How to surf the $30 trillion inheritance wave

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Older generations may transfer as much as $30 trillion to heirs in the coming years, some of which is currently under the care of financial advisors. But, there’s a catch.

Only about one-third of advisors have any sort of asset-transfer plan in place allowing them to maintain the assets, according to a recent study jointly published by Corporate Insight and InvestingChannel.

Multiple professionals, industries and prospective customer markets will see significant disruption, according to the survey of 700 financial professionals. What services, products and client experiences can financial services firms create to maintain and grow assets under management during this period of chaos?

Consider this: Nine out of 10 financial advisors rate their personal relationship with clients as a crucial element of their business, yet the same percentage only meet with their clients’ heirs once a year or less. Nearly 15% never met their clients’ families other than a spouse, according to the survey.

“There’s a real gap in thinking here,” says Michael Ellison, president of Corporate Insight. “Advisors understand how important the relationship is, and yet the vast majority are ignoring the next generation of asset owners.”

Fortunately for advisors, clients are already looking for help with retirement planning, asset transfer and estate planning. The most obvious place for advisors to focus their efforts is also where it will do the most good: the relationship.

Focus discussions on how to best educate clients’ heirs to differentiate from other advisors, while creating a business model that is subtly unique and ensures the maintenance of the relationship.

An emphasis on the heirs not only satisfies retirement, estate planning and asset transfer needs, but also actively engages the next generation of wealth holders with relevant content. Topics should include: how to make an inheritance last, budget planning, debt management, investing in a business and other endeavors that are valued by both the primary client and the beneficiary.

While advisors most often are the primary customer contact point, the generational wealth transfer also offers tremendous opportunities for asset management firms, insurance and other financial industry players to get involved and help financial advisors bridge the wealth-transfer gap.

Almost 70% of advisors’ clients see estate planning as one of the top three most important financial planning issues, along with asset transfer and retirement income, yet one-third of advisors do not even offer the service.

If advisors want to build, grow and have a salable practice, they need to evolve their services and product set to match the evolving needs of their clients. The reality is, however, that all financial planners essentially have access to the same set of similar products and services. Advisors need to search for unique opportunities that leverage those relationships.

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