Let’s Talk About Wealth is a new podcast series that touches on compelling topics for families of wealth. Through stories and conversations with specialists from Wells Fargo Private Bank, we help listeners learn how others have discovered ways to make more impact with their wealth. In this episode, hear how families can work together to arrive at their core values and prepare heirs, with the help of specialists from Wells Fargo Private Bank.
Host: Noah Thomsen
Beth Renner, National Director for Philanthropic Services for Wells Fargo Private Bank
David Specht, National Family Dynamic Strategist with Wells Fargo Private Bank
Amanda Weitman, Wealth Advisor with Wells Fargo Private Bank
Podcast Producer: Caitlin (Lewis) Fenno
Reenactment: Julia Lee (Julia, the granddaughter), Roy (Lawrence, the patriarch)
Welcome to Let’s Talk About Wealth from Wells Fargo Private Bank. I’m your host, Noah Thomsen.
Get ready to hear some candid conversations and stories on topics that are too often put aside. Deferred.
In today’s show, we’ll be talking about your family values. What your family—at its core—believes in. How they express themselves. And how your family is perceived within your community and out in the world. If you’re like many families of wealth, maybe you haven’t set aside time to discuss your values, or find it too difficult or awkward to talk about.
In this episode, you’ll hear from a specialist who helps guide those delicate, often difficult, conversations.
So, why is it so important to have conversations around your family values? Well, if your wealth is going to create the impact you’d like it to have now, and a generation or two from now, having your family all on the same page can help. And, if that isn’t enough for one show, you’ll also be exposed to another legacy linchpin—preparing your heirs to mindfully, responsibly inherit your family wealth. Because how could that vital transfer of knowledge, wisdom, and money worry you in the least?
As always, we will share openly what we know, what to expect, and ways others in these important situations have found success.
First up: family values.
I came across a story about a family where three generations got together only to discover three different interpretations of how to make an impact with their wealth.
A client of The Private Bank—the patriarch—asked if the Bank could help lead a family discussion about the family’s core values with him, his son, and grandson.
Beth Renner, National Director for Philanthropic Services for Wells Fargo Private Bank, joins us now to share what she experienced.
So, Beth, the family members all agreed education was one of their core family values?
That’s right. And they wanted to make an impact with their philanthropy in the spirit of that value.
And it’s not uncommon for families to kind of rally around a core value in their philanthropy. And so in this case, I had them all in a room. And I first asked the patriarch. I said, “Tell me what education means to you.” And he said he imagined giving a large endowment to his alma mater to help build the business building, and he wanted to place his family name on it.
An entire college building. OK, that’s impressive.
Yeah, that’s very impressive, I thought. I asked his son, who was a gentleman in his 40s, “What do you want to do to support education?” And he said he wanted to give scholarships to worthy people to help them reach their career aspirations and help their families.
OK. Different approach.
Yeah, so, here’s what’s really interesting: When I asked the grandson what education means to him, he didn’t have any hesitation. He told all of us he wanted to provide clean water to third-world villages.
And I’ll tell you, I looked around the table and we were all kind of a little puzzled by his answer. How does that support education?
And I asked him. “Tell me why. How does that help education?” And he said that he had done some research online, and found out that in many villages in third-world countries, that boys and girls spend over half of their day looking for clean water to bring back to their village. What he said—it was so true. He said, “It doesn’t matter how many schools you build. If they can’t find clean water, how are they going to have time to spend studying in them?”
And so, for us, that was kind of really an eye-opener. How you can see families having a shared value, but different ways that they want to engage in the philanthropy itself.
What a story. Kind of shows how younger generations are resetting the dialogue, don’t you think?
Yeah. Here’s how I would say it: The one thing that I’ve observed about the younger generation, the next generation, or multiple generations working together is that they have a much wider view on their philanthropy. They look at things with a much wider lens: How can they make more impact? And that’s the consistent theme that I see.
I’m curious. How did the three generations resolve things?
So, from that conversation, the family came away understanding that they can all have strong beliefs around the same core value. And I think the interaction really helped them build trust. And they agreed to talk more to find a solution, kind of long term, that would make an impact that they all could support.
Well, it’s definitely a good thing to build on: trust.
So, let’s stay on the subject—aligning your family values. But now let’s focus on how to do it.
Is there a process? A model? One of our show’s producers, Caitlin Lewis, brings us this story about how relationship managers with The Private Bank approach those very deep, and sometimes delicate, conversations with families as they openly talk about their values.
What you’re about to hear is a reenactment of a gathering of eight or so family members who’ve come together in their grandparents’ beautiful home. Grown siblings, their spouses, teenage grandchildren. They’re all engaging in an exercise led by The Private Bank.
Amanda Weitman is a wealth advisor with Wells Fargo Private Bank. She is the voice you hear leading the group.
