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What is a Wealth Manager?
by   Mark Wade  

The term wealth manager is a fairly new one, really only dropping into the public consciousness within the past ten years or so. In the early 1990s, everyone in the money business wanted to be known as a financial advisor; there was a flap among the royal family of Great Britain when Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, was caught canoodling with someone who called himself her "financial advisor." If Fergie were to be caught up in a similar scandal today, no doubt the rapscallion would be described as her "wealth manager."

Who is really a wealth manager?

Brokers have taken to calling themselves wealth managers. You now have people who do nothing but sell insurance calling themselves wealth managers. What about financial planners? Are they wealth managers too?

Here at Echelon Wealth Strategies, we have a specific view of what a wealth manager is: We call it The Private CFO. This view of wealth management means addressing and solving clients' financial concerns in a consultative team approach that makes a real impact on our clients' lives. It means overseeing the experts you need to help you navigate today's complicated world. We do this by learning as much as we can about our clients' lives, not just their finances, so we can manage the process on a comprehensive basis.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

The Private CFO keeps your entire financial team acting in concert.

There are many people who play important roles in managing your financial life. You probably have an estate attorney who has drawn up your will and an insurance agent who safeguards your family against the financial impact of death and disaster. You may have a stockbroker who helps you purchase your investments, a commercial credit expert who makes sure your business has access to the capital it needs, and an accountant who prepares your tax return, to name a few.

The role of The Private CFO is to make sure that all the practitioners act in concert with each other and always in your best interest, which allows each member of the team to fulfill his or her role to the highest standards. If your real estate agent is selling your vacation property, has your accountant been consulted to make sure you're receiving the most favorable tax treatment on it? If your broker is cashing in a major position in stock options, will your estate attorney update your estate plans to reflect the increased value of your assets?

The Private CFO is the one person who keeps an eye on all aspects of your financial life, making sure all the pieces are aligned with your core values and goals, and that all are working together. We live in a highly complicated world these days. The more wealth we accumulate, the more complex it becomes. If we want to make the best of it in a financial sense, we may have to resort to very sophisticated strategies. While The Private CFO may be filling other roles as well—I handle asset management and life and disability insurance, as well as act as a wealth manager—his or her ultimate job is to implement those strategies most appropriate to you while simplifying your involvement.

That's the quantitative side of the equation: planning and forecasting your future. The qualitative side, which is equally important, is that through our consultative approach, we become very close to our clients and do everything we can to earn their trust. It is much easier to work through one person you trust to take care of your needs. In turn, it's our job to manage your relationship with the team of experts, based on everything we know about your needs, goals, and aspirations.

And by maintaining a role outside the circle, The Private CFO makes sure all the other experts are playing the proper role. And the circle can remain open, with more experts being called in as needed—but only those who are needed are kept active.

FROM CACOPHONY TO SYMPHONY

When you go to a concert, just before the orchestra begins playing, you can hear the musicians tuning up, playing notes without regard for the sounds coming from the players around them. The effect is cacophonous, like a windstorm blowing through a junkyard. But moments later, when the conductor raises his baton, all the performers begin working together in harmony, and the effect is almost magical.

That's how I see the role of The Private CFO. All the players are vital in their own way and bring an expertise that the conductor himself may not have. (Of course, the analogy is inexact in that I am also playing some of the instruments myself.) Like the conductor, The Private CFO ensures that each expert is heard at the proper time—and hears all the other experts, resulting in harmonious solutions to your concerns.

 



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