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The Stewardship of Wealth, + Website: Successful Private Wealth Management for Investors and Their Advisors Hardcover – November 6, 2012

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The Stewardship of Wealth, + Website: Successful Private Wealth Management for Investors and Their Advisors + The Family Office Book: Investing Capital for the Ultra-Affluent + The Complete Family Office Handbook: A Guide for Affluent Families and the Advisors Who Serve Them
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (November 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118321863
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118321867
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #327,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Here comes a book that is a must-read, an instant classic. With a sure hand and an authoritative voice, it explains why private capital is essential to American democracy—and why it is in danger.

The book is called The Stewardship of Wealth: Successful Private Wealth Management for Investors and Their Advisors, by Gregory D. Curtis, the founder of Greycourt & Co., the first open-architecture investment manager. Curtis convincingly argues that firms such as his will be the only ones standing in the not-so-distant future. Forget broker-dealers, salespeople, product pushers and all the others that sell rather than advise. They are dead meat.

The investment climate going forward doesn't look so rosy, he says. "The West has reached the end of its own socioeconomic evolution and is now faced with the gargantuan task of reinventing itself," Curtis writes. That means remaking governments, creating new cultures and governing mechanisms, as well as new theories for how government can support itself.

"Needless to say," he continues, "the investment implications of this are large and complex."

So is his book, so much so that I plan to break this discussion into two columns.

The first thing that struck me is that Curtis offers support to the much-maligned 1% of Americans who are the target of Occupy Wall Street. In part that might be because this is whom he works with. Curtis is sometimes called the "super wealth manager for high rollers." Before founding Greycourt, this Harvard Law School grad served for many years as president of a family office for the Mellon family and president of the Laurel Foundation.

Curtis says that the super wealthy and their use of creative capital offer the essential ingredient that makes America America. "The production of private wealth is a crucial aspect of the singular success of the American experiment," he writes. "Private capital is the most important capital in the world, and without it on a grand scale, it would be impossible to imagine America."

Curtis believes that private capital is the "continuing vigor" that drives the country. The competitive spirit, he says, "animates" the society and allows people to become rich to do things useful to the public at large.

"If that spirit were to become constrained by political or cultural mechanisms, America would rather quickly come to resemble its European cousins," he says. And to make the lure of wealth meaningful, "we must be willing to accept and tolerate the consequences of competition."

Curtis argues that great wealth has not created a selfish society. He gives numerous examples of how wealthy people with passion and purpose have built brilliant things, using ideas for art and education and politics to build "works of art" such as colleges, churches and charities that wouldn't otherwise be possible. "The American system of private philanthropy could not persist without the creative capital of the wealthy," he writes. Curtis estimates that almost 10% of all charitable giving comes from just 500 families.

In Part I of the book, Curtis speculates about why America, more than any of the older free-market democracies, has managed to preserve its vigor. "It is crucial to manage the private capital properly in order for the society to continue to function," he writes. And that’s where financial advisors come in.

If private capital is the most important capital in the world, he posits, and if the owners of that capital depend on financial advisors for success, that would make financial advising one of the most crucial jobs in America. That's why, he says, his book is "directed to both wealthy families and their advisors."

Curtis then moves on to Part II.

Chapter 5, which I found particularly meaty, examines the complex and disappointing world of finance as a business. "I come down hard on my colleagues for the conflicts of interest that pervade the financial world, for the self-interest and utter lack of concern for clients, and for the corruption that has had global consequences," Curtis writes. The only legitimate reason for a firm to exist is a sense of responsibility to its customers. "Once the customer walks—and they are walking away from the financial industry in gigantic numbers—the industry is doomed."

