As enterprising families continue to rely on technology to stay connected and conduct business, this week’s edition features another possible platform that advisors can use with their clients. Thanks to this week’s contributor, Steve Legler, for sharing his experience working with families through the More Than Money 360 platform.
During the past year and a half, enterprising families have been forced to adapt how they conduct business together, due to travel restrictions and social distancing.
Thanks to recent technological advances, many did not miss a beat and quickly adapted to virtual meetings, along with other online platforms that allowed them to keep working together effectively, and often even more efficiently.
A recent edition of the FFI Practitioner featured a useful technology from Trusted Family that helps families with their governance. (see: How Technology Can Enhance Your Work with Family Enterprise Clients)
This edition got me thinking about what other technology platforms might also be evolving, which made me think of the More Than Money 360 (“MTM 360”) platform, where I serve as an advisor.
In the midst of the pandemic, I learned that MTM 360 has strived to continue finding methods to encourage engagement from the rising generation and to begin instituting family governance practices.
After speaking with the founder, Shawn Barberis, I wanted to learn more about the client experience from the users of the MTM 360 platform. So I set up interviews with two father-son pairs.
The Platform as a Repository of Family Info
MTM 360 is secure and accessible to everyone from wherever they happen to be, on any device connected to the internet.
As each family member completes the monthly exercises, the others can see their results.
The ability to learn about and from others without having to gather in the same physical space is a benefit that these client families hadn’t fully appreciated when they began the program.
The Program as a Series of Projects
Because each project has its own theme and goals, e.g., “Gratitude” or “Legacy”, there is some variety, and each project builds on the others.
One rising generation family member noted that the Communications project was a great way to break the ice, since starting to hold regular family meetings about such subjects can be awkward.
Since MTM 360 takes each person through the exercises one-by-one, in small segments that last only half an hour, by the time they get to the sixth month for the family forum, they have all had a chance to provide input ahead of time, which helps to avoid surprises at the meeting.
One of the family members I spoke with noted that it was important for the family to have a distinct process, separate from their traditional holiday family gatherings, to discuss important matters around their wealth and how they’d like to transition it to the next generation.
The Process and The Projects as a Common Base
Each project follows the same process, with exercises each month that build towards the family forum in the sixth month. With members of each generation continuing to share their work via the platform, everyone contributes.
We’ve all heard about the importance of a “safe space,” and one of the sons with whom I spoke mentioned this specifically. Theirs was a blended family, and at the outset his new stepsisters were hesitant to participate, but as they saw the others engage, they too opened up and began to share more freely.
The father from that family also told me how important it was to be able to share stories that he probably never would have shared otherwise, but one of the exercises nudged him to do it, and it benefited everyone
The Family Meetings as a Culmination
Practitioners who work with families know the importance of regular family meetings, and we each have our ways of putting them together. In the MTM 360 platform, family members provide the content so that it truly is “their” meeting, and everyone has a say.
After the first four monthly exercises, the family forum agenda is compiled, with input from all participating family members and guided by the navigator.
One of the interviewed family members shared how important it was that they all knew what the family meeting was going to be about, since the agenda had been co-created.
Learning and Growing as a Family Together
Each family is different and levels of complexity vary, but this technology allows all family members to learn and grow together, over time, at a steady pace.
One of the parents I spoke with noted that it was encouraging to see the whole family spending time together, discussing subjects that might not otherwise come up.
When I work with clients, I like to talk about “preparing the heirs for the assets” instead of the other way around, so anything that treats the family members as human capital usually piques my interest. It was great to speak with families who recognize the importance of formalizing family meetings and starting down the road of family governance. Technology platforms can guide the process and bring families together in new ways.
About the Contributor
Steve Legler, ACFBA, ACFWA, is a family legacy advisor based in Montreal, Canada. He is an advisor with the More Than Money 360 online platform and he works with family clients as a facilitator, and sometimes as a mediator. He also does individual coaching with family members. Steve holds advanced certificates in Family Business and Family Wealth Advising from FFI and is a member of the FFI GEN faculty. He is the author of SHIFT your Family Business and Interdependent Wealth: How Family Systems Theory Illuminates Successful Intergenerational Wealth Transitions. Steve can be reached at [email protected].