A Blog for Today’s Top Financial Advisors

The Eight Core Principles of Elite Wealth Planning – Episode 25


  • Wealth planning must be flexible and able to change as circumstances change.
  • Discretion and transparency are highly valued by affluent clients when it comes to wealth planning.
  • Paying attention to issues around risk-sensitivity and costs also is key.

Elite-level financial advisors are a diverse group. They serve a wide variety of clients and demographics. They organize their practices in numerous manners. And they define success in ways that can be unique and extremely personal to them.

But they also share a lot of similarities—eight, in fact.

In our experience, top financial advisors and wealth managers across the country adhere to the following eight core principles. Ask yourself how well you stack up in each area.

Why? Because increasingly, the affluent and the super rich are recognizing that they want to see these traits in the professionals they vet and work with. If you don’t pass muster in these areas, you’re not nearly as likely to attract discerning affluent clients or retain them over the long term.

Elite advisors’ planning is:

1. Flexible. Elite wealth planning is able to change and adapt to clients’ evolving circumstances and the shifting financial and legal environments. Successful elite wealth planners are flexible, accommodating, well informed, and capable of quickly identifying and analyzing the range of anticipated scenarios.

2. Discreet. A high degree of discretion is a requirement for any professional working with the wealthy. As it relates to elite wealth planning, discretion regarding specific legal strategies or financial products can help avoid unwanted attention, unnecessary levels of questioning and retroactive changes to rules. Prudence should also be used in the nature and details of the interpersonal relationship between your clients and you/your entire team. For example, it’s wise to always presume that all communications—written or verbal, formal or informal—could be examined, and to act accordingly.

3. Transparent. In many situations, neither you nor your clients will benefit from sharing the intricacies of a sophisticated or customized legal or financial solution. Nonetheless, it’s important for each solution to be as transparent as possible and available for scrutiny by appropriate authorities. Moreover, operational transparency is a necessity.

4. Cohesive. While the legal strategies and financial products of elite wealth planning can be employed on a stand-alone basis, a shared philosophy and a certain degree of integration should inform all wealth planning. This will help ensure that your clients’ goals and objectives remain the focus of all your efforts and will allow legal strategies and financial products to work in more than one capacity (if possible and necessary). Experienced elite wealth planners capture additional value for clients by looking across the different planning specialties to identify productive interactions.

5. Risk-sensitive. The spectrum of elite wealth planning solutions spans the plain vanilla to the truly exotic. Without stepping over any legal boundaries, there’s still ample room to be creative. It’s therefore critical that you (and your clients) understand the level of assertiveness associated with a particular solution and consider it in the context of your clients’ capacity for risk.

6. Cost-effective. There are times when being on the cutting edge carries too high a price tag for the result. Other times, more mainstream solutions are sufficient. Elite wealth planners work with clients to balance the benefits of a recommended course of action with both its financial and psychological costs.

7. Explicit. Some super-rich families want simple and readily understood solutions to their financial and legal issues. Others rely more heavily on their teams of trusted advisors to find the best solutions for them, which can be more complicated. At the same time, there are some who enjoy the details and intricacies of a legal strategy or financial product. All clients—no matter their level of interest or savvy—should understand the essence, if not the details, of the elite wealth planning solutions they’ll implement. You bear the responsibility of communicating with them and their other trusted advisors in a way that suits their personal style and allows them to make informed decisions.

8. Legitimate. Wealth planning should never incorporate tools or techniques that are—or may be perceived to be—illegal or unethical. Considering how much can be accomplished by operating squarely within the law, it’s simply greed, ego or sheer stupidity that leads the wealthy (and some of their advisors) to cross the line. Greater scrutiny can be expected from both domestic and international authorities on questionable transactions, and it’s not worth inviting further attention with these types of activities.

Important: These eight principles work together and should be treated as prerequisites in any wealth planning situation. In fact, the competency exhibited by all elite wealth planners is fundamentally and directly related to their fluency with and execution of these core principles.



To download a transcript of this episode, click here.

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