Curtis spends a good deal of time discussing financial advisors who act as "outsourced CIOs," a rapidly growing model first adopted by pension funds and other institutional investors and then more recently by family offices and multifamily offices. The crisis of 2008 has hastened the growth of this model, Curtis says, because it's hard for advisors to make crucial investment decisions without having discretion over investments. Without discretion, advisors face a time-consuming approval process, an unacceptable option when markets are moving rapidly. What had been a steady trend toward discretionary advice "became a virtual torrent following the catastrophic market environment of mid-2007 to early 2009."

In Chapter 8, he looks at the world of private trusts. "Trusts are a prominent feature of every wealthy family," Curtis writes, "but organizing and managing trusts in sensible ways has become an increasing challenge as consolidation in the banking industry has eliminated most of the local trust banks."

By far the longest part of the book is Part III, entitled "The Rich Get Richer: The Nuts and Bolts of Successful Investing," which is a description of the best investment practices for private investors. It's meant to appeal more to financial advisors than investors. I'll review that section of the book in my September column.

Mary Rowland can be reached at She has been a business and personal finance journalist for 30 years and has written two books for financial advisors: Best Practices and In Search of the Perfect Model. (Financial Advisor Magazine, October 2012)

“In a legendary exchange between two great American authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald reportedly said: "Let me tell you about the very rich. The rich are different from you and me." Ernest Hemingway famously replied: "Yes, they have more money."

While that assessment may have been oversimplified, both men were essentially correct.

But wealth manager Gregory Curtis has made a far more comprehensive evaluation in his book, "The Stewardship of Wealth: Successful Private Wealth Management for Investors and Their Advisors," which he wrote based on more than 30 years of handling the financial affairs of billionaire clients such as the Mellon family.

"To be sure, the challenges facing wealthy families who aspire to happiness -- that is all wealthy families -- are different from those of other families in the same way the challenges facing welfare families are different from those facing middle class families," wrote Curtis, chairman and founder of Greycourt & Co. Inc. in Pittsburgh.

The stakes are much higher for the super wealthy in many ways, according to Curtis.

Even if they get the investment stuff right, the money they have amassed could be at risk if they fail in other important areas. For instance, if rich parents don't raise their children right, the children will probably blow all the money, ruining their lives and others' in the process.

"Use your money to make the world a better place and devote your personal time to it because that's the most precious resource you have. Money, you have plenty of it. But getting your own hands dirty, rolling up your sleeves, and going out and doing something -- that's going to make you happy."

"So really 80 percent to 90 percent of American wealth disappears in about three generations. And that's pretty much true all over the world," he said.”
—Tim Grant, distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

From the Inside Flap

"The building of wealth, the management of wealth, and the deployment of wealth are activities that lie at the very heart of what has made America great."

Managing capital successfully is naturally important to wealthy families. The true role of wealth, however, goes far beyond personal advantage. Private wealth, explains wealth advice expert Gregory Curtis in The Stewardship of Wealth: Successful Private Wealth Management for Investors and Their Advisors, is essential to the vigor, resilience, and creativity that have made the United States the most successful nation in history. In this detailed, insightful book, Curtis reveals how—and why—financial planners, fund managers, and high-capital individuals everywhere can successfully ensure their wealth for current and future generations.

The Stewardship of Wealth begins by exploring the crucial role private wealth plays in America's remarkable economic and cultural success. It then examines the most critical issues faced by wealthy families, such as understanding investment risk, ethical behavior and conflicts of interest, finding the right financial advisor, and the challenge of making sound family investment decisions.

Finally, Gregory Curtis offers you a step-by-step guide to the successful management of liquid wealth, focusing on best investment practices from portfolio design to manager selection to monitoring investment performance.

The successful stewardship of wealth, Curtis argues, goes beyond dollars-and-cents to include our relationships with our children and marriages, work ethic, and social values. By making wise personal choices, we can achieve happiness with—rather than despite—our wealth.

Wealthy families have already made an important contribution to America's remarkable economic success. With this powerful "owner's manual" to private capital, families can build a lasting legacy that will contribute to America's strength for generations to come.

