What do Private Wealth Managers Do?

by Derek Loosvelt | March 10, 2009

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Do wealth managers need to be good at Sales? Marketing? Investing? Schmoozing?

The answer to all of these questions is yes. A private wealth manager must be good at many things--he or she must be as skilled at developing relationships as investing.


Among the responsibilities of a private wealth manager are sales and prospecting for sales. If your heart fell a little when you read that you'd have to, gasp, gulp & s & s ... sell, then hold on for just a minute. The first stop on the road to success for any private wealth manager (or any other salesperson or manager for that matter) is to improve his or her listening skills. A good private wealth manager will be able to draw out a client's needs by asking the right questions then actively listening to the answers for cues and clues as to what the client might be thinking.

Money can be a very uncomfortable subject for people. Studies have shown that many people are more uncomfortable talking about money then they are about being naked in front of a strange doctor. Like a doctor, a private wealth manager's bedside manner, so to speak, will go a long way to identifying a client's needs.

When you improve your listening skills, you will find that you become a true professional salesperson. Such a professional salesperson is not someone who can simply talk another person into anything. A professional salesperson, rather, is an expert at listening to what clients need and filling that need by identifying a product or service appropriate for them. This means that often you are not selling anyone anything at all. Rather, you are listening to clients, building relationships with them, and understanding what their goals are. That's what sales is really all about. If you let it, it can be one of the best parts of your job.


Marketing is the art of telling people who you are--whether you're a product or service--and why people should want to do business with you. This last part (why people should want to do business with you) is the most important aspect of promoting your business. And since private wealth management is a highly-regulated industry, there are some notable challenges to marketing.

When it comes to marketing itself, the private wealth management industry has more restrictions on what it can lawfully claim than some other industries. For example, if you had owned an oil company and sold gasoline, like Jed Clampett, you could say that your gasoline made cars more fun to drive to promote your particular brand of gasoline. In the private wealth management business, though, it's a little more difficult to make claims of being "the best," or being "better than" something or someone else. Generally, the marketing is pretty standard, with some notable exceptions. Private wealth management companies might say they offer some sort of superior service quality or a degree of caring that may be missing from a competing firm. For instance, Raymond James and Associates offers BIO (by invitation only) visits to clients meeting certain liquid net-worth thresholds. These potential clients are flown down to Raymond James corporate headquarters and given a tour of the firm's four-acre campus in St. Petersburg, Florida. Clients then can meet with various departments of the firm, including the senior management, right up to the CEO.

What some firms lack in old-fashioned marketing, they allow (and expect) you to make up for. Some wealth managers may use newsletters to promote themselves, others network in their community. How you market yourself will be a decision to make after thoroughly evaluating what strengths you can bring to your clients.

Many managers spend time on the golf course to meet prospective clients. But golfing isn't a marketing strategy that can replace the hard work of meeting or calling prospects. It might be one component of a networking plan, which may also include volunteering on community boards, doing charity work and getting involved in other activities that allow a wealth manager to have more contact with wealthy individuals.


Private management firms provide their wealth managers with professionals to help them handle their clients' day-to-day investment decisions. This does not mean that wealth managers won't have a lot of input about those decisions or that they could not make those types of decisions themselves given the time. But think for a moment about how their time should be best spent? Talking to clients? Prospecting for new clients? Meeting new contacts? Learning about new estate planning techniques? Or keeping a close eye on the market?

Certainly they need to develop well-informed opinions about investing and various investment strategies. And the most important function of a wealth manager in the investment process will be explaining the implications of the various strategies presented, thereby helping his or her clients select the most appropriate strategy.

Filed Under: Finance

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