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Providing Family History as an Incentive

 Videos, special presentations, and published material on family history are being offered to ultra-wealthy clients by financial provider firms. 

| BY Kent McDill

Investment firms sometimes need to go beyond solid investment advice to maintain a relationship with their ultra-high net worth clients.

To that point, some firms are spending a great deal of money to provide clients with a detailed accounting of their family history.

Whether it is in the form of a well-produced video that can be shown to all family members or friends, to a published book of a family’s societal and financial background, firms are making a client’s family background information a benefit of staying with a special advisory firm.

The Wall Street Journal points out numerous firms that make presentations to their highest-end clients to detail family history that the investor may not already know. These presentations can even be produced to appeal to a family’s youngest heirs, to create a sense of family legacy.

“Knowing where you came from – the good, the bad and the ugly – is really extremely powerful for the generations,’’ said Rebecca A. Meyer, managing director of Pitcairn, a firm that connects investors with firms that provide video wills or family biographies, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

According to Spectrem’s quarterly wealth segmentation series study Advisor Relationships and Cahnging Advice Requirements, 79 percent of Ultra High Net Worth investors with a net worth between $5 million and $25 million believe their children and grandchildren should meet with their financial advisor.

Imagine if that advisor had a family history video or other presentation to offer those children during their initial meeting?

Three years ago, Ascent Private Capital Management announced it was the first private bank to hire its own historian charged with researching family histories and genealogies for client families and make presentations at family reunions or other family gatherings.

Some financial firms outsource the creation of family legacy material, while others maintain an in-house team of videographers, makeup artists and film producers.

According to the Journal, banks and advisory firms admit the family history service not only maintains a relationship with the family’s lead investor, it allows the advisor to create a relationship with younger members of the family to create a relationship over multiple generations.

When the service is offered, some investors ask for financial and investment histories, while other ask to have the family’s ethnic roots traced. Still others look to track down lost relatives or investigate family legends or myths.

These services are sometimes known as genealogy services. In some cases, the investor is charged an extra fee depending on how far the investor wants to go with investigations that require work similar to that of a private detective.

The financial firm Abbot Downing has expanded its genealogy services to include a focus on genetic testing and family medical histories. It also promotes videos prepared for younger heirs, and sometimes provides equipment so the younger family members can interview older family members for use in a family history video.

An Abbot Downing representative told the WSJ it takes six months to prepare a family history video and presentation and it has more than 300 families lined up for future presentations.

“It’s important not to just pass along the legacy of the financial assets and the investments they created, but rather to pass along the values and beliefs and lessons learned, especially the wisdom,’’ said Iris Wagner of Memoirs Productions, an ethical will and video-biography company.

About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.