, sector, or asset class. As an executive, it is especially easy to encounter concentration risk because your salary, equity compensation, and benefits package are all tied to your company.
The past year and a half have been a good reminder that unforeseen events can, and do, impact the financial standing of successful companies. Accordingly, we work with corporate executives to identify concentration risk within their portfolio and reduce that risk. For many, this may involve identifying a maximum allocation to their company’s stock or working to sell company stock on a predefined schedule.
In doing so, we are mindful that selling company stock is rarely a simple or straightforward decision for executives. For many executives, there are factors that encourage them to hold more stock than would otherwise be advisable, including:
- The desire to be a “team player” by holding shares rather than selling
- Their understanding of their own company, which can lead to familiarity bias (accepting greater risk in a known entity rather than a reduced risk in lesser-known entities)
- Uncertainty around the tax implications of selling shares or exercising options
Ultimately, the decision to re-allocate company stock is up to you. However, we can help define the quantity of concentration risk you face and the alternatives that may exist.
Company Benefits and 401(k) Decisions
Lastly, it’s important to note that many corporate executives we serve also oversee their company’s 401(k) retirement plan. Our team is uniquely qualified in the management of these plans, and this provides another layer of support and guidance for the executives we serve. Ultimately, our objective is to be a one-stop-shop for executives and their wealth management needs, and the 401(k) management portion of our work is a critical piece of delivering on that objective.
We hope this article has provided a look at how we serve the unique needs of corporate executives. If you are a corporate executive looking for a more comprehensive approach to wealth management, we invite you to connect with our team.