B.C. team advises advisors

May 31, 2011 | Last updated on May 31, 2011
3 min read

Business management involves more than crunching numbers and reacting to change. For Aileen Collings and Lisa Collins, a clear view of the big picture is crucial to maintaining the long-term health of a family business.

Collings, a CFP with over 25 years’ experience in accounting and estate planning, and Collins, a professional wealth planner with a legal background, met in 2003 while working at separate companies. Later, each formed their own company: Collins headed Luminira Wealth Strategists in 2004 and Collings formed Blue Ocean Wealth Strategists in 2007. After years of seeing the challenges advisors face when creating financial plans for family business owners, they decided to join forces. “We got into the work we do because we saw a huge need out there, particularly as it relates to business owners,” Collings says.

The two co-founded Sustainable Family Wealth Partners at the beginning of 2011 to counsel advisors with clients with family businesses. While creating a new business together didn’t present much challenge, marketing their practice has required extra effort.

The purpose of their work is not to take over planning but rather to begin a partnership with advisors to strengthen planning. They’ve had to show potential partner advisors that they’re no longer in the pigeonholes of their previous careers, and educate their audience about the new planning support they are offering. It’s “an evolution of our past private practice professional work,” they say.

A major catalyst for creating SFWP? Most families have not been doing the complex succession planning they should be. Both women agree wealth planning requires a multi-disciplinary approach and a focus on sustainability. Collings adds, “These financial advisors are working with higher-net-worth clients and see that business owners need more involved planning. A big part of [our] process is our ability to help transform plans into complex structures and tax plans.”

For example, an advisor will bring in Collings and Collins if his client has a successful business and wants to ensure the wealth will take care of dependent family members. Both women believe the advisor is not required to have all the information. Knowing when to bring in help is crucial—and it is for this reason advisors “bring [them] in to aid in providing the appropriate financial product solutions to the client.”

Bringing premium services to the table will also strengthen the reputation of an advisor. The pair have seen the competition and market get tougher over the years, and know some people view choosing an advisor as tantamount to getting married.

Both women have met advisors who have lost clients due to lack of contact and trust. In their experiences, an advisor is like a family physician. He takes good care of the family, but how would a patient feel if he suddenly offered to do open heart surgery? An advisor is there to lead and aid clients, but seeking further help for complex problems is the best option and will show clients you have their best interests at heart.

As both women stress, “Family wealth goes beyond just the dollars and involves family values. Our work is largely around trying to help make that wealth sustainable so that it doesn’t get wasted.”

Collings and Collins’ seven symptoms that indicate the wasting of wealth:

1. There is no complete financial picture.

2. The focus is solely on the business.

3. There is no time or energy spent on what could be (i.e. planning).

4. There is no awareness of how or whether the wealth can support the lifestyle for a lifetime.

5. There is insufficient knowledge to know the questions to ask.

6. Professional services are reactionary and piecemeal.

7. There is a nagging sense not enough is being done.