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From a Silver Spoon to a Mobile Platform - Transitioning to the Next Gen Wealthy

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It's not news to my readers that there is a stark contrast between baby boomers and the next gen. Nor should my readers be surprised that wealth platforms across the globe are seeking to attract these younger wealth holders who, as I noted in my last post, are seeking to "do good while doing well."

But what may be surprising is that Campden Wealth, the London-based media firm with a traditional set of events and periodicals appealing to UHNW investors (primarily of the baby boomer variety), has made a new next gen hire that embodies the dynamism and value props of this new generation. I believe that this signals a bold and positive leadership shift for this traditional platform (and wealth space) which has people taking a closer look. In a field known for its inertia, I believe that this hire is notable.

This past week I had the opportunity to share a drink with David Berger, the new CEO of the Americas at Campden Wealth, the parent company of the legendary Institute for Private Investors which was founded by Charlotte Beyer over 20 years ago. David had just returned from a week at the Wharton Campus in San Francisco -- the nerve center of the new economy -- with Charlotte, a top-notch team of Wharton profs and 40 significant wealth holders.

A securities lawyer by training who spent the earlier part of his career protecting minority voting rights in the deep South for the Department of Justice and later represented Amnesty International as its pro bono counsel, David's career has balanced "doing well and doing good". He comes to the New York office of Campden after nearly five years of building executive-level peer networks and supporting family offices in Hong Kong and Singapore - where family wealth dominates the economy.

But when I asked David what he's most proud of, the word "wealth" was nowhere near his tongue. He gave a shout out to his wife, who he'd married exactly two years to the day from our discussion. (He had an anniversary surprise planned for her later that evening.) He then mentioned his early advocacy for ending life without parole for child offenders (which the Supreme Court recently struck down) and his fight to end unscrupulous practices by taxi drivers (aligning him with every person who's ever hailed a ride).

While I was eager to learn more about David's plans for his new organization, it struck me that he asked me most of the questions -- constantly seeking to garner new insight and further his thinking as we got to know each other. Most poignant, he questioned whether yesterday's "rules" of communication are being followed by tomorrow's "fools". Or as the folks as Scorpio Partnership so aptly put it, "The illiterate of the 21st Century will . . . [be] those who cannot unlearn and relearn."

We are indeed seeing a seismic shift in the demands of high net worth (HNW) clients. And the industry is "unlearning" and "relearning" the rules of client engagement to keep up with those demands. Digital contacts -- which 23.7% of HNW clients now rate as more important than direct contact -- are critical to client service. 44.5% of HNW clients prefer reporting and information flow in real time - delivered through "always on" channels -- while 20 percent prefer receiving this information at standardized intervals. (I suspect this 20 percent still learns about the day's events from the nightly newscast.) While this shift is unquestionable and requires the industry to innovate, David stressed the continued importance of direct personal relationships with his organization's clients. As he put it, client service today requires a "hybrid approach" customized to individual client needs by a top notch professional and best in class technology.

I have also had the pleasure of meeting Charlotte Beyer, the visionary and founder of the Institute for Private Investors. From an idea spawned while sitting on the beach, she built a pioneering organization. Ahead of her time, she recognized that wealth holders needed a community where they could learn and share. She developed a "safe harbor" on Wall Street at a time when most harbors were polluted and filled with sharks. She developed an exclusive online social network before Mark Zuckerberg reached puberty and when most people's computers still screeched with the awful sound of a dial up modem connection. But despite her youthful appearance and place amongst the great innovators of our time, even she would admit to being baby boomer.

Wealth needs a facelift. Campden has brought on board a fresh tactician who understands the changing market needs to lead its "nips and tucks". He speaks in his clients' voice; about their challenges and their needs -- crediting solutions provided to the community and the team that administers the IPI. His vision of "efficiently supporting wealth holders most critical decisions" is focused, succinct, and smart. After spending a long weekend in Newport with Thurston Howell III wannabes and nothing to show for it but a sunburn -- I was screaming for some efficiency and answers.

At a time when 98 percent of wealth inheritors are changing advisors, decision makers are three times more likely to be influenced by digital content than their parents, 71 percent of wealthy young people rate social responsibility as impacting their investment decisions, and - as CapGemini reported in its 2013 World Wealth Report -- "the evolving regulatory landscape represents the single largest challenge facing wealth management firms", credit to Campden's management in London for recruiting an innovative young socially conscious legal mind who is able to keep pace.

As Charlotte furthers her passion for doing good with her new foundation, she passes the baton to the NextGen. The Institutes' new home at Campden immediately globalized this exclusive community's reach, but hiring David to run the Americas at Campden brings a global perspective to the US borders while simultaneously making it relevant to the critically important next generation.