Clearstead hosted its third ClearPoint Roundtable discussion last week at the Shaker Heights Country Club, addressing questions about how various forms of wealth can be transferred to the next generation.

The two-day session began with an address by Mr. Mark Casella, principal of Coppertree, Ltd., an advisory firm to family offices. Mr. Casella discussed both good and bad examples of family wealth planning. He emphasized the qualitative, relational aspects of wealth transfer are as important as legal and tax strategies. His address provided a strong underpinning to the next day’s Roundatble discussion, led by Dave Osborne, President of DAO Advisors, and former President of CYMI, Ltd.

The Roundtable, entitled, “Investing in the Future: Preparing the Next Generation to Sustain Family Wealth,” brought together seven industry professionals – attorneys, trust officers, investment professionals, and wealth advisors – to discuss how families can prepare younger generations for managing family wealth and how those generations may differ in their approach to wealth management.

More information on this process can also be found under Clearstead’s Multigenerational Planning.

 

EDUCATE AND COMMUNICATE

Dave Osborne, President of DAO Advisors, and former President of CYMI, Ltd., began with a question about differences between generations regarding responsible stewardship of a family business or wealth and what tools may be useful in fostering communication between generations.

In response, Greg Althans, CPA/PFS, CFP®, Senior Managing Director & Chief Wealth Strategist at Clearstead, quoted the adage that “the first generation creates the wealth, the second generation expands the wealth, and the third generation destroys the wealth.”

However, Althans noted he has seen success stories of families preventing that decline, often through educating younger generations individually and then moving them to family meetings. He also emphasized the importance of “speaking the language of the second and third generation.”

Jeff Wasserman, Managing Director and Executive Vice President, Oswald Specialty Life and Oswald Companies, added that families that successfully transition between generations often have “solid core family values,” and stressed that success “starts at home.” He said communication can occur naturally if families are “bringing the next generation of leadership in on business conversations.”

Kate Biggar, Vice President, KeyBanc Capital Markets Public Finance Group, believes there is “quite a difference” between generations, particularly in how younger generations access financial information and view investment options, as well as the ease of index funds or ETFs to keep “those investment assets rolling on their own” so younger people can instead “focus on growth professionally.”

The panel focused on many strategies for families to achieve success in transitioning wealth, but two main themes emerged: education and communication.

“Early communication is paramount,” said Joe Juster, Partner, Calfee Halter, who emphasized that this communication can help younger generations understand that “self-worth is separate from net worth” and knowing “when you have enough.”  Mr. Juster further said that helping to instill in younger generations a sense of “work, gratitude, and attention to the needs of others” is central to effective transfer of wealth.

Reflecting on earlier comments, Bill Karnatz, President, Western Reserve Trust Co., attributed family success to those who have a “formal or informal mission statement” and “habits that surround” that statement.

Karnatz also addressed the challenges of transitioning family trusts, which he attributed to three categories: fighting human nature, serving a higher purpose, and partaking in meaningful work. He cautioned that it is challenging when individuals “have been overindulged and don’t have a clue” because of lack of communication and education from older generations.

 

NEW TRENDS AND MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES

From a legal perspective, Joe Verciglio, Partner, Baker Hostetler, explained that what most families are trying to do is “shift wealth to the next generation at the lowest possible valuation” as to maximize the future appreciation potential, and possibly into perpetuity.

Verciglio then added that many families create LLCs that can offer valuation discounts as an effective tool to accomplish this task.  An additional benefit of family owned LLC’s is creating a shared asset that families can use to foster cohesion and communication.

Regarding these family assets – whether they are in an LLC, business, foundation, or other structure – Althans emphasized the need for a “purpose-based and objective-based asset allocation” expressed through an investment policy to educate and organize families, as well as support long-term asset growth.

The conversation also addressed philanthropic efforts, and, considering the current trend of large donor campaigns, Wasserman brought up the importance of education on philanthropic efforts for younger generations, as he typically sees planned and legacy giving coming from older generations, who have “made their wealth and are comfortable at this juncture in their lives.” He also emphasized the trend of older generations making these contributions through insurance components.

Additionally, Althans mentioned that many families may approach charity through family foundations, though he has seen cases where the older generation was disappointed in the next generation and ultimately dissolved the foundation.

In contrast, Karnatz said some families can take a “boots on the ground” approach to family foundations, encouraging family members to volunteer at favorite family charities so they “will see where the money went and how it’s used.”

While older generations typically focus on planned giving, younger generations are still seeking to make an impact in their own ways.

According to Juster, younger generations are interested in socially responsible investing. Juster explained that “they’re starting to gather data to back up the fact that it’s not only good social policy, good for the environment, and good for society, but the good governance component of corporations who adopt those policies and procedures are leading to high returns.”

Biggar then mentioned the recent Business Roundtable, and how corporations have begun to focus on investing in their employees, communities, and relationships with suppliers. She believes “that’s extremely reflective of the tone in society” and that these “defining moments” have a great impact on investment opportunities.

To round up the conversation, Osborne asked the panelists to give their final thoughts on when families should start talking with younger generations about the ramifications of transferring wealth.

Verciglio once again encouraged that communication should begin as early as possible, and can be done in a simplistic way, stating an example that as children “should have a save bucket, spend bucket, and philanthropy bucket.” Ideally, these small steps will help them understand the best practices over time.

Althans supported this idea by saying it is important to “impart wisdom over time,” rather than too much at once.

Biggar also chimed in to highlight the importance of “instilling values early on” so that younger generations can continue “being good stewards” of family wealth, which once more touched upon the bigger picture of the day’s conversation. Early communication, education, and examples are what many industry experts can agree upon as essential components of successful wealth transfer between generations.

 

KEY INSIGHTS AND TAKEAWAYS:

  • The concepts of instilling a sense of meaningful work, gratitude, and attention to the needs of others is central to effective stewardship of wealth
  • Trusts can often mitigate awkward conversations around pre-nuptial agreements
  • Next generation stewards are concerned with access to information and clarity of presentation. Older generations should be aware of the technology, professional priorities, and social trends that play a large role in how younger generations manage wealth
  • New technology and rapidly evolving investment trends can also serve as a challenge to financial advisors who are starting to work with younger generations, and their use of lesser known or accessible platforms and custodians
  • Younger generations are trending towards making a social impact with their investments, while still driving meaningful investment returns
  • It is crucial to identify the appropriate age, methods, and style for communication to impart information about the family business or family wealth to younger generations; on-going small steps towards communication and education could be the most effective when working with younger generations
  • Shared investment vehicles can be effective in building family unity and help the family take different types of investment risk
  • Changes in trust laws, especially in Ohio, can help wealth transfer and maintenance
  • Life insurance is a significant component of many large charitable gifts
  • Developing and implementing a family mission statement can be an effective activity
  • Planned and legacy giving typically originates with older generations, and will require education for younger generations on philosophy and purpose of those gifts in support of the family mission or family values
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