The next generation of the Super Rich are growing up. Scions of the fortune makers of the past 30 years are coming into their own. Recently I was able to contribute to Taking the Reins: Insights into the World of Ultra-Wealthy Inheritors, the latest book by Russ Alan Prince. In total 114 surveys with decision-making offspring of fortunes exceeding $100 million were conducted.
With increased discussion about passion investment (wines, watches, cars, art, etc.) a particular area of interest to me was collecting.
Below is an excerpt from our chapter about connoisseurs and collecting:
A very small but incredibly influential group among the super-rich is connoisseur collectors. Their importance is a function of their authority and impact in their respective fields of interest such as artwork, watches, coins and wines. Furthermore, they’re likely to also have significant influence on the high-end luxury products and services preferences of the wealthy as well as those aspiring to greater affluence.
What’s also evident is that these exceptionally well-to-do individuals are not only reflecting tastes, but are offtimes contributory to the tastes especially among the mass collector culture as well as passion investors (of which they’re not; see below). Their influence is derived from their commitment to developing a deep understanding of their field of interest coupled with their willingness to use their monies in “perfecting” their collections.
To better understand super-rich connoisseurs, let’s divide those who create substantial and valuable collections into three segments:
- Cubs are the super-rich with limited quality collecting experience and expertise. They’re comparative beginners exploring a field of interest with the prospects of one day managing and enhancing or starting a collection of note.
- Collectors are the super-rich who through immersion or because of a personal proclivity have created or are managing a valuable collection. Relatively speaking, they’re educated and experienced in their field of interest. However, they’re not nearly as erudite in their field of interest as the next segment.
- Connoisseurs are at the intellectual pinnacle of their field of interest. They’re established experts in their own right and complementarily quite experienced. They’re exceedingly adept and dedicated to not only their collection, but also mastery of their field of interest.
When it comes to expert collecting – the world of super-rich Connoisseurs – we find three sets of interrelated psychological factors in play. There’s the creation of identity; there’s the sense of evolved well-being; there’s the pursuit of “absolute” mastery of the field of interest.
Identity encompasses the Connoisseur’s sense of self in relation to the process and result of building a prestigious collection. It’s the manifestation of ego fueled by demonstrable accomplishments. The collection regularly will be a manifestation of the unique aspects of the Connoisseur. It’s a powerful form of self-expression and self-extension.
There’s little doubt that Connoisseurs see themselves in their collections as they see themselves in other activities that are extremely meaningful to them such as business and philanthropy. For these elite collectors, their collections are deep reflections of themselves, and in this way they impact decision-making across a spectrum of personal and professional issues.
Evolved well-being entails the progressive feelings of happiness derived from expanding and managing a top-flight collection. Connoisseurs are passionate when it comes to their collections. These feelings can sometimes rival the ardent attachments people have for loved ones.
The evolved well-being come from “being one” with the process of collecting and the collection itself. Often this is referred to as “flow,” which is where the Connoisseur becomes so intensely immersed in aspects of acquisition or the collection per se that the experience is extraordinarily pleasurable.
Pursuit of mastery includes all components where Connoisseurs become expert (i.e., extremely knowledgeable and insightful) in their field of interest. At this point, their high-level metal skill proficiencies are evidenced in:
- Their ability to observe acutely.
- Their capacity to rapidly and fluidly make fine distinctions and comparisons.
- Their facility at recognizing patterns within their collection including not only the elements that make up the collection, but the gaps in it as well.
Super-rich connoisseurs have learned their fields of interest through hard work coupled with leveraging their talents and desires. Their monies contributed tremendously by enabling them to work with and deal with professionals and other connoisseurs as well as provided the means to actively invest in their field of interest.
When it comes to the super-rich, there are very powerful delineations between Cubs, Collectors and Connoisseurs. A place where this is particularly apparent and noteworthy is how they often make acquisition decisions. The extent to which different influencers play a role is usually very pronounced (Exhibit 2).
Exhibit 2: Decision-Making Influences
|Media||Medium to High||Medium||Very Low to Non-Existent|
|Personal research||Low||Low to High||Very High|
Media consists of the messages centered on the field of interest such as advertising and public relations. They’re usually uni-directional; they do not require a response. Magazines, for instance, can be used to derive insights on specific items in a field of interest. With respect to acquiring luxury products and services, for instance, media plays an important and sometimes determining role. When it comes to collecting, media is influential with Cubs, and when perceived as authoritative can influence Collectors as well.
Referential group refers to peers or other people the super-rich look to as role models. An undisputed leading authority in a field of interest would be somewhat impactful on all three segments; but less so with respect to Connoisseurs as they’ve likely developed their own strong, well-reasoned opinions.
Intermediaries are professionals directly involved in helping the super-rich acquire and prune substantial collections. Their knowledge, experience and skills are often of extreme importance to Cubs and Collectors.
Connoisseurs, on the other hand, work with Intermediaries very differently than Cubs or Collectors. Because of the extensive understandings Connoisseurs bring to the table, they tend to deal with Intermediaries as colleagues.
Personal research refers to the actions taken by the super-rich to become expert and remain so concerning their field of interest. This occurs through dedication, education and experience.
Cubs, as they’re new to serious collecting, generally lack the competencies to rely on themselves without professional assistance. The importance of personal research for Collectors ranges the gamut from those who will not feel expert enough to make unaided decision to those who readily do. Connoisseurs, in contrast, rely heavily on their own learned opinions. While they’ll often incorporate the perspectives of others, collecting is more than a hobby or even a passion; it’s an area of mastery and a source of well-being. Critically, collecting is central to their identities.
Super-rich Connoisseurs are an elite segment that not only strongly impacts their fields of interest, but the ripple effect of their actions also affects the broader collector culture as well as aspects of high-end luxury products and services.
What super-rich Connoisseurs are not are passion investors nor are they compulsive. Instead, they’re amazingly erudite and remarkable students when it comes to their fields of interest – their collections. While they employ Intermediaries, as needed, to assist them in addressing their collections, these relationships with these authorities are usually very cooperative.