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Business Managers Adapt to Generational Change

Robert Marich

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A youth movement has swept through most of Hollywood. The digital generation has moved into high-level jobs at a tender age, and young influencers are bursting forth from YouTube to enter mainstream media.

Nonetheless, an older generation remains entrenched in the business management community, which often handles the financial aff

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airs of newly rich baby performers and executives seeking advice on their banking, personal finance, budgeting and retirement.

“In the past week, I’ve had two different clients say they need to set up a conversation with ‘dad,’ ” says Evan R. Bell, managing partner at Bell & Co., a business management firm. “At first, I thought they meant their fathers. But in the next moment they said, ‘Of course we meant you.’” Bell takes that as a compliment.

Finance pros say clients of all ages want a steady hand experienced in navigating every type of economic situation at the helm. Financial advice is a rare area in which even young Hollywood seems to defer to well-grounded veterans of accounting and finance — not trusting their money to business gunslingers that are admired elsewhere in the entertainment industry.

The modern Hollywood business management industry is dominated by firms founded in the 1980s and 1990s, whose aging partners are at the cusp of a retirement wave. But it’s not a given that the generational transition will be smooth. Executives say rookies in business management face a guessing game to see if senior partners retiring will hand off their lucrative clients. Sometimes, the clients react to generational changes by simply switching firms.

Another impediment is that college graduates in finance find other sectors more attractive than business management, such as venture capital, investment banking, technology and asset management. The pay can be better and jobs less personally demanding.

For college graduates, there’s a strong lure from digital ventures, in particular, because of the potential for outsized and rapid riches. “Ambitious accounting students graduating today may think the traditional route might not provide them with the quickest success,” says Chris Bucci, managing partner at business management firm Savitsky Satin Bacon & Bucci.

What’s more, young business-managers wanting to launch their own from-the-ground-up companies face daunting obstacles that weren’t big issues decades ago. Now, competition is entrenched as those golden-age startups have grown exponentially. Digital accounting technology is expensive and requires costly updates, and risk-management protections are more expensive and necessary than before.

Those barriers to entry “are all baked into the giants today,” says Andrew Crow, managing director at Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman and one of the younger business managers. “It’s hard to boot up something and succeed without these foundational pieces.”

Clients also have greater expectations today. Modern Hollywood talents juggle personal ventures such as celebrity-branded clothing, personally branded beverages, or attachment to a digital business as a celebrity promoter, investor or both. Clients also want advice on endorsement and personal appearance opportunities.

“They want a personal ‘chief financial officer’ for day-to-day that can handle all aspects to accounting and tax planning and, in addition, vet all financial opportunities, both business and personal,” says Josh Klein, partner and managing director, Monarch Business and Wealth Management, who is 36.

Another change is the consolidation of business management firms into ever-larger corporate entities. “Hollywood business managers were traditionally run like family businesses” as smallish independent boutiques, says one veteran business manager. “Now that environment will change because of a need to show the parent quarterly profits on a regular basis.”

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