There might not be an obvious link between philosophy and wealth management but this week, I met David Scott, founding partner of Vestra Wealth, to hear about the firm’s partnership with the School of Life, writes Libby Ashby.
Vestra and the School of Life, which helps to bring philosophy to people in their everyday lives, are working together to produce ‘A Portfolio of Thoughts’. It’s a series of philosophical essays that explore 12 important life areas, from ‘Family’ to ‘Ambition’, ‘Ethics to ‘Legacy’ and others.
Scott told me why he teamed up with the School.
‘We’re trying to look much deeper into understanding our clients’ requirements. We want to know exactly what they are trying to achieve with their money and what they’re expecting of us,’ he said.
‘By quizzing the non-financial aspects of our clients’ lives, we will gain a greater understanding of what makes them content, what satisfies them.’
Since Vestra’s inception in 2008, he and his team have been trying to find a way to better understand clients, and to show how much the firm values them but it was difficult to find the right method to express this, he says. Then the opportunity came to partner with the School of Life.
‘Working with the School of Life, asking them to write the essays and putting time and effort into the partnership, demonstrates how much we care about these issues and how much we want people to hear our message,’ Scott told me.
‘We are trying to be what people don’t expect. By challenging their perceptions, we can make people think about these issues and the industry in a different way.’
‘I see the relationship between clients and their investment manager as a partnership and these essays help facilitate their understanding of each other.’
An essay will be published each month for a year with ‘Change’ and ‘Good risk, bad risk’ being the first two. I was given an exclusive on the third essay, ‘Courage’, written by Mark Vernon, writer and journalist, who also joined us at the meeting.
Vernon explained why philosophy can help you better understand day-to-day issues. ‘Philosophy is practical intelligence so it’s a great tool to be used in life. Each essay can help you see how the philosophy behind each topic is relevant in everyday life.’
The essays are distributed to Vestra’s clients and anyone else who has signed up to receive them. Feedback has been great so far with clients saying how refreshing it is to read about life’s big questions from a different view point.
Scott and I then talked about the role courage plays within the wealth management industry.
‘Often investment managers are reluctant to be definitive to the client. But some clients need to be guided and, in these cases, investment managers have a duty to lead – therefore they do need to have courage’ he said.
‘It also takes courage to stand up to a client with strong views if you disagree with them and know that the best course of action is different,’ he added.
Scott believes clients also need to have courage to take risk in their investments, as often the losses in the short term are outweighed by gains in the long term.
We discussed how it can be difficult for a wealth manager to make an investment call that is different from many of their peers’.
‘We want our investment managers to have courage in their convictions and feel comfortable going against the herd’ Scott said. ‘And if they don’t have the answers to their clients’ questions, it is better to have the courage to tell them that rather than telling them something they’re unsure of’ he added.
According to Scott, it’s not just individual investment managers that need to be courageous.
‘Vestra believes that wealth management and the wider financial services industry should be more transparent,’ he said.
‘It takes courage to be transparent and we hope this essay will encourage people to be so.’
If you would like to arrange a meeting, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org