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Wealth Management Lecturer Bill Woodson on Developing Professionals to Support UHNW Clients

Family Wealth Report, a business intelligence publication for the family office community, recently interviewed Bill Woodson, Lecturer in Columbia's Wealth Management program and Executive Vice President and Head of Wealth Advisory and Family Office Services at Boston Private. 

In "Guiding Advisors, Principals On Family Offices," Woodson discusses his new book, The Family Office: A Comprehensive Guide for AdvisersPractitioners, and Students, as well as his thoughts on innovation in the industry, setting firm culture, and advice on setting up and running family offices. Below, Woodson answers why Columbia launched its Master's in Wealth Management.

The wealth management industry as it pertains to UHNW (ultra-high-net-worth) investors is growing at an above-average rate, and this segment is, thus far, still heavily reliant on the skills, training, and experiences of professionals who serve similar families. Furthermore, these professionals, or firms, must deliver this advice in a cross-disciplinary fashion incorporating expertise in investments, taxation, estate planning, philanthropy, wealth education, and increasingly, family office best practices. (The technological advancements discussed previously cannot provide these services for this client segment.)  

Many of the historic training grounds for broadly-trained wealth management professionals have gone away. For example, Big Four public accounting firms have reduced the personal financial planning advice and services for senior executives due to Sarbanes-Oxley. They also require their advisors to become specialized in discrete technical areas much earlier in their careers. In addition, private banking and brokerage firms have significantly reduced their training and development programs and instead focus on hiring experienced professionals from other firms.

Finally, most of the existing academic programs that prepare students for a career in wealth management focus on the requirements necessary to obtain the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. While these are invaluable programs, they focus on the issues, needs, and planning for mass-affluent and HNW clients, not UHNW families or family offices.  

The Master's in Wealth Management at Columbia endeavors to train professionals on the needs of wealthier, more complex UHNW clients, in addition to providing students with the training needed to sit for and pass the CFP exam. In so doing, it hopes to develop students who are better able to work within firms that serve UHNW families and establish a specific academic credential that supplements the CFP.

Read the full interview in Family Wealth Report.