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Susan is a Partner in the New York City office with more than thirty years of experience serving as a senior director in trust, wealth management and family office advisory firms, and as a personal fiduciary advisor to individuals and families. She helps large families and family offices evaluate and establish Private Trust Companies (PTCs) and develops family office governance and operating structures, including fiduciary policies and procedures. Susan is the Chair of the firm’s Trust Committee.
Prior to joining Cerity Partners, Susan was the Director of Fiduciary and Senior Wealth Advisor at EMM Wealth. Prior to joining EMM Wealth, Susan served as the National Director of Fiduciary for the Family Office group of BNY Mellon where she provided fiduciary, wealth, and estate planning services to the firm’s largest and most complex clients. Additionally, she has held key fiduciary roles at Deutsche Bank, U.S. Trust, and SunTrust Bank.
How would you describe your best day doing what you do?
My best day would be finding a resolution to a myriad of client issues that could range from selling a piece of art, to facilitating dialogue between family members on a contentious estate planning issue, to developing a legal strategy for modernizing an antiquated trust structure, to inviting the youngest member of my client's family to the office for their first family foundation meeting.
What do you do in your personal life that helps you help your clients?
I work with children and adults with learning disabilities and various learning styles. I am also an artist and musician. I have found that having these talents makes me better equipped for the range of clients and issues that may arise in navigating successful family communications.
What should your clients know the most about you?
That I have a high EQ. I'm not only someone with credentials and experience, but have a specialized skill set in family dynamics and conflict resolution. Empathy, judgment, and integrity cannot be taught. This becomes invaluable as client relationships develop.
Who inspired you to pursue your career in financial management? How?
My father, Richard Hartley, who was a Trust & Estate attorney and CPA. When people ask me how long I've been doing this work, they are often shocked at my answer, which is "I was apprenticed as a young child by my father in this field. I've been going to client meetings since I was 6 years old." My father was a true consigliere. The example he set for me and the exposure I had has made me the professional that I am today.
Why is your specialty important, especially today?
Trust and Estate planning, management, and administration are critically important today because of the intergenerational wealth transfer ["the Great Wealth Transfer"] estimated in the next 20 years of $30 to $68 million. The Great Wealth Transfer is far more complex than today's dominant storyline reads. It's important to find someone experienced in balancing wealth transfer strategies that save enormous taxes, with workable structures and family dynamics together with a choice of trustees.
Collections, whether fine artwork, rare automobiles, historical relics, or anything else, may be one of the most valuable assets in a client’s estate.
Today’s economic climate is a “wake up” call for anyone involved with the management and operation of a trust. Now is the time to re-evaluate your clients’ trust structures and investments to make sure they don’t have the same experience.
Many foundations have family members serve on their board, however sometimes foundations have trouble deciding whether or how much to pay those family members. Careful consideration must be taken when deciding these factors.
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