Szifra is interviewed in Financial Advisor magazine
Life planning and taking a holistic approach to finances are in vogue now, but Lexington Wealth Management, based in Boston and Manhattan, has taken it a step further and recently engaged the services of a licensed therapist with a speciality in wealth counseling.
Szifra Birke was first a client of Lexington Wealth Management, a boutique firm that advises the suddenly wealthy and high-net-worth individuals in transition situations. She then started counseling some of the firm’s nine staff members informally, until both sides decided the relationship was working so well it should be made formal.
“The vast majority of my time will be spent helping the staff do as effective a job as possible,” Birke says. “My work will revolve around increasing their emotional intelligence.”
Birke will also be brought in to talk with clients, when it seems like it would be useful and the client agrees, and she will sit in on meetings between clients and advisors “to make sure the advisors are really hearing everything that is being said,” she explains.
“We believe in behavioral finance,” says Michael S. Tucci, president and co-founder of Lexington Wealth Management, along with Kristine M. Porcaro, chief operating officer. “I was a CPA and a purist from a Big Eight firm, and I was a little squeamish at first, but the world has changed. We are considering focusing more on women and entrepreneurs, and they have a distinct emotional side to their acquisition of and handling of wealth. The emotional issues cannot be minimized.”
Porcaro adds that having the services of a behavioral therapist who knows finances and the problems that wealth can create “is a service that we can provide. Most therapists do not have as much knowledge of finances and wealth as Szifra. Bigger firms may be hesitant to do something like this, but people are very emotional about money. They will tell strangers they are having an affair before they will discuss their money.”
Birke already has helped the principals decide how to approach some prospective clients and how to advise current clients. One woman has come to them to discuss her finances if she decides to divorce her husband, a decision that has not been made yet and may take some time to reach, but which will have long-range financial implications.
“In a perfect world, we are trying to see our clients in a three dimensional mode. Many of our clients allow us to get into their world, which makes the relationship more fun and, arguably, we can then do a better job for them,” Tucci says. “We only take on about ten new clients a year, so they are somewhat self-selecting for people who would be comfortable with this approach.”