JOHN A: Hi, everyone. I am John A. Warnick, founder of the Purposeful Planning Institute, and it’s really a pleasure today to have David York and Gretchen Figge with us. And they’re going to be talking about a brain-burst that David had that Gretchen’s helped make real. And it is our tradition in these — I didn’t warn them about this — so I’m throwing the first left curve at you here. But it is our tradition in these podcasts to ask our guests if they’d be willing to share what we call their Purposeful Odyssey with relation to the topic that we’re going to be talking about. So I’d love to hear if the two of you, in just a couple of minutes, could share how it is that you came together and how you’ve kind of worked together to bring what you’re going to be describing to us today? I think that would be extremely beneficial not only to the PPI members, but these podcasts are open to the public in our effort to educate the public. And I know they’d love to hear that Purposeful Odyssey from both of you.
GRETCHEN: That’s awesome.
DAVID: Yeah. So maybe I’ll start. When I started estate planning years ago, I came from a CPA background, attorney background. And to me, it was all about the process and it was about the what of estate planning. And over the years, I just came to realize that the most effective wealth transfer occurs when we focus on ‘why’, we focus on ‘who’, and then we focus on the ‘what’ in the ‘how’ and I just am a firm believer that purpose should always drive planning — maybe that’s why I like the purposeful planning Institute [laughs] — and that planning should support purpose. There should be an alignment between those two. And so often I see such a disconnect between those. Several years ago, I was sitting with a friend of mine (kind of a mentor) and he asked me what I wanted to do with all of this and I told him I said, “I want to change how the world views wealth.” And he just laughed at me. But he said something that I’ll never forget. He said, “If you can change part of the market, you can change the market.” In other words, you don’t have to change everything. But if you create an alternative in a different mindset for how we approach things, you can work with enough people. You can change the whole marketplace. And so that’s what I love about the Purposeful Planning Institute is that we draw enough people. We don’t have the whole market, but I think we have enough that we can create that kind of change. And so that’s part of why I reached out to Gretchen. She and I go back 30 years. I asked her to help on that journey.
GRETCHEN: Well. So many years ago, David started down this journey: developing tools to help people, understanding what their values were and how to understand their family better. And I’ve been on the sidelines. I had been cheering him on saying, “I love this. This is amazing.” And maybe a little less than a year ago, he called me — actually I was at a conference and I got a text — he’s like, “Are you ready to come on board?” And I was like, “Maybe. Let’s talk.” And so we got together and we got some programmers that were really good at taking these concepts that Dave has developed over seven to eight years and worked one-on-one with clients. And we’ve put them into software so that we can change the world. We can let the market grow with a possibility that no one understands core values, no one understands the client on a deeper level. It is easy-to-use. And we’ve spent the last year putting this company together with this software that now we have available. And I’m more than delighted with how it’s turning out. I’m super excited. And we’re ready to launch and let people actually use this with their clients. So that’s a quick and easy overview.
JOHN A: That was marvelous, a wonderful story. And I love how the two of you have come together for the purpose that you have. I also should have shared at the beginning that the title Gretchen and David shows for the podcast episode today is ‘Adapt, Change, or Disappear.’ And I love that title. It really speaks volumes to the threat that technology is posing. But what we’re going to hear today is how you can harness technology and potentially change and adapt and become more relevant, even more valuable to clients than you were before. So let me start out by asking you guys: what do you consider the single biggest missing element in the wealth planning space when it comes to meeting the needs of our ultra high net-worth clients?
DAVID: I believe the single biggest missing element — people look at me a little sideways when I say it — I think it’s empathy. I think there is such a dearth of empathy in society as a whole, but particularly among high net-worth (clients). And I think there’s a couple of reasons for that. One is that I think the high net-worth (clients) were lied to. They were told, “Hey. If you go out and accumulate large amounts of wealth and build businesses, then you would have a care-worry in the world.” And it’s just not true. The reality is that wealth comes with a high level of burden and responsibility. I think they’ve come to realize that legacy and impact aren’t optional. And so all that hard work and effort has led to this wealth which will be highly impactful. And so they can’t choose whether or not to make an impact. I had a client once tell me that they were so overwhelmed by the wealth transfer. They said, “Maybe I’ll just give all my money away.” Because they’re so worried about what it would do to their kids. I said, “Well. That’s an impact. It’s an impact on the family you didn’t give to, to the charity that you do.” And then, I’ll be honest, I think by and large, they deal with professionals who are more envious of their financial position than they are empathetic. And those are just a couple of reasons. Gretchen, do you have others?
