Ever wonder why your wealthier clients don’t give you more assets to manage? It may be a case of not knowing what you don’t know. Not every advisor works with ultra high net worth clients. Yet, even the mass affluent may have assets you may never have thought about.
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These are significant assets you could be helping them manage. Art and collectibles can be found in any home. Perhaps grandma had a favorite painting that she left to Junior. Junior grew up with the painting on the wall and never thought much else about it. If the painting was purchased a few decades ago and happened to be created by Andy Warhol or Edward Hopper, it could be worth a few hundred million by now.
Even a client with a $2 million investment portfolio could have items at home some quirky relative bought years ago and passed on to them. That ugly thing in the attic could be worth a very attractive $30,000 or $40,000 or so. And if there is one such thing, there may even be more.
The art and collectibles segment typically falls into the category of 'serious money.' Advisors to the so-called mass affluent may, for that reason, not give it much thought. And although art doesn’t normally fit within the 'assets under management' scenario, it most certainly should. It is another point of contact in attracting clients for whom you could become a valuable resource.
If you have interest in art at almost any level, you should be asking your clients questions about their interests, as well. In the process of asking these questions, you may hear a few stories about the client’s family. Clients love to tell stories. When they tell you their stories, you find out quite a bit more than the topic you are focused on. Don’t discount these other tidbits. They will clue you in on how the client feels about his or her money and other assets as well as telling you the information you are trying to find out.
Let’s say that painting hanging on the wall has sentimental value but the family needs money. The client becomes resigned to the fact that it needs to be sold. You can bet that client is not going to sell that painting just anywhere. He or she is taking it to an advisor who knows the right expert
for help with that process.
That advisor should be you! The client will want the best advice and will want to get it to the right marketplace so that the value they receive will assuage their loss.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Find an expert who knows the particular market for the piece the client is trying to sell. Selling is called 'deaccessioning' in the art world.
This expert will need to be someone who is very well connected in whatever marketplace the client’s art or collectible asset falls. You may need to interview several to make sure you have a real expert in that area or you can hire someone to do that for you.
This person will not likely be the family estate planning attorney. Attorneys tend to sell art and other collectibles to the most ready buyer in the interest of settling the estate. Another member of the family hears about the sale—and the low price it sells for—and calls to find out why it was sold in an area of the country where people do not know its real worth. Then, you have become a problem for the client instead of a resource.
2. Check with your client to make sure the item is insured. Make sure the insurance coverage is adjusted regularly in sync with the market value of the artwork. Also make sure to know where the art came from originally. There have been instances where art was stolen or given to a friend and then handed down to heirs. These heirs may not know about the painting’s less than stellar origin, that there are taxes still owed, or that a loan had been taken out on the work and never repaid. Again, storytelling can lead to questions about provenance or origin of ownership.
3. Keep the client’s art portfolio in mind while you are managing the investible assets. The client may wish to draw from his or her investment portfolio to fund future art purchases. The fact that liquid assets are going away should not be viewed as a negative thing for your client-advisor relationship. It is an opportunity to work with the client on funding these purchases, then collaborating with experts to help the client manage this aspect of his or her portfolio.
This is just one way to distinguish yourself from your competitors. It’s also a sensible and non-threatening foray into the world of the ultra high net worth. Most importantly, it could be a way to find ideal clients who share your interests. In that process, you may well end up with a client at an asset level you previously would only have dreamed about.