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6 min read

Taking private wealth clients on the philanthropy journey: Chris Wilson, Koda Capital

Profile of Nicole Richards
Written by Nicole RichardsPosted on 10/5/2023

Chris Wilson, Partner at Koda Capital’s Philanthropy & Social Capital division, has worked at the nexus of financial services and philanthropy for more than 14 years.

“We are so lucky to live in this country in this time and it’s ingrained in me that we have an obligation to give back and share that luck,” Chris explains of his intrinsic motivation. “It’s something I want to instil in my three kids.

“Plus, it’s fun, rewarding, challenging and enlightening. I firmly believe it helps bring balance, perspective and fulfilment to one’s life. Fortunately, I’ve been able to build a career around philanthropy and I’ll be forever grateful for that.”

Chris recently shared his thoughts about the changing expectations of philanthropy and the value a conversation about giving can bring to deepen relationships with private wealth clients.

Philanthropy has been a key offering at Koda Capital since its inception. Can you talk about the central role giving plays at the company?

CW: Philanthropy has been a core component of Koda’s service proposition since the very beginning. As a business, the Founders understood how critical philanthropy is to private wealth clients and that it had to play a fundamental role at Koda.

For many of our clients, the philanthropy conversation is where they derive the most satisfaction and joy when it comes to their wealth planning. It’s also where we get to truly know our clients, their passions and values – it’s often where we discover what is most important to them. If we can support their philanthropic goals and add value to this important part of their lives, it only works to enhance our relationship with them and their families.

Has the way clients engage with philanthropy changed over time? What are they looking for and what do they value most?

Absolutely. They want to be more engaged in the causes they are focussed on, understanding the issues and thinking strategically about where their dollars can have the most impact. Many are looking at bigger picture systems change and thinking about their philanthropy as the risk capital that can create real change. For some, this is also about rolling up their sleeves and actively offering their time, talent and networks as well as their dollars.

More people are willing to get out into the world to talk about their philanthropy, share their experiences and learn from others. Ten years ago, philanthropy felt a lot more private but today, there’s far more collaboration and openness as we’ve seen in the rise of giving circles and major philanthropists talking publicly about their giving and encouraging others to give generously.

We have also seen philanthropists think about other parts of their lives and the impact they are having on the world. This might be their investments, businesses, careers or consumption. They are better aligning these elements of their lives with their values and philanthropy. This is evidenced by the rise of responsible and impact investment. People are realising that they can do good in the world, whilst simultaneously creating wealth and opportunity for themselves and their families.

I think there is also a greater appreciation of the positive impact philanthropy can have on the next generation. It’s the ideal place to begin the intergenerational wealth transfer process. It’s a place to explore important values with the next generation and teach them the value of a dollar in the community. That responsibility comes with wealth. It’s also a safe, fun and rewarding place to introduce the next generation into the wealth management conversation, helping to skill them up for the future. 

One thing that I think is still a challenge is the underappreciation of how little you actually need to be a structured giver. You can set up a sub-fund at a community foundation and do the exact same structured giving that multimillionaires or even billionaires do with PAFs.

From a professional adviser point of view, there’s still a lot of work to do to make sure all the financial planners out there are equipped with the knowledge that philanthropic vehicles are available to suit most clients.

What is the most useful lesson you’ve learned in terms of broaching the topic of philanthropy with clients?

Listen first and talk second. Once you get clients talking about their values, family, passions and work in the community, you quickly discover the important role philanthropy can play in their wealth management planning and how best to position it.

When I think about my role, I’m not worried about how much someone gives in the first instance – I just want them to take that first step and make sure their experience is a positive one. They’ll get the reward and the fantastic feeling that comes from giving and they’ll want to do more of it. The growth and larger commitment will come in time. Really, it’s about getting people to take that first step.

How does Australian Communities Foundation help your clients?

What ACF offers is accessible philanthropy with the administrative burden taken care of so that our clients can focus on what’s important, which is giving the money away effectively. It also offers clients a community of likeminded people they can learn and give alongside.

I’m convinced that community foundations like ACF are going to be the engine room of growth when it comes to structured giving in Australia and more and more advice firms like Koda are going to understand and appreciate the critical role community foundations can play in a client’s wealth planning.

From an adviser perspective, the beauty of working with ACF is that you’re working with a partner that is an expert in philanthropy.

ACF will help you take your client on the philanthropic journey and you will get the benefit of sitting alongside your client as they talk about what’s important to them, their values, how they want to give back to the community, and how they want their kids to be involved in the process. That opens up the discussion about wealth transfer and gives you the opportunity to connect with the next generation.

In my experience, philanthropy is a value-add for your clients which, in the long run, makes them happier and more engaged clients.