GRETCHEN: In addition to that, they’re vilified by society. They’re being blamed for problems that society has. And whether or not that’s a reality, they’re dealing with that. And we need to give them empathy within the context of that. And they’re always under pressure. How do you know if somebody is really your friend or connected to you? Is it for your wealth? Or is it for who you really are as a human? They felt as a result of that, they ended up feeling isolated. And so empathy is everything. And how do you really have empathy with these people if you don’t know who they are, which is one of the reasons we are so excited about the software that allows you to find out their core values. And if you know what their core values are, then you can know what’s driving them and connect with them more deeply.
JOHN A: That makes total sense. Let me ask you. I’m seeing it that I’m becoming increasingly aware almost by the minute of the incursions, the disruptions, which technology is bringing into our market place and how we serve. And I think the number one buzzword everybody hears is AI (Artificial Intelligence). Just speaking of professional advisors broadly and not necessarily limiting it to the wealth advisor or the attorney or consulting but broadly, how do you see professional advisors and consultants competing with AI today?
DAVID: Yeah, I think the simple answer is you can’t. You can’t compete with it. AI works faster. It works 24/7. IIt doesn’t take weekends or vacations. It doesn’t charge. But I think the key is not to compete with technology is to complete technology. And other words is to bring human intelligence to artificial intelligence. The reality is I got on and I’ve been using ChatGPT. The other day, I asked it to write a will. I said, “Write a will that is valid under Utah law that leaves all my assets to my spouse.” About six seconds later, it popped it out. And it was pretty good. Now, I still think you need a review by an attorney to look at the details of it. And it’s not perfect. It’s not exact, but incredible what it could do. I needed to put a NDA into an agreement, I had to draft up an NDA for me that I was able to read through and to put in. It can review and analyze financial plans. It can write private placement memorandums. It’s incredible. At the same time, if you type into ChatGPT: what do I value? What do my loved ones value? If you ask it: what’s keeping me up at night when it comes to my children’s future? That it has no answers for it. What’s the legacy I want to leave, the mark I want to have on this world? So I think what we have to realize and understand with technology is both its potential and its limitations. And I think the key to dealing with artificial intelligence is to become more human.
GRETCHEN: Yeah. And you may not realize this, when a survey went out 90% of respondents with financial advisors — these were high net-worth respondents — they believe that their financial advisor was too generic. But at the exact same time, 70% of those people said they would go to Google, Facebook, or Apple to get advice. So what do they really want? And I think it’s just as mixed between they’re getting this generic advice which they don’t feel connected to — so they’re willing to just go to technology — instead, if you know and understand them better as an advisor, they then feel connected and don’t feel the need to go to the ChatGPT, to the technology, because it does feel you’re valued as a human and connected to.
DAVID: Yeah. For example, if I want to rent a car, I actually don’t want to deal with a human at all. I want to go on to Hertz. I want to get my rental car info. I want to show up. I want to walk right to the car, pick out my car, and drive away. I want high-tech, low-touch. But if I want to go on an anniversary trip with my spouse to Europe, I want someone to sit down and ask me, “Tell me about how you like to travel. What do you like about food? What do you like about culture? How do you like to travel? What are you trying to accomplish?” I want somebody to sit down and really understand who I am and what I value so that I can create something that’s custom and unique and special. And so I think too often we’ve tried to play this middle ground of mixing technology and personalizations. And actually, I think in many things, people want high-tech, low-touch or they want high-touch and low-tech. And so I think it’s a mix of those two. I don’t think people are schizophrenic. I think Gretchen’s point there is that they’re turning to technology for sole because they’re not getting that personalization. And so if I can’t get personalization and I can’t get customization, I might as well go with simplicity.
