Affluent business owners are a fertile source of new business for banks, but they are different from clients who inherited their wealth, according to a new study.
The U.S. Trust Survey of Affluent Americans, released Monday by the United States Trust Company of New York, found that 42% of affluent business owners polled came from middle-class families, and about half of them grew up in lower-middle class or poor families.
"This clearly is not a silverspoon crowd," said Jeffrey S. Maurer, president of the parent U.S. Trust Corp. "These business owners pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and obviously worked hard and risked much to realize the American dream."
Serving these business owners also takes a special approach, said Loraine B. Tsavaris, a senior vice president at U.S. Trust.
Affluent American business owners have "a different psyche," Ms. Tsavaris said. "You definitely have to earn your respect with these business owners, because they created their own wealth."
The main difference between those who earned their money and those who inherited it, is those who "made it the old fashioned way" are used to taking risks, Ms. Tsavaris said.
However, that does not mean they part with their money easily. In fact, Ms. Tsavaris said, it takes a long time to build relationships with wealthy businessmen, and it can take years before these relationships pay off.
Affluent business owners generally want to pump their money back into their companies, she explained. And even when they sell a portion of their business or have extra money to invest, turning to a financial adviser for help requires "a leap of faith," she said.
"It takes some work to get them to hand over responsibility," she said.
Wealthy business owners usually toil amidst less expensive trappings than those found in the upscale offices of private banks and brokerage firms. Most of them own companies that are part of the industrial of service sector, the survey found.
About 15% are real estate agents or developers, or own produce, construction, trucking, or machinery companies. One out of 10 respondents own automobile dealerships or car-repair companies.
"These are not the glamorous professions sometimes associated with affluence," Mr. Maurer said. "These are roll-up-your-sleeves types of businesses."
U.S. Trust surveys the wealthiest Americans each quarter, to determine their attitudes.