Sarah Haile is Head of Walgate Family Office Services at Fladgate, which provides professional support to address the personal and domestic needs of wealthy families. Walgate offers clients a full suite of professional services, including family office administration, HR, risk management, property management, philanthropy advice, and much else besides. It aims to deliver all the benefits of a family office without the substantial commitments that accompany one.
How is the line between clients’ professional and private lives blurring?
Sarah Haile: Since the advent of the smartphone, it has become almost impossible to compartmentalise your life. We see this increasingly with our clients: they want alignment across their public, personal, professional, investment and philanthropic activities.
The blurring of public and private has its benefits and drawbacks. For example, a friend from the gym turned out to be a highly regarded ‘private equity’ fund-raiser with an enviable network they share freely. Their extensive experience in the charity sector has been invaluable when working with clients to help achieve their philanthropic aims.
However it also means that when people are looking to work or co-invest with someone, social media means there’s so much more information available. If they are outspoken on a particular topic, it might affect their wider opportunities.
How does that change how advisors should support clients?
Sarah Haile: Some advisors are quite wary about collaborating, appearing nervous of losing that trusted advisory relationship with their clients. However, I think if you’re open to collaboration you’ll give a better service. Clients increasingly want simplicity. In my opinion, this is best achieved with a multidisciplinary team that considers the client’s needs holistically.
When properly coordinated, a multi-disciplinary advisory ‘board’ delivers legally and economically sound solutions, and this approach usually costs less as it reduces duplication. Also solutions are more practical and future-proofed as each specialist brings a different perspective.
What do you mean by practical and future-proofed?
Sarah Haile: A very excited tax specialist might come up with a really sophisticated solution that’s fantastic from a tax and privacy perspective. However, in practice it is of little use if the complexity prevents you from being able to open a bank account, or the client is caught unwittingly in a ‘Panama papers’ style scandal.
What’s your advice for making joined-up approaches work?
Sarah Haile: Clients never have enough time, so collate and simplify information, rather than just dumping it on them. Anticipate their questions. Give them what they need to make informed decisions, and the confidence that their risks are being mitigated as far as possible.
Find out how they like to communicate rather than enforcing your style on them. I had one client years ago who was so frustrated by the reporting from their family office that they sent a Harvard writing professor to teach us how to write for the reader.
It can be hard to write precisely and clearly, particularly when you have technical information to convey, but if your reader is a teenage beneficiary, they need to be able to at least have a good chance of understanding it.
About Sarah Haile
Sarah Haile is Head of Walgate Family Office Services at Fladgate, where she provides professional management services to address the personal and domestic needs of wealthy individuals and their families.
About The Lede
This article was originally published in The Lede, Transmission Private’s monthly newsletter that tracks the future of reputation management. Featuring interviews with leading private client advisers from the worlds of law, finance, and accountancy, sign up today to receive the newsletter in your inbox every month.