The essential skills and traits of a wealth planner

Ms Loh Lay Bee, Head of Julius Baer Trust Company (Singapore) Limited shares the key skills needed for a wealth planner.

Much has been written about providing appropriate tax planning, overcoming multi-generational complexity, adopting a holistic approach to meet clients’ needs, among other considerations, when offering financial solutions.

Perhaps an area that is of equal importance but less talked about is the engagement of the right wealth planner. After all, a trust or its equivalent, as proposed by a wealth planner, is not an investment product that clients purchase and sell in a few months or years. The trust forms the backbone of the relationship between a trustee and a family that is expected to span generations.

The wealth planner is the gatekeeper and the first line of defence who ensures that the appropriate circumstances are factored in before the best solutions are being presented for the clients to make informed decision. The wealth planner is someone whom the customer relies on to lead the way. To be a trusted and reliable wealth planner, they must possess certain traits and skills.

Knowledge of latest regulatory changes across different jurisdictions

A slew of regulatory changes were introduced in the last few years across many jurisdictions. Some of these changes impact the clients and their family directly, others affect the trust industry, while some affect external factors such as investment suitability.

In such an evolving environment, wealth planners must keep abreast of the legal, technical, and regulatory changes in applicable jurisdictions and understand how these regulatory changes may impact their recommendations.

Keeping up to date on clients’ multi-jurisdictional needs is a particularly tall order when even lawyers – who tend to primarily be experts in one jurisdiction – struggle to stay on top of clients’ cross-borders needs amidst increasing global regulatory changes.

This challenge is even greater for wealth planners from smaller organizations where there are less mentoring, fewer role models to seek advice from, and limited internal resources to tap on.

To overcome these challenges and succeed as a trusted wealth planner, the desire to learn, the hunger for knowledge, and the discipline to keep up with industry changes are non-negotiable qualities.

A competent and trusted wealth planner is someone who is able to offer a broader and deeper set of capabilities other than recommending a trust, a foundation, or an insurance. The recommendations must serve the multi-jurisdictional needs of international families, and that involves managing, protecting, and growing clients’ assets in any jurisdiction around the world.

 

Outstanding communication skills

As the “architect” of trusts that will serve clients’ needs, a well-rounded wealth planner need not only have hard skills but also soft skills that will enable him to effectively communicate and interact with clients.

Strong communication and exceptional interpersonal skills are key. This does not mean that wealth planners must be extreme extroverts, but they should be able to elicit or draw information from the clients, and ask relevant questions that effectively get to the heart of their clients’ issues and needs. Most importantly, they must be authentic.

Given that the wealth planning world is a complex one, the ability to articulate is imperative. The documentation is extensive and complex, and filled with concepts and jargons that may be confusing to even the best of clients. A wealth planner must make time and be able to clearly explain all the details so that their clients can make informed decisions.

Forward thinking mindset

In addition, wealth planners need excellent drafting skills and be able to put pen to paper to capture every detail of their clients’ wishes. When drafting the documents, they need to not only seek the best solutions but possess a forward-thinking mindset to anticipate clients’ needs and regulatory changes, in order to design a robust structure that will stand the test of time.

A well-structured trust devised by a forward thinking wealth planner will be able to adapt to ever-changing and complex needs of both the clients and their family.

Ethically upright

Underpinning all these skills, and perhaps the most crucial trait is ethics and integrity.  When faced with a fluid regulatory environment, increasing targets, and intensifying competition, strong ethics and integrity are qualities that will  sustain clients’ trust and build deep relationships.

While a wealth planner’s technical competence will enable him to help clients understand the legal implications, it is ultimately the wealth planner’s ethics and integrity that will determine whether a trust or other solution is planned or the structure is right. With strong ethics and integrity, the wealth planner will be able to uphold the industry’s professional reputation and maintain Singapore’s image as a clean and trusted financial centre.

In short, a good wealth planner never deviates from the timeless notion of stewardship. Armed with the requisite technical and soft skills, a competent wealth planner is one who is driven by his unwavering passion, unrelenting focus, and unassailable principles to steer his clients through good and bad times.