Success in business does not necessarily equate to success in wealth. Just because someone earns a high income, owns a lot of assets, holds equity in a private business or has a large portfolio – this does not always mean that they’ll achieve their wealth goals. To achieve the goals that matter most to you regarding your wealth, you need a team of experts who work together to address a wide range of issues including financial planning, taxes, retirement, cash-flow, estate planning, asset protection and even charitable giving.
But the problem with teams is that some are winners and others, well, not so much. As you enter 2014, I recommend that you begin to think carefully about the team that is helping you build your wealth. I recommend that you ask yourself three key questions:
- Why do you need a team?
- What should you expect from a team?
- Who should be on your team?
Why do you need a team?
Most people who acquire significant wealth discover that it comes with a great deal of complexity. This complexity is usually of several types including legal, financial and personal. To manage effectively all of the issues associated with preserving and growing wealth, it is wise to tap into the expertise of multiple professionals.
This usually means that you need a number of different counselors from different disciplines. Why should you build this team?
First, you need people with domain level expertise in their given discipline. No one person knows everything. Take the taxation field for instance. Can you imagine trying to comb through and interpret all of the latest tax laws and figure out how they apply to your unique situation? Is this a good use of your time? But that is just one area. When you think about the complexity of the financial services industry, estate planning laws and the insurance field, it becomes clear why multiple experts should be on your team.
Second, you need wise counselors. When important decisions need to be made, it is valuable to have ideas vetted from different perspectives. It is good to have voices of dissent who question competing theories and approaches to the same goals. The old proverb is that iron sharpens iron. In my experience, a team of experts with good chemistry will nearly always produce better outcomes than a solo practitioner.
Third, once decisions are made, it usually takes a team to get everything done. It requires many hands to execute everything that goes into an effective wealth plan. When a team shares in the workload of a wealth plan, it is much more likely that things will be completed on time and that details will be checked and double checked.
What should you expect from a team?
When you assemble a team, I recommend you look for these characteristics in team members.
First, look for advisors who listen to you and demonstrate a willingness to see the world the way you do. No matter how prominent a professional may be in their field, if they are not willing to look at the world from your vantage point, it’s probably not a good fit.
Second, look for experts in their individual niches with a demonstrated history of success. Talented people tend to build solid relationships with other professional advisors and a good reputation. Prospective team members should be able to provide references and sample work product similar to what you will ask of them.
Third, you should expect good rapport amongst advisors – people who are willing to check their ego at the door and work on behalf of the client. While eagles rarely fly in formation, good chemistry among professionals is a must. So look for advisors who want to be part of a team rather than a solo flyer.
Fourth, you should expect one team member to serve as your quarterback. What should you expect of the quarterback? They should be your advocate and ambassador to the team, understanding your unique situation so well that they know what questions to ask of all other advisors.
The quarterback also has to take ultimate responsibility for the outcome of all strategies. The quarterback ensures that all of the little details are managed and wrapped up. The quarterback also coordinates all advisors and communicates results and requirements to you in language that you and your loved ones understand. The quarterback speaks to you on behalf of the team.
Your quarterback is also the team leader. In this role, they schedule and lead team meetings, divide up duties among team members and set objectives, timelines and deadlines. A good quarterback works from a defined process that everyone buys into.
Who should be on your team?
The first and most important team member is your quarterback. While any professional advisor could serve as your quarterback, I believe your wealth manager is best suited for this role. A good wealth manager usually knows more about your unique situation and goals than most other advisors.
The core three advisors that I believe should be on every team include an accountant, estate planning attorney and wealth manager. These three advisors represent the most critical areas to wealth preservation and growth.
Others advisors that could be on your team include bankers, insurance specialists, mortgage brokers, valuation specialists and attorneys in specific disciplines. For small business owners, your company’s CFO or controller would likely be a key contributor to your team.
A key criteria in picking your core three should be their existing network of relationships with other advisors, particularly specialists. When your core three advisors have working relationships with other specialists, they can bring their expertise to the table as needed. Your team should be able to grow and adapt over time as your situation changes.
Assembling the right team is a critical first step toward planning your financial future. In a future article I’ll address the topic of how to build this team. Knowing who should be on the team and the roles they should play is a good starting point. But building this team requires thought and careful planning. Stay tuned.
You should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this article serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized financial planning and/or personalized investment advice from Whitnell & Co. To the extent that the reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his or her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional adviser of his/her choosing.
Any hypothetical examples included in this article are for illustrative purposes only. No representation is being made that any account, product, or strategy will or is likely to achieve profits, losses, or results similar to those shown.