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The UHNW Market: "Soft-Side" Services Now A "Must-Have"

Charles Paikert, Contributing Editor in New York, April 9, 2012


For wealth management firms targeting ultra high net worth clients, not providing non-financial fiduciary “soft-side” services is no longer an option. An “enhanced” family office model will be de rigueur for firms competing in the extremely competitive UHNW market, according to a recently released Optima Group white paper on the family office market.

Ascent is “structurally different” than Abbot Downing, according to Cole, because it doesn’t present Ascent’s non-financial offerings as “soft side” issues but rather as “the difference between strategy and tactics.”

“Strategy includes the vision of the family, the role family members play and the leadership structure,” Cole said. “Tactics include investment management and tax and estate planning. They are equally critical parts of the equation.”

Non-financial services selling point for GenSpring

Among the more established firms in the UHNW space, GenSpring has long championed non-financial services as key components of the seven different types of family offices it offers potential clients.

Indeed, services like education plans for next generation family members, meeting facilitation and governance and strategic philanthropic planning are among the firm’s biggest selling points, said Daisy Medici, director of family governance at GenSpring.

“The biggest fear we see in wealthy families is that their wealth will have a negative impact,” said Medici. “They could live off of their wealth, but they have to have purpose and vision, and that’s why they appreciate these services.”

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