White Papers

The Business of Wealth Management

This article describes important decisions we made in structuring our wealth management practice. Our purpose is to explain the decisions we made in our business and how they affect our clients. Much of what is covered here relates to the many conflicts of interest in the wealth management business and how we decided to address those conflicts.

How it all began (back when I knew nothing about wealth management)

When my father died in 1984, my family received a very expensive lesson on the consequences of poor estate planning. This article describes the important decisions Ballentine Partners made in structuring our wealth management practice to help families achieve much better results than my family experienced.

My father moved to Wolfeboro, NH long before it became famous as a summer resort, and he began to accumulate real estate that later proved to be valuable. Despite a sophisticated estate plan that included multiple trusts, partnerships, and corporations, things did not go well. We discovered our family was not well prepared to address family governance, business leadership, or the financial consequences of my father’s death. The investment advice we received suffered from serious conflicts of interest, the negative impact of which I did not really understand at the time. My mother and her surviving children all had very different notions of what should happen next.

When the dust began to settle, I reflected upon what had happened and why. We had very capable legal, tax, and investment advisors. Their advice was technically correct. But each advisor was working within his or her own “silo.”

But what we desperately needed and did not get was comprehensive, integrated, and objective advice to clearly identify the issues and problems that later became so acute and painful. No advisor was able to provide a strategic plan for our family’s wealth. We lacked a team leader who could help us to realize the benefits of collaboration among specialty advisors.

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