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Monday, 16 January 2012 10:33

Mirador Family Wealth Advisors: It’s about more than money

Written by  Rod Kackley
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GRAND RAPIDS — You can smell the “new” the moment you walk in the door of the Mirador Family Wealth Advisors offices, adjacent to the Fifth Third Bank building in downtown Grand Rapids. You can almost, but not quite, smell the money. That will come later.

First, the space: Companies almost always have a purpose in mind when they work to design a space. Mirador CEO Glen W. Johnson said, make no mistake about it, the company was purposeful with its new space, which was conceptualized by Progressive AE with furniture from Steelcase Inc.

And now the money: Mirador focuses on what it calls “extraordinary wealth.” The Fifth Third Bank division works with a “select group of client families,” people who are concerned with “perpetuating” that wealth through the generations that follow. But they are also have “desires and concerns” that go far beyond preserving their family wealth. They are also concerned with their family’s “identity, values and reputation.”

With that in mind, a visitor can really begin to appreciate the design of the Mirador space.

“It is an immersary experience for these clients,” said Johnson. “You need a space that is warm and welcoming, where our staff and those family members can also come together.”

The Fifth Third vice president who walked this reporter through the bank’s buildings to the Mirador offices said this new space had a different feel, and he was exactly right. Johnson said this is not accidental.

“This is not your father’s bank,” he said.

Beyond the comfort factor, the Mirador offices are meant to be very efficient for client families because “it is often their home away from home,” at least while they are in Grand Rapids.

Mirador is the national headquarters of Fifth Third’s family wealth division. And when they say wealth, they mean wealth at the top level.

Fifth Third-West Michigan had a wealth management group for several years that was serving clients with a family net worth of over $25 million. That went on for six or seven years before Mirador was launched.

“We saw that there is a difference in service needs between someone with a net worth of $25 million and someone with a net worth of $100 million or more,” said Susan Vogel-Vanderson, West Michigan regional director for Mirador. “This is an outgrowth of that.”

Mirador’s client list has an average net worth of $109 million. They are, in the language of the moment, the top 1 percent. Given they have all that wealth, one might be left to wonder what exactly their “needs” are.

Johnson explained they have all the needs, wants and desires of the 99-percent. They all want their kids to go to college, they all want to do good for their communities, and of course they are concerned with investment management.

Of course there is a difference between Mirador’s clients and the rest of the bank’s clients. To begin with, Mirador’s clients all have private foundations, but the difference goes beyond that. Most people are worried about concerns that are going to happen within their lifetimes: retirement, college for the kids, paying off the mortgage, and maybe buying a second home.

The Mirador clientele has a different agenda: They are concerned with legacy planning.

“They all have a private foundation,” said Johnson. “They are using a variety of partnerships and other devices to transition and transfer wealth. Clients at this level are really starting to think about the next 50 to 100 years.”

He also pointed out that Mirador has to be concerned with the generations they will never know, generations 100 or more years down the road and foundations that could live on even longer.

That really comes down to families’ abilities to answer two basic questions: How did we make this money? How are we going to sustain it?

“It is hard to sustain the level of wealth and really preserve and grow it for the next generation,” said Vogel-Vanderson.

For many Mirador clients, stewardship also weighs heavily in their financial decision making. Individuals or causes will always ask for help, and people with wealth are likely targets.

“Those are some of the most difficult things that our families have to deal with, especially given what has been happening in the economy over the past three years,” said Johnson. “A strategic focus allows them to say ‘no’ to some of the requests and ‘yes’ to others. They also can use us as a buffer and a clearinghouse.”

Vogel-Vanderson said people Mirador hires must have a passion to serve these people.

“It is really all about client needs. It is such an immersive experience that you really become an adjunct family member,” she said.

Johnson said to be a part of the Mirador team, a person also has to be very comfortable dealing with “intimate issues situations.”

“We can help them deal with any range of issues from marital discord to alcohol and drug abuse,” he explained. “This is where those conversations can start.”

Does it ever seem like all of this money is nothing but a burden? Welcome to Core Value #1.

“We developed some core values as we began formulating a strategy to help these people,” said Vogel-Vanderson. “And we decided that one of those core values was that wealth could be both a blessing and a burden.”

Mirador does its best to accentuate the former and diminish the latter, she said.

Read 5861 times Last modified on Monday, 13 August 2012 12:59

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