How the right financial partner can help you gain control of your personal finances Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2010

When it comes to managing the complexities of their business, most executives are tireless in their pursuit of perfection. Every detail is attended to and when specific expertise is needed, they are fast to ensure they have the best person in place to attend to the job at hand.

But when it comes to being the steward of their own personal finances, many executives don’t follow the same approach. Instead, their own financial needs take a backseat to the day-to-day demands of heading a company. And the result of this inactivity can be detrimental to both the executives and their families, says Vartan Shahijanian, vice president and regional director at The Private Bank at Union Bank.

“It’s too important to get wrong,” says Shahijanian. “The result could potentially compromise the financial security of you and your family. I’ve known many business owners and executives who are perfectly in control when it comes to their business but who don’t have all the answers when it comes to their personal finances. The key is to find a person you can trust to travel alongside you on this important journey.”

Smart Business spoke with Shahijanian about how working with the right financial partner can help you gain control of your personal finances.

For executives that have been overlooking their personal finances, what is the first step to getting their financial health back on track?

You have to start by narrowing it down and enlisting the help of a private banker. The right private banker can help you do this by asking the right questions: Do you have a current will? If you have a trust, when was the last time it was updated? If you don’t have a trust, is this an alternative you should consider? Is it a good time to refinance? What are your goals for retirement? The answers to these questions will start to form a financial picture. From there it becomes easier to determine what the most critical next steps are.

What is the benefit of having the right private banker in your corner?

All of these financial considerations can be really overwhelming. The right financial partner will know how to guide you through all of the options and can bring in a team of people with the expertise that you need. Often they can help with issues that might not even be on your radar. For example, there was a client who was sending a sizable wire transfer overseas. He didn’t think anything of it until we explained some of the exchange options that existed. We were able to save him thousands of dollars on the conversion rate to British pounds.

Another scenario relates to insurance and an individual who had amassed an incredible art collection. He hadn’t revisited his insurance in many years and didn’t think about the fact that his wealth had changed and, therefore, his policy should, as well. It is in these types of circumstances that a close relationship with a private banker can make all the difference.

You mentioned trusts before. How can trusts come into play to protect your financial assets?

Many people could benefit from a trust but don’t realize it. A trust can help address estate tax issues and protect your wealth and family should something happen to you or you become incapacitated. A trust is a viable option for preserving wealth and is strongly recommended for anyone who has accumulated wealth. Your private banker, in partnership with your attorney and tax adviser, can help you determine the type of trust that best fits your needs and make any necessary changes as your wealth grows, or as any other life-changing events occur.

Is it important for your private banker to work with your other advisers?

It’s critical. Your private banker should work with your CPA and your attorney to form a collective partnership. The accountant brings tax expertise, the attorney brings legal expertise, and the private banker will bring his or her financial guidance backed by a team with expertise on everything from banking services to trust services to wealth planning. Having a solid team behind you can really bring you an incredible level of comfort. As any executive knows, just like in business, one person doesn’t make all the decisions alone; instead, they gather a team of experts to come up with the best solutions.

How often should you meet with your private banker?

It depends on your needs. Your private banker’s job is to provide timely information, remain in contact with you and create an effective partnership. You should keep this person aware of what’s going on in your life, what worries you have and if anything changes that might require certain areas of your financial life to be reassessed.

How can someone find the right private banker?

One great way is to ask associates or other advisers for referrals. You want someone who is knowledgeable and experienced but you also want someone who you like and trust. Make sure this person is willing to really listen to your needs and not simply provide generic solutions. You want someone who approaches your finances with a 360-degree point of view. This will allow them to help you with your immediate needs, while also setting the foundation to become a lifelong partner — a trusted adviser who can help you get where you want to go. <<

Wealth planning strategies have legal, tax, accounting and other implications. Consult a competent legal or tax adviser.

Vartan Shahijanian is vice president and regional director at Union Bank. Reach him at