GRETCHEN: Yeah. It’s not really AI versus not AI. It is what makes sense. How does it make sense to connect? And what does that really look like?
JOHN A: I really appreciate that perspective, Gretchen, because I do think that AI has just grabbed so many headlines in the last six months. It’s kind of becoming the word (just like Kleenex or Jell-O) speaks volumes in people’s minds. They identify with stuff immediately through that word but there are so many developing technological platforms and uses beyond just AI that I think, are very exciting. And I believe you guys are in that forward Vanguard, truthfully. So help me understand and help our listeners understand: how would you suggest to be relevant to not disappear to kind of up the the stakes in terms of the value that we’re providing? How should we approach clients today?
DAVID: Yeah. I think it’s by focusing first on why and who, and then letting that drive what and how. I’ll give you an example. I was talking with some very successful financial entrepreneurs a couple of years ago. And I asked his group. I said, “How many of you would credit the success of your businesses to your articles of incorporation?” And they all just laughed. They said, “We would credit zero percent of our success. Zero percent.” And I said, “What made you successful?” They said, “We knew the problem that existed in the world. We knew how we could uniquely solve that. And we surround ourselves with great people.” And I said, “So it was about having clarity of purpose and having the right people. They’re like, “Absolutely.” And I said, “But you needed your articles.” They said, “Yeah. We needed articles and bylaws and bank accounts and all of that. But that’s just simply how we did it. It’s not why we did it. And it’s not who we did it with.” And so, I think if we can help clients get clarity on their why. If they can understand the culture that they want to build and that they have, then it leads right into that what and how. But we still have clients bylaws and organizational documents and budgets. And we missed the humanity. One, we’re going to be replaced, but two, we’re just not going to be impactful.
GRETCHEN: Realistically — and I keep talking about core values because I just feel like it’s such a huge piece of who we are and what drives us to where we’re going in life — it’s like our GPS. How do we make those decisions? So if we have this GPS internal to who we are and our advisors know what that is, then the advisor will be on the same path with us. So let’s just say your core value is connection. Well, as an advisor, you understand that about a family. You can talk about building a cabin for the family to connect together on a regular basis. You can talk about spending money in a way that builds that connection within the family or with additional people they want to be connected to. But if you don’t know and understand that why, then what are you going to do? How are you going to drive in that direction?
JOHN A: Unfortunately, our listening audience today doesn’t get the advantage of the video which I am seeing and I’m looking at David and Gretchen and they’re in office and behind them is this beautiful banner for the enterprise that the two of them are collaborating on which is called Corenology. And I see the three big points: Understand, Connect, And Keep. And I’d love to have you guys maybe give us the why behind the corenology. I think we’ve been talking about it. I think it’d be very valuable for people to hear what the capacities and capabilities of corenology are, to assist advisors and in serving their family.
GRETCHEN: Yeah. Well, corenology is a software platform that you can easily send a survey to your client. It goes both to the husband, wife, and to the heirs. And it’s very simple to fill out — in fact, I would love to send one to you if you want it — on any platform. So it is technology. But the beautiful thing is it comes back to the advisor, and they can print a report that gives all this information about the client and their family, and allows a door to have that conversation. That’s the end game: having a conversation where they know and understand what the family values, each individual family member and the family as a whole. We give the family’s top five core values. So if you have 20 members of the family, you get to know out of those 20 members what really matters to them. You get to see that through this technology. And it goes on to talk about information about the family culture. It gives families priorities for the year. So it helps you in understanding what they need. We even talk about obstacles to wealth, things that could be holding them back. Those things that keep them from actually aligning with their core values. So they can have those Aha moments of, “Oh. Now I realize I’m doing this instead of aligning to my own core values staying true to who I am.”
