When an ultra-high-net-worth family walks into the office of Maria Elena Lagomasino for the first time, she flashes a deck of cards.

It's not a set for playing poker. Lagomasino says it's a special deck of 58 cards containing what she calls the "Keeps Me Awake at Night" questions.

The "K-MAAN" cards, as they are known internally, were developed from 15 years worth of questions that the firm's wealth managers collected from clients. The topics include whether to invest in private equity and how to instill financial values in children.

"The reason they are so powerful is that when a family comes to see us, the issues of wealth management are very broad," says Lagomasino. "What is worrying Dad may not be what's worrying Mom, or the son or the daughter."

Lagomasino, who took over GenSpring in 2005, says the cards are an important tool in establishing credibility as an advisory service interested not in selling specific products, but in using whatever tools are available to ease a family's financial concerns.

With assets under management up 300 percent and its network of family offices nearly doubled since she took over, Lagomasino's methods seem to be working. "I tell [clients], 'If it isn't in the cards, don't worry about it,'" she says.

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