NEW YORK -- Understanding the personality of a wealthy individual or the key adviser who drives investment decisions is crucial to marketing investments to the wealthy, a panel of professionals said.

Speaking to the Association for Investment Management Sales Executives, whose membership includes private bankers, the panelists offered tips to playing by the unique rules of marketing investments to "substantial private investors."

'Going Slowly'

"You have to understand that you're dealing with a personality: even if you're dealing with 50 people in an office it may be an extension of one personality," said William S. Elkus, who served for nine years as an adviser to a wealthy family before founding a wealth management firm, Nathan Todd & Co.

He explained that if the family's decision maker doesn't like bonds, for instance, a whole category of investments may be off limits for discussion.

'Missionary Effort'

Predilections like that, often developed during wealth-building, can make it necessary to go slowly in explaining some concepts. "You see some people who are comparatively lucky who had the experience of betting their company on their strategy every year and that's very reinforcing," Mr. Elkus said.

"They've taken hideous risks year after year and kept on winning. To get them to understand risk and reward can be a very missionary effort."

Mr. Elkus said the greatest success in gaining access is achieved through referrals from intermediaries like lawyers and accountants.

In fact, a recent survey by Family Office Exchange Inc., a Chicago-based firm that helps wealthy families start an efficient office to deal with investing issues, found that 79% had heard about money managers through personal referrals and 31% through consultants. Only 12% came from direct solicitations, said Sara Hamilton, president of the firm.

Being Dignified Is Important

"The best cold call is a warm call," Mr. Elkus said.

"Find out what we are looking for," then tailor dialogue to the people you're talking with, said James C. Jenkins, who has served as adviser to a wealthy Wisconsin family and is executive vice president of Esko Properties Inc.

Don't insult someone by talking below his or her knowledge' level, he added. A bad experience with just one employee of a company can tar it for ages in the eyes of a wealthy family.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.