Lisa Hassenzahl advises an upmarket, predominantly female clientele with the Her Family Office (her-family-office.de), which she founded. Since this also touches on legal and tax issues, she relies on cooperation. Fondsfrau Anke Dembowski talks to her about how she does this. (This is part 2 of the interview with Lisa Hassenzahl; you can find the first interview here .
Lisa, in the last interview we talked about your approach to counselling in your company HFO (her-family-office.de). In terms of counselling, how do women differ from men in terms of their approach?
Women talk to us about their overall situation. They are already interested in suitable financial constructs, but they want to understand everything well. Women don't want to talk shop about individual markets. They probably know: She doesn't know for sure what the future holds either! And they are right about that!
You say that women talk to you about their overall situation. What do your clients discuss with you?
In the segment we work in, we basically talk about everything. That is very exciting, but also sobering, because we get to hear about the financial and also the personal. I think that is a difference between counselling women and men: the depth to which my female clients also talk about their personal concerns, i.e. also about the mental and emotional aspects.
Like what, e.g.?
For example, when women are thinking about getting divorced. We sometimes talk to well-off women who want to make strategic decisions in this situation, collect documents, and so on. The fact that they bring this up with me is perhaps also due to the fact that I am a woman.
Financial planning involves a fairly broad range of knowledge that is necessary for advising your upscale clientele. What training did you do to acquire the necessary expertise?
I did a dual study programme: I studied at the Frankfurt School and at the same time worked for an asset manager who also offers financial planning. That was good, and I was then able to work very specifically and gain professional experience.
After that I did the CFP. There I learned what you mentioned: The interconnectedness of the topics of investment, law and taxes. To be aware of this: Where are there interactions? Where do I need to be alert?
I think the CFP is necessary in financial planning. It gives you a good all-round view: Awareness of specific sources of problems, but also of one's own limitations.
The training to become an executor also helped me. Many working women do not have children and have a great need for advice here.
Not only the financial market, but also the areas of taxes, inheritance planning and so on are constantly changing. How do you keep up to date, i.e. how do you educate yourself?
With the CFP, you commit to continuing education; you have to earn continuing education points. Of course I read the newspaper and listen to the news every day. It's more the broader news. I also read specialist magazines. And then there is the exchange with colleagues. That's where it's best to have a whole network of experts, for example, specialist lawyers and tax advisors.
As a financial investment advisor, you are not allowed to give explicit legal and tax advice. Where exactly is the borderline?
That's right, it's very important to know where you are at the end of your own competence! The limit is not sharply defined, but as a guideline: As long as the legal and tax assessment is a subordinate aspect of financial planning, I may do it. In no case, however, are we allowed to draw up documents such as marriage contracts or wills.
In practice, we do it like this: we do a preliminary analysis and give a rough overview of those aspects that are fundamentally important. For example, if the client does not have a will, she is told what happens if she dies now.
What is the next step?
We don't just pass on a business card, but accompany such issues after we have coordinated the necessary initial discussions with appropriate specialist lawyers. My task here is also to translate this to some extent. After all, the will or the marriage contract do not regulate individual scenarios, but rather a general path, e.g. community of gains or equalisation of pensions. We then explain what this means in detail for the client. Especially community of gains and pension equalisation are two neuralgic areas. It is important to work with good people. It makes a big difference with whom you consult.
When you say you work in a network, how do you build your network? Where do you look for network partners?
It varies. In principle, it is the result of many years of work. You can also ask network partners with whom you already work well. Another way is further training: For example, I try not to only go to training providers for financial service providers. I did my training as an executor of a will with a provider that is mainly attended by specialist lawyers. That was very good for expanding my network in this area!
But at the end of the day, it is: Networking is not something that is completed all at once. You have to constantly work on it and get involved.
You are also on the board of the Financial Planning Standards Board Deutschland e. V. Do such extra activities, which also cost time and effort, help with networking?
Yes, definitely! The FPSB is already an authority in Germany. My activity there not only brings a lot in terms of networking, but I am also increasingly noticed by the press and other media. I thus take a rather neutral position. I can only say that such committee positions are always good, as long as you can include them in your own schedule.
Are your cooperation partners all female, or do you also have male network partners?
I prefer female network partners, but not at any price. Professional competence and the fact that we talk to each other on the same wavelength take precedence over gender. For example, the inheritance lawyer I cooperate with is a man.
Do you also have employees?
Yes, there are currently three of us in the team, but we are fortunately growing. That's why I'm always on the lookout for new staff.
Just between us: What was the most unexpected question a woman asked in your counselling sessions?
At the beginning I was asked an unexpected question by a client: What do I have to pay attention to when I want to get divorced? How do I position myself sensibly for this? How do I go about it? She had the clear intention of getting a divorce. At the time, I was surprised at how strategically she went about it. Most women don't approach divorce as strategically as they do their marriage! But conversations with family law experts show that there are many women who plan their divorce strategically.
And the topics of men?
Here, the focus is much more on capital investment, market developments and everything that goes with it. Of course, it is also about financial planning, but men have a particularly hard time with their own succession planning.
How do you get paid?
We work mainly on a fee basis and with an administration fee.
The question of commission or fee is often hyped by the media. Does it play a big role at all?
I see the issue of commission or fee much more unemotionally than it is discussed in the media. In my opinion, the type of authorisation also has nothing to do with the quality of the advice. For example, we have a licence that allows us to collect commissions. There are, in fact, also good reasons that speak in favour of commission-based advice. For example, with commission-based products you save on VAT because commissions are VAT-free. In addition, the advisory costs for commission products are included in the entry price and are thus tax deductible. In contrast, an advisory or management fee is not tax-deductible.
How do you explain to your customers what exactly you offer?
We have two aspects that we look at and therefore clarify in the initial meeting: Does the client need financial planning or does it have to be a family office solution? That depends on how comprehensive the process needs to be that the client needs in each case.
We have noticed that we are currently receiving many enquiries from women who rather need individual financial planning or, for example, only a portfolio analysis and not a family office solution. Therefore, we are currently working on modular solutions.
What aspects do you offer here? And can that be scaled?
For example, a portfolio that needs a check-up. Some aspects can be scaled better than others, but it is important to me that we have solutions that also help women who do not want to or cannot become a client in the family office.
You are based in Darmstadt. Where are your customers at home?
Our clients really do come from all over Germany. I actually only know some of them through video conferences, many of them I have seen in person once or twice and since then everything has been digital. Especially with larger assets, it is important for me and most of the clients to get to know each other in person, but in principle everything would also be possible digitally.
Many Thanks for the interesting interview!