Finding the Connection between Finance and Families: A Q&A with Robyn Hooper
In a true testament to the way that our professional worlds continue to shift in the face of great global uncertainty, the Trella team is growing! We are so pleased to add a key and fundamental skill set to our larger skills profile, which will only enhance and deepen our work with families and advisors alike. We want to welcome Robyn Hooper to the Trella team. Robyn’s acumen for numbers alongside her dedication to helping families achieve their overarching goals offers tremendous insights into our client engagements. Blending the qualitative work with the quantitative has created some amazing outcomes for families.
- Judi Cunningham
Tell us a little about your work?
By trade, I am a Chartered Accountant, but I never went into this field to be an accountant. What I was looking for at the time was a profession that would offer financial security because I felt that would give me freedom - to choose, to invest, to plan my future. What I found out very quickly was that, more than anything, it gave me knowledge. Financial knowledge gives us agency, it gives us flexibility, and on the flip side, a lack of it can put us at risk or take away opportunities due to fear of the unknown. The psychology behind finance impacts our romantic relationships, how we advocate for ourselves, our day-to-day choices, our risk profile - essentially, it impacts every aspect of our lives, whether we want it to or not. My work is about understanding how finance impacts a family. From the traditional perspective - returns, asset mix, liquidity, etc. - but more importantly, from the human perspective - the emotions, the implications on relationships, the legacy. What I so often see is that families end up with complex legal structures to manage their finances and transition wealth. These structures help to maximize financial wealth, defer taxes, and provide intergenerational wealth transfer, among other important goals. What these structures don’t always take into account is the age and stage of the people who have to manage them. That’s where I come in.
Families will end up with trusts, an estate, and often multiple corporations. The interplay of these structures can directly impact family members, and not always in a positive way. I act as a decoder or translator. I help families understand the implications of these complex legal and tax structures. They are created in good faith to meet financial goals but need to be coupled with financial literacy training, ongoing learning and development for spouses, children, and grandchildren, and a commitment to ongoing revision as families grow and change.
For example, one sibling may have their shares or assets held in a trust, while another may have direct access to their assets. This can cause conflict and resentment between siblings. In another case, a parent may distribute their Estate in a way that causes emotional pain for their Children - they gave the family cottage to the oldest sibling, but the middle child had strong emotional ties to it - but because it wasn’t discussed before the parent died, there is no opportunity for closure as to why that decision was made. What I see are families who want happy, healthy, and self-actualized children, who live joyful and meaningful lives. They want to experience harmony in the family and a connectedness that deepens over time. They want these priorities not at the expense of financial success, smart tax planning, and astute estate plans, but in addition to it. The values and vision of the family and their relationships with each other need to drive the creation and actualization of these structures, not the other way around. The challenge facing the family, and in particular the holder of the wealth, is that this requires clear, articulate communication, transparency between generations, and the appetite to engage in difficult, emotional conversations. From where I stand, this is about potential short-term pain for a long-term gain that is priceless. These are the conversations that build a legacy and can positively impact future generations.
What drew you to working with enterprising families?
When I began working with enterprising families, I found a synergy between their values and mine. Values like the importance of family, community, philanthropy, and creating a better world for our children, are really important to me. Families often think in ways that are community-oriented, globally conscious, and how they can support those around them. This resonates with me and aligns with my aspirations. Enterprising families have a long-term focus and are building for their future generations, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren - those are their shareholders. It makes sense that these family enterprises are invested in future outcomes that go way beyond their own financial assets. So, supporting these families through the work that I do is incredibly rewarding.
What is your purpose, your vision and how does it connect with work?
I am drawn to people who manage businesses in a way that cares for people and who invest their wealth with human and global well-being in mind. Life is not just about the bottom line. When people die, they don’t care how much money they have, they care about their family, their children, their friendships, and their community. And these are often the qualities and values I see in the families I work with.
Considering the world we are living in today, what might families want to consider?
Families may want to take a deeper look at where their money is invested and in what kind of industries, in order to assess if those investments are in alignment with their goals and values. Often families know the broader brushstrokes of their investments but haven’t had time to take a deeper dive. Money is a powerful tool and making it work for what we believe in is important, whatever those goals or values may be. It’s about being intentional.
Also, I can’t stress enough the need to financially educate the next generation. The wealth transition we have talked about for so many years is ramping up and there is immense potential for the next generation to rise to the occasion. When families have a significant amount of money, they have the power to make a profound impact in whatever areas of the world that they chose to invest their time and capital in. Financial literacy is the key to the future for this rising generation. They are going to look at their wealth in a profoundly different way and we all must get up to speed and be ready to support them and help them achieve their dreams.
“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” Plato