As ultrawealthy get older, advisory teams try to get younger

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Ultrawealthy clients are getting richer and older, upping the pressure on wealth management firms to be ready for one of the biggest intergenerational wealth transfers in history.

"People think of billionaire wealth being created when they are quite young. That's not the case at all. In Asia, the average age for breaking into the billionaire segment is 53 years old," says Michael Spellacy, global wealth leader at PwC.

The situation is similar in the U.S., he adds. Billionaire wealth rose 17% in 2016, double the rate of the MSCI AC World Index, according to their report.

As a result, more than $2 trillion of billionaire fortunes will change hands, according to a new study by UBS and PwC.

"It's not just with billionaires, it's our whole society. It's affecting the high-net-worth client segment too" says John Mathews, head of private wealth at UBS Wealth Management Americas.

UBS and other firms that cater to this elite clientele are not only deploying a team approach. They're now striving to have team members mirror their clients' families in a bid to both better serve clients and to be best-suited to retaining their children and grandchildren as clients.

"More than any other profession perhaps, we are a relationship-based business. And people do business with those who look like them," says Alli McCartney, managing director at UBS Private Wealth Management.

McCartney's six-person team designed their group partially with what they call age-gaping in mind. Their youngest member is 28 and the oldest is 60. The group oversees approximately $1 billion in client assets.

Overall, the nation's wealthy are expected to add to their growing fortunes in the years ahead.
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"I can't relate to a 25 year old guy in Silicon Valley as my two younger team mates can. I don't use technology in the same way, for example," says McCartney, 40.

The firm's private wealth unit has approximately 500 advisors, virtually all of whom are on teams, according to Mathews. While always an important issue, preparing clients to pass on or inherit wealth is taking on greater urgency.

"This is a freight train coming on us at full speed," Mathews says.

At UBS, the emphasis on teaming has been building in recent years. And the firm's compensation plan rewards it.

"They're putting their money where their mouth is," says recruiter Bill Willis.

Of course, UBS isn't alone. Rival firms and advisors are responding to similar pressures.

"There is so much complexity in the wealth planning space," says Christine Gaze, president of Purpose Consulting Group

The range of tasks advisors find themselves responsible for, from estate planning to philanthropic pursuits, is growing.

"Those fields are becoming more dynamic. So it can seem preposterous for a solo advisor to effectively face off with a wealthy family that has very complex needs," Gaze says.

The multigenerational team, she adds, is the model of the future.

At some firms, that model is here.

"If you walk around these offices," Mathews says at UBS Manhattan location, "there's no one a single office. It's all team suites."

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High net worth Client acquisition Client strategies Practice management Wirehouse advisors Wirehouses John Matthews UBS UBS Wealth Management PwC