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Meet the Expert

 

A conversation with Philippe J. Weil, Author of The Paradox of Money and Happiness

 

Marom Group guides families in the process of establishing a family fund, starting with defining the vision and values of the family and the fund, determining methods of action and criteria for donation, and performing due diligence for organizations. Against this background, the publication of Philippe Weil's book The Paradox of Money and Happiness, the first book written in Hebrew about the complexity of managing family fortune, caught our attention.

 

Philippe Weil began his professional career by studying banking at the School of Business Administration in Zurich, and worked in banks and firms in Switzerland and abroad until 1996. In 1996 he came to Israel and joined Igud Bank, where he established an international private banking department. After years of working in banking, he decided to become a manager of family funds and in 2001 founded his company, P.J. Weil Ltd. The company manages the assets of a number of families from a variety of countries and they receive full support including asset management, strategic planning, tax planning, philanthropic counseling and more.

 

In addition to his office on Rothschild Street in Tel Aviv, he has an office in Switzerland where he personally manages his local clients. Philippe lives in Tel Aviv with his wife and three children.

 

About the Book

Many dream of family wealth, but little has been written about the challenges it creates, the conflicts it engenders, and the difficulty of managing it. The Paradox of Money and Happiness by Philippe Weil, is the first book written in Hebrew on the complexity of managing family fortunes. The book brings together the concepts of money and family in the professional setting of an office that provides service to families with fortunes.

 

The book describes the dynamics of the transferring of money from generation to generation and offers a series of solutions for maintaining family capital through mechanisms of economic and family care. Weil uses his years of experience working with families, managing economic portfolios and private banking, to instruct readers on how to succeed in transferring the spiritual and economic heritage of the family to future generations. The book presents a theoretical background alongside practical tools that have the potential to help each family communicate better amongst itself, alongside explanations and demonstrations of the emotional significance and value that accompany money. The book also describes a number of cases that are relevant to the world of philanthropy.

 

For example, one case describes a well-known philanthropist with a family fund that donated to institutions such as KKL-JNF, B'nai B'rith, and to a synagogue in Paris where he used to visit. The donations continued following his death, but his granddaughters felt that the money was going to large institutions with little follow-through or impact. Philippe helped them understand the context of their responsibility in the form of an example of a family business that is passed from generation to generation. “Would it make sense to keep the business the way it is out of respect to their grandfather, even if it was failing?” He helped them understand that it was legitimate to recreate the family’s philanthropic practices, so their giving could once again become meaningful and relevant to them. (P 128) 

 

Another case describes a man in Israel who wanted to transfer his fortune to his grandchildren to finance their studies. One of the granddaughters refused to accept the money from her grandfather because she believed the money was unethical and based on exploitation. Philippe tells how he persuaded the grandfather and granddaughter to conduct an open dialogue about her goals and causes for which she wanted to use the money. The process created an openness that had never before existed between the grandfather and the grandchildren. In the end, the granddaughter took upon herself the management of one program within the grandfather's philanthropic fund - a program that dealt with the return of people to the labor market. After completing her studies in social work, she became the foundation's director, with the feeling that she was entitled to this not only by virtue of family attribution, but also by virtue of her professional training and experience.

 

And so, given the fascinating nature of the book, we met with Philippe in his office in Tel Aviv, overlooking the Mediterranean.

 

Describe the process of advising a family, in terms of who receives decision-making responsibilities and how it is determined which organizations are supported?

Our role is first to ensure that capital is planned and managed so that it will be suitable for the next generation. The process is called Estate Planning, which takes into account many aspects of capital management. If you identify a desire or need for the family to talk about philanthropy only then raise the issue and for this there are various tools to identify the values around them have an interest to contribute. Examples of such tools are: "values" cards, role-playing games, pictures, value calls, and more.

Another way is through writing legacies. There are families in which the issue of giving actually comes about writing the inheritances and then we help them understand which values will want to lead the family in donations and which organizations are promoting this agenda.

 

What distinctions or characteristics are common in family philanthropy?

The most common characteristic is intergenerational differences. The first and second generations are generations that are less connected to philanthropic activity and most are convinced that their participation in a gala dinner, for example, meets the definition of giving. They usually do not want to take part in meaningful giving. This begins to change with the third generation, who are motivated to bring about change, and contribute to the values that their family.

Another element is culture in Israel, which may be less notable among the general population, but is perceived as highly relevant to rich families. Philippe took out his cell phone and showed us a picture taken during a school fair selling cakes to raise money for a trip to Poland. Each personal cake was sold for NIS 5, and the children were very involved, active and enthusiastic, and even the parents bought personal cakes to help in the joint effort. However, when one of the parents donated NIS 50 more than the cost of purchasing the cake, it raised eyebrows among those present. And Philippe asks - why? After all, the goal of all of us on this day is to raise money for the trip to Poland and if we believe in the goal of why we should not donate more than NIS 5 for the personal pie that was just a kind of a snack?

 

How do you motivate younger generations to continue the philanthropic lineage of previous generations?

One of the tools for harnessing young people’s motivations is to involve them by sharing values and issues that are close to their hearts, so that representatives of the younger generation decide to contribute for one or more goals and at the end of the period allocated for it. We recognize that this is a method that works well and manages to overcome obstacles between generations.

 

Given the developments in the philanthropic world, what do you think are the challenges facing the social arena?

There are quite a few organizations involved in similar activities, and sometimes it is difficult to assess the differences between them. It might have been more effective for everyone if they joined forces.

In addition, there is a demand for professionalism among the social organizations, which is expressed mainly in more professional management and meeting higher criteria set by the philanthropists.

 

Is there anything you would like to add?

I am happy that social organizations are more professional today than in the past. There is no doubt that their enthusiasm for their work is noticeable. Donors need to understand that there is a fundamental difference between business and social organizations and should be treated accordingly. I wish all of us fruitful work, that we will continue to dare and influence.

 

 

Guiding family philanthropic foundations is a complex and sensitive process. It requires professional and strategic tools, experience and familiarity with the philanthropic and social arena, and finally the ability to lead collaborations to increase the impact they want to achieve. We at Marom Group would be happy to assist and answer professional questions regarding these processes.

 

Contact Us

 

Marom Group

8 Mikveh Israel st. Tel Aviv, Israel 6511403

Phone: +972-77-500-4265

Fax: +972-77-550-2179

Email: office@marompb.com


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