In the complex world of wealth management, particularly for ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) families, the role of a Relationship Manager (RM) is pivotal. These professionals serve as a bridge between the family’s multifaceted needs and the financial institution managing their wealth. This article is based on the paper “Client Relationships and Family Dynamics: Competencies and Services Necessary for Truly Integrated Wealth Management” (2010) by James Grubman and Dennis Jaffe. The paper provides a comprehensive exploration of the essential roles, competencies, and services vital for Relationship Managers (RMs) in the field of wealth management. It underscores the multifaceted responsibilities of RMs, who act as the crucial link between the complex needs of wealthy families and the financial institutions managing their assets. For a wider angle on the subject you may read our previous article: How Financial Advisors Navigate Wealth Planning and Succession.

The Role of the Relationship Manager

RMs are akin to general practitioners for family dynamics, adept at responding to a family’s diverse members, concerns, and goals. They are not just financial advisors but also play the role of a priest, psychologist, and coach. Their skills range from trust administration and estate planning to risk management and family governance. The RM’s role is central to balancing the needs of the family, their wealth, and the firm they represent.

Core Competencies and Services

RMs are expected to possess a solid aptitude in foundational skills like wealth management and client-relationship skills. They should be familiar with a range of services, including dealing with individual clients and broader family dynamics. These services encompass governance, trust administration, philanthropy, and estate planning. RMs should be able to identify and handle various issues families face, from developmental transition stresses to more severe difficulties needing expert intervention.

Training and Development

The development of RMs involves integrating multidisciplinary knowledge and skills in often stressful human situations. Training programs should target both generalist and domain-specific levels of proficiency. A crucial aspect of this training is the practical application of skills, where RMs work with families and receive guidance from senior advisors. Regular case meetings and debriefs about challenges, successes, and mistakes are essential for continuous learning.

Family Dynamics in Wealth Management

Wealth management for families is a tangled web of practical and emotional considerations. Financial professionals must understand and work with factors like shared versus split assets, inclusion of in-laws in family meetings, and the emotional meanings of money. Some financial institutions offer differentiated services in family dynamics as a competitive distinction, reinforcing the holistic nature of their wealth management.

The Interplay Between RM and Financial Firm

The effectiveness of an RM is significantly influenced by the firm they are part of. When the orientations of the RM and the firm align, clients receive the greatest benefit. However, disconnects between the RM and the firm can lead to long-term negative impacts. Firms that prioritize family-dynamics services enhance the effectiveness of their RMs.


In summary, RMs occupy a crucial place in the wealth management landscape. Their role as the mediator between the family, their wealth, and the financial firm is complex and multifaceted. By developing a set of core competencies and understanding the intricate family dynamics, RMs can provide comprehensive and effective wealth management services. The synergy between the RM’s skills and the firm’s approach is key to delivering integrated wealth management solutions that cater to the unique needs of UHNW families.