So, all of you, everyone here in the family, has shared the value most central in your life. I see a range of values on the written cards from tradition.
Adventure. Justice is another. Trust. Two of you chose that.
[Two voices exclaim]:
Julia, what about you? What do you value?
I can’t decide. I have two values that are kind of equal.
Well, here’s what you can do. Think of the serious choices you make in your life; think about how you act, carry yourself. Those things usually should trace back to the value that’s most important to you.
Oh, OK. Of the two, it’s not loyalty as much as courage. I’ll say courage. Yep. That’s more what I’m about. What I value.
Tell me why.
Well, courage is so unselfish. It comes from deep inside a person to show itself.
Sorry, Jules. If we’re being honest, I don’t see that value in you.
You know, you don’t have to agree with her, Lawrence.
Well, I don’t. Not at all.
But do you hear her reason? Her conviction around the value she chose?
This means a lot to me, Papa. I really believe in it with my whole heart.
Sure. And I love you with my whole heart; you know that.
(end of reenactment)
So, Amanda, that was pretty real, what we just heard. Does this exercise always help families open up like that and share opinions and feelings?
I wouldn’t say every family member reacts positively at first. Some hold back. Some fold their arms. And yet some leap up to talk about why it’s important in their life. We have each of them choose five core values.
It’s a very open exchange with each family member sharing their core values. It sounds like that can get pretty deep, pretty fast.
I think for many it’s the most meaningful conversation their family has had all gathered together. We’re there to facilitate it, focus it, invite the sharing. But the most important is to create active listening.
OK, so it sounds like you’re not only finding their values; you’re helping nurture respect.
I find it amazing that grandparents who created the wealth may see none of their own core values in their grandchildren. Then through the exercise we may show how closely aligned they really are. How the family values did transfer across generations. It’s just a matter of interpretation and expression.
[Caitlin]: What do you mean? Can you give me an example?
Well, in the discovery exercise, we learned the grandfather’s key value is justice. Fairness for all.
The granddaughter says her value is courage. Grandpa thinks that sounds self-serving, and he’s not ever seen her act courageously. Until I asked the granddaughter to give an example of why that value means so much to her.
What did she say?
Well, she explained the impact she would like the family to make: helping people have the courage to stand up when they see others being mistreated, minimized, or passed over. That’s very much justice. Fairness for all.
I get it. They’re very connected. The values.
Yes, and now two very different generations realize they’re pretty connected, too.
OK, we’ve seen how important these personal conversations can be in helping preserve the family’s standing and values. Now, what about the money part of money? Distributing it. Managing it. Continuing to help grow it. Our last segment is about preparing heirs to inherit and become stewards of your family wealth.
They didn’t toil to build it. They didn’t sweat through the tough decisions along the way like cutting losses, taking on capital for acquisition, settling a contentious legal issue. Big things.
But, more than likely, your heirs … they got this, right? I’m joined now by David Specht, a national family dynamics strategist with Wells Fargo Private Bank.
Glad to be here.
David, you’ve been advising high-net-worth clients and coaching relationship managers on how to facilitate these family conversations about wealth for years. Is preparing an heir something every wealthy family should be considering or is it optional?
In my experience, when a family understands the consequences of not preparing their heirs, most will select taking an intentional, and also an age-appropriate, approach. They’ll be thankful that they did. And the wealth creator should also rest easier, too.
Wealth creator. I haven’t heard that before, that term.
Well, we use that term out of respect. There’s usually a person—or a couple—who’s been responsible for the major wealth creation in the family, and that’s the term that we use. These people don’t typically want to see their wealth poorly managed or squandered by their heirs. And, The Private Bank brings in specialists to educate their children, their nieces, nephews, sons-in-law, whatever the family legacy path might be.
Like a “prepare the heir” boot camp?
That’s funny. But yes, the process is rigorous. And many times, we take up to 12 months with this financial education process. When our consultants work with these families on an activity like this, oftentimes they’re meeting monthly. And sometimes it’s a half day or even a full day on topics like investing, taxes, or philanthropy. It’s as deep as the heirs really need it to be or find important.
That’s impressive. Does it give the wealth creator some welcome comfort?
I think so. You know, for many families of wealth it’s not all about the sheer dollar value of the estate. It’s the pride they feel for their family and their family name. From what I’ve seen is that they want to feel confident that their family wealth continues to make a positive impact both within their family and out in the world, too.
Thanks for sharing, David. Sounds like there’s a whole assortment of ways The Private Bank can help prepare heirs to inherit and start managing the family wealth.
Well, that’s our show. I hope this episode delivered for you what we set out to do …
… sharing some candid stories and family legacy services that can help you make an impact with your wealth.
This is Noah Thomsen. Join us again for another episode of Let’s Talk About Wealth.
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