Matt Jones is a Senior Private Banker at Westpac Private Bank. In this interview with Lou O’Halloran (AEGN) he shares some valuable insights about wealth advice and environmental philanthropy.
“Often philanthropists are the ultimate entrepreneurs. They start out with an idea and limited resources – relative to the problem they are trying to solve – and then build something amazing from that.”
You’re passionate about philanthropy and wealth advice – what was your light bulb moment?
About 5 years ago I was speaking with a client about what was important to him and he said it was his not for profit work. He seemed curious (and really pleased) that I was interested. He completely lit up when he talked about it and also told me about his philanthropy in the same area. From that moment on I realised that talking to clients about what is important in their world is not only interesting, it’s a real opportunity to deepen your engagement with them.
How do you know when it’s right to start a conversation about philanthropy?
I often approach it from a hypothetical perspective – “If you had more time, what sorts of things would you like to do more of?” Clients often talk of travelling to remote or wild areas – like Antarctica or the Kimberley, which tells me they are probably passionate about the environment. Or if they want to visit the developing world, we often discuss the causes associated with that. Others will say they want to spend more quality time with their family – and family togetherness and cohesion is so often a catalyst for setting up a family foundation.
Name one philanthropy project that a client has funded that brought them great satisfaction?
I remember speaking with a client who had committed significant contributions to The Hunger Project to fund a clinic in Ghana designed to help local communities become self-sustaining. My client had been in the corporate world for many years, but when he told me about visiting the project and seeing what they had achieved, it was immediately clear that in his mind it was one of the best investments he had ever made.
For advisers wanting to help their clients with philanthropy, what advice you would give?
First, don’t be afraid to ask! My experience is that you are rarely going to harm a relationship by asking clients what causes are most important to them and their family and if they have ever considered a more structured approach to how they support those causes.
Second – remember that everyone has something to give. I don’t (yet) have the capital to give that some of my clients do, and between full-time work, two young kids and an MBA – I don’t have nearly as much time to give as I’d like to. However, what I do have is a great network of clients and colleagues. I am passionate about engaging with that network, using my platform to help get a message out, to try and facilitate greater involvement around philanthropy and make a difference that way.
If you could invent one technology, what problem would it solve?
I’d love to invent a “spend a day in their shoes” machine. All too often technology has definitely made the world more relatable and accessible, all too often entrenched perspectives and opinions hold back our fundamental human empathy – which is the one vital skill we need to resolve many of the world’s issues.
Do you think you’ll use your MBA to further your interest in philanthropy?
I have been exploring the idea of doing a placement with the Jawun project that Westpac supports. Jawun’s goal is to draw on skills from corporate Australia to build capacity in Indigenous-led projects. If possible, I would love to build that placement into my MBA as an elective unit!