Trust in family Business

Fluency: The Key to Becoming a “Personne de Confiance”

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a huge fan of the Purposeful Planning Institute and all that they do. So you shouldn’t be surprised that this post has its roots in one of the sessions of the latest PPI Rendez-Vous.

It was on Friday morning, and as usual there were at least two or three other concurrent breakout sessions that I hated to miss, but I had my sights set on Dean Fowler’s talk.

Something in his title, “Interdisciplinary Fluency: The Role of the Personne de Confiance” just spoke to me.


Inspired by Jay Hughes

I hadn’t even realized it at the time I walked into the room, but the term “Personne de Confiance” had been written about over a decade ago by none other than James E. (Jay) Hughes.

Hughes is a revered thought leader in the family wealth space, and he’s been a regular at the PPI annual Rendez-Vous up until this year.

Maybe I chose this session subconsciously just to get my Jay Hughes fix.


Personne de Confiance? 

You don’t need to be anywhere near fluent in French to understand what Fowler and Hughes mean when they use the term “Personne de Confiance”, as it translates rather simply to “Person of Confidence”.

What you may not realize is that the word confiance in French actually translates to the word “trust” as well as the word “confidence”.

So more than just being a “confidence person” (which has some negative connotations) we’re actually back to that old standby, the “Trusted Advisor”.


Who’s the Quarterback?

The beauty of most of the PPI Rendez-Vous breakout sessions is their interactivity, and this one was no exception.

Someone threw out the term “The Quarterback” which is so often used amongst advisors who understand the importance of a coordinated approach to serving family clients.

Fowler’s attitude seemed to be that you don’t actually have to be the quarterback to be the “Personne de Confiance”, and I have to agree with him.


A Good Number 2

Reading Hughes’s piece on the subject yesterday as I prepared to write this, it struck me that one of the keys to being that “Personne de Confiance” was knowing your place and being comfortable being “a Number 2”.

Of course the Number 1 in this case should be the client/family.

If the client family is Number 1, and I can be their Number 2, should I care if one of the other advisors considers themselves to be the quarterback?

As long as the client ends up getting what they need, I think not.


Fluency: Interdisciplinary and Otherwise

Fowler began the session speaking German at the front of the room in order to make the point that it can be very frustrating when you don’t understand the language.

Thankfully there was someone in the audience who also spoke some basic German to engage with him (OK, it was me) to make his point.

I’m pretty sure he used to refer to it as “Multi-Disciplinary” fluency when I first heard him at Rendez-Vous back in 2014. Either way, we’re talking about the ability to understand and be understood.


Complexity in Spades

The fact is, family wealth is complex business, and families who have a great deal of it need professional help managing it, figuring out how to keep it, and finding the best way to pass it down to succeeding generations of their family.

They need legal advice, they need experienced CPA’s and tax advisors, and they need a whole bunch of other qualified specialists from other fields too. (See Sharing Some Rocky Mountain Kool-Aid).


Who Understands ALL of This?

Most people who specialize in one area don’t naturally have the ability to see the bigger picture and many don’t even really care about the other pieces of the puzzle.

I Googled the word “fluency” and here is the second definition, (the first one dealt with foreign language ability):


“The ability to express oneself easily and articulately.”


Trust, Clarity, and Coordination

If the client family is Number 1, they’ll most likely crave having a “Personne de Confiance” who can make and keep everything clear.

The multiple advisors whose work must be coordinated also benefit from clarity.

The family client will trust the person who can articulate everything clearly.

That person, or Personne, will need to be fluent in many areas.

Est-ce que c’est clair? Alles klar?