Building Buckingham: Advisor to Families
A hot topic among financial planners these days is the proper way to first connect with and then retain women clients while serving them and their families effectively. Not a week goes by in which I fail to read something on the subject, as if it’s a new area of discovery. But early in my career, back in my CPA days at RubinBrown, it was already obvious to many that women needed to be included in any discussion touching family wealth management.
It was during this period of my professional life, in the 1980s, that I founded a new division within my accounting firm. We called the new business unit Personal Financial Consulting. Along with two talented CPA associates, Barb and Bev, we came up with a new idea. We would meet with our clients to discuss not just their business and tax issues, but their family situations as well. We found that implementing this new practice led, in turn, to greater attention on personal planning for our clients. This concept proved to be hugely successful, and it resulted in my leadership role in the Personal Financial Planning division of the AICPA on a national level.
One of the things Barb, Bev and I noticed early on was that many of our personal financial consulting clients were older women. Because a significant percentage of married women then (and even now) were (and are) living longer than their husbands, they frequently inherit the bulk of the family money and are left with the responsibility of managing that legacy.
My mother, Ida, is a good example of this fact of life. She was seven years younger than my father, Jack, and when he died at age 73, she lived another 17 years. That’s a long time to be responsible for ensuring the family’s assets will stretch far enough to maintain an independent and comfortable life. Fortunately for my mother, she was an equal partner in the family dry goods store and took an active role in managing the family’s finances. But as Barb, Bev and I discovered when we met with our CPA clients, such involvement was not always the case. And I like to think that the Personal Financial Consulting division played an important role in securing many of our women clients’ so-called Golden Years.
My wife Susie’s parents, Carl and Rhia (left). Rhia lived for 18 years after Carl died and was one of our first Buckingham clients in 1994. My parents, Ida and Jack (right). Ida lived for 17 years after Jack died.
As I mentioned in an earlier article, when we started Buckingham in 1994, our first clients were our parents and our in-laws. Of the firm’s four founders, only Bert’s parents were both still living. The rest of us had just our mothers and/or our mothers-in-law. So, these wonderful older women represented a substantial percentage of our first clients. And just as they had been instrumental in raising us to be responsible human beings, they were essential in reminding us how important it is to “do the right thing” for all our clients and other women clients in particular – no matter what their age or marital status.
The firm’s early experience, as well as the larger philosophy on which Buckingham was founded, continues to inform our approach to serving women. Madaline Creehan, one of our Buckingham advisors, puts it best when she says, “Forming a collaborative partnership for making financial decisions may be where we add the greatest value in our relationships with women. We start by creating a very comfortable environment for listening to their needs, wants and concerns and then provide guidance in making prudent choices.”
Over the last 20 years, as Buckingham has grown to more than 200 associates and seven offices, we have developed a strong cadre of women advisors. In addition, we serve a large number of families headed by independent women, just as I always knew we would.
Like I said, it’s not really a new topic.
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