DAVID: Yeah. And the way I kind of describe it. We’ve been in the information age for the past 30 to 40 years. And I think as professionals, we’ve primarily come as the gatekeepers of information. We either have information in our head or we have access to that information. And now, that’s easily bypassed. And the reality is this: data and information inform but questions and stories transform. And I think we need to get out of the information business. And we need to get into the transformation business. That takes some work but it’s a matter of understanding our clients. Who are they? What do they value? What do they believe? Helping clients understand that, it’s so interesting. I ask clients. I say, “Look. If your wealth transfer plan — and I mean wealth in the broadest terms, the human capital, the financial capital, the social capital — were a business, would you invest in it?” And most people say, “No. I wouldn’t invest in it because I’ve got no clarity. I can’t explain it to you. I can’t describe it to you. We would never invest in a business that couldn’t clearly articulate what it was in business for and how it was gonna do it.” But then I have to break into clients, “You’re actually currently 100% invested in your wealth transfer plan [laughs].”
GRETCHEN: Yeah. You can’t help it.
JOHN A: And whether you like it or not.
DAVID: Exactly. And so again, that’s where I think we’re entering into a new age. I’ve seen people talk about, “Okay. What’s after the information age? I’ve heard of the social age, the digital age.” I think we’re in the age of curation. Because I think information is ubiquitous. But the question becomes, “How do we take knowledge? And how do we turn it into wisdom?” And it’s through a process of curation. But that’s by asking questions and getting to stories. And so it takes a bit of time. And so that’s what we’re trying to do with corenology: to create a simple framework to have those qualitative conversations so that we can articulate the why and understand the who. And then honestly, it makes everything else so much simpler.
JOHN A: I’m curious, before we wrap up, I get from listening to both of you how immensely valuable this would be in understanding the connecting key from the advisor perspective. But I’m curious. For instance, when you speak of the family of 20, I think families don’t understand their core values. Does this process and this technology also provide a benefit to a family to maybe have deeper conversations around their shared values? And what they might do once they understand them?
DAVID: Absolutely. And it’s interesting. My core values, the top core values I have are the best core values because if they weren’t the best core values, I would have other ones. The problem is, nobody else has the same core values I do. And one of the problems that we have is that because we see ours is the best, when we don’t see our values and other people, we don’t think they have values or we think that they’re inferior. We took a family through this process and the parents were just pretty blunt. They said, “Look. We don’t think our kids value what we value.” And so we went through this process. And the parents value things like determination, productivity, and entrepreneurism. Their kids valued things like empathy, loyalty, creativity, beauty, and grace. And what they realized was, “Man. Our kids don’t value what we do but what they value is so amazing, and so great.” And they got to understand their children in a completely new and different way. And then the kids did the same thing because again, they see through their perspective. And so when they get where their parents came from. And they came from incredible poverty. How they get out of poverty is through determination, productivity, and entrepreneurism. And so they were a product of that. So you’re absolutely right John A, it’s powerful for families to see. And so often we can focus on political differences, religious differences, social differences, but unfortunately, that’s so much of what society is: how are we different? And instead, I think it should be focused on how we are unique. But in that Venn diagram of the uniqueness of a family, where can we overlap and agree, and we just pulled a plane up high enough and we see how in our so many differences, how like we actually are,
GRETCHEN: Well. That goes to the first word: understand. Understand each other on a deeper level. So not just the adviser to the clients, but the family within.
JOHN A: Beautiful, Gretchen. This has been an awesome conversation. And we knew it was going to be a little bit of an improv dance. It has been amazingly beautiful, though. I’d love to have you wrap. If you would, by sharing the public PPI members that are listening to this podcast, how do they best connect with you guys to learn more about corenology and to take advantage of what you’ve built?
GRETCHEN: You can definitely go to our website corenology.com and start there. You can email me through the website or you can email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to talk to anyone or show them what we’re doing or let them just give it a go and see what their own core values are.
JOHN A: Cool. David, do you have anything you want to (share)?
DAVID: Yeah. I actually just think things are changing. But change always presents opportunities. And what I love about the broader PPI, there’s no one to solve this. It does take a community. And it’s about triangulation. But I will say that the best, most powerful things you can do with your clients are helping them add that purposeful planning and anything we can do to help in that and I know that’s your vision. And call so we just love being a part of it.
JOHN A: Thank you. This was awesome. Thank you, everyone. I hope that you’ll continue to explore and act upon the invitation David and Gretchen have shared with us today. Bye now.
DAVID: Right, thanks.
GRETCHEN: Thank you.