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Q&A: Emily Griffiths-Hamilton, author of “Build Your Family Bank”

Build Your Family Bank is an insightful must-read for anyone looking for an accessible guide to wealth succession. In the following interview Emily Griffiths-Hamilton answers a series of questions about the Family Bank approach, including whether it’s intended only for the wealthy, how her own experiences shaped the vision and what lessons readers should take away from her book.

What inspired you to write this book? How did your own experiences shape your vision of the Family Bank approach?

I was inspired to get the message out that 70% of succession and wealth transition plans don’t have to fail! In Build Your Family Bank, I explain what the current failure rate means, the reasons why they fail (‘in spite of’ the excellent work of our professionals to establish structures to control the next generation and minimize/defer taxes) and then present an approach, what I refer to as the Family Bank approach, which can increase the likelihood of a family creating a successful succession plan.

My own past experiences, professional expertise and work with families strengthen my understanding in this subject area and, building on this knowledge, Build Your Family Bank shares the core concepts that successful families have known for generations.

You note in the book that a full 70% of wealth-transition plans fail? What do you mean by this, and what do you feel are the key contributors to this poor success rate?

This is a great question! Failure, as shared in my book, is when a family involuntarily loses control of the financial assets due to ‘inattention, incompetence, mismanagement, foolish expenditures, family feuding and other factors within their control’. Furthermore, we now know that the key reasons for this failure rate lie within the family itself. The key factors are:
60% due to a break of communication and trust within the family,
25% due to unprepared heirs (or, as I say, individuals who are unprepared for the financial realities of the 21st century and
15% largely due to a family’s lack of a shared vision/purpose

If there is one piece of advice you’d give to an individual or family contemplating their first succession plan, what might that be?

To consider taking the time to learn as much about successful wealth-transition strategies as possible including picking-up and reading Build Your Family Bank. Filled with numerous ideas and insights readers can contemplate as their succession/estate plans evolve, the Family Bank approach provides families with a way to strengthen communication and deal with topics which, in some families, still remain taboo.

Is the Family Bank approach simply for the super wealthy?

No, not at all!! In fact, the priority of this book is the family, its individual members and strengthening communication. I specifically broaden the definition of wealth to include not just a family’s financial assets but it’s more important human and intellectual assets, in other words, the emotional and physical well-being of the family members and all that they know. No matter one’s financial journey, adopting the Family Bank approach is not an all or nothing proposition – one can cherry-pick the information and take away useful information which resonate with your particular circumstance.

Every family is so different and so are their challenges but a common scenario I encounter is conflict or fear of conflict. Conflict amongst family members, as inevitable as it is and as healthy as it can be, can sometimes be poisonous and the only antidote is effective communication. This book goes a step further – the Family Bank approach is more like administering a vaccine before a disease is encountered – as it is filled with ideas and insights into strengthening communication, beginning with the articulation of a family’s shared values and vision, and, through effective communication, preparing family members for independent, self-fulfilled, purposeful lives.

Now that you’ve published your first business book, the big question looms: What are a couple of your favourite business books? What sets them apart from the rest?

Oh dear, for someone like me who loves to learn, that’s a tough question to answer because each book I pick-up, I learn something new! But if ‘I Have’ to pick one, it would be a book I discovered in a small community bookstore by James E. Hughes Jr. entitled, Family Wealth: Keeping it In the Family, because for me, at the time, it was an entirely eye-opening read! It was the book that further ignited my curiosity in this subject area and, as my questioning of our traditional approaches to succession planning burned brighter, resulted in my passionate focus to assist other families with their succession plans as they unfold.

The final chapter challenges readers to “Sharpen Your Pencil and Dare to Dream.” What do you mean by this? If there is one lesson you’d like readers to take away from this book, what would it be?

“Sharpen Your Pencil” is about getting started and focusing. This book shows families that it is never too late to start communicating. ‘Dare to Dream’ encourages families to not be limited by the stories of failure, but to instead focus on and be inspired by the successes.

January 10, 2018
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