More About the Author

GREGORY CURTIS is the Chairman and founder of Greycourt & Co., Inc., a wealth advisory firm serving substantial families and select endowments on a global basis. Prior to founding Greycourt, Curtis served for many years as president of a family office for the Mellon family and as president of the Laurel Foundation. He currently serves on the investment committees for Carnegie Mellon University, The Pittsburgh Foundation, St. John's College, United Educators Insurance, and Winchester Thurston School, among others. Curtis is also a founder or cofounder of three investment firms, Greycourt & Co., Inc., The Investment Fund for Foundations, and Moneybags LLC.

Author Websites: and

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dale C. Maley VINE VOICE on December 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a firm believer in low-cost index fund investing. Therefore, I do not believe that active management of mutual funds adds any value, and the return is usually lower than an index fund after expenses are figured in.

Curtis advocates active management and believes you can pick out managers that will giver returns exceeding passive index fund management. He does advocate using index funds for US large caps and wants a manager who sells losers to offset gains for tax purposes. My research on the Vanguard stock index funds shows that Vanguard is incredibly tax efficient with regards to managing their index funds.

Curtis also reviews the age-old discussion about whether small caps really outperform large caps. He argues that if commissions and spreads are figured in, small caps may not really outperform large caps.

Curtis advocates having 8 to 10% of your stock asset allocation invested in emerging market stocks.

The most interesting thing I found in this book was Curtis's formulation of the three strategies used in the 20th century for redistributing wealth. In time sequence, the first strategy tried was for the government to seize control of the means of production. The second strategy was tax the income of the wealth. The third strategy is government borrowing. He notes that the demands for services by the citizens always quickly overwhelm the capacity of each strategy to redistribute wealth.

Curtis also points out that rebalancing your portfolio does not apply to really wealthy families. People with less than $1 million in net worth probably have retirement accounts that can be used for rebalancing without paying any taxes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Digger on January 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I am about half way through "The Stewardship of Wealth" and I can't put it down. I admire your having the strength of your convictions and the moral courage to "tell it like it is". The pervasive underlying theme is that of the need for morality --- and it is not only needed in the business and financial arena but throughout our society. How far we have drifted from the moral premise upon which our Founding Fathers based our Constitution!

I expect to read your book several times in order to fully absorb the finely articulated content. I am particularly impressed with the vast array of superb authors upon whom you've drawn. The footnoted bibliographies are extensive and something into which I will vigorously delve.

I am going to buy a copy of "The Stewardship of Wealth" for each of our sons' guidance and reading enjoyment. I am confident both will enjoy it immensely.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. Haskel on January 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The Stewardship of Wealth provides genuinely practical advice on wealth management that is useful for both families and their advisors. Much of his advice sounds obvious (i.e. your default position should be to use passive index investments unless the potential returns for active management justify the higher fees) but he tells it in a way that is convincing and articulate for investors of all levels.

Curtis's style gives some life into what can otherwise be a very dry subject, and while readers may or may not agree with his investment philosophy, at least they can understand it (something that is often lacking in other wealth management books). Too many investment authors focus on sounding as smart as possible while losing much of their audience. Curtis seems to strike the right balance between demonstrating his knowledge and authority on the subject while not losing the very readers to whom the book is targeted.

Overall a very good read and worth the time for those either in the business of wealth management or the families served by the wealth management industry.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By gcerveny on January 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The Stewardship of Wealth by Greg Curtis is a must read. Greg Curtis does a deep dive into the economics, culture, heritage, values associated with the stewardship and preservation of capital. Along the way, he tackles historical and timely macro and micro economic considerations related to wealth management. Curtis clearly articulates opportunities and pitfalls in financial management, while providing a clear road map for families and professionals to consider.

Whether or not you are a private investor, family office manager, attorney, financial advisor, accountant or philanthropist--you will find great value in this book. You don't need to be a millionaire to benefit from the concepts, ideas, and best practices Curtis presents.

Greg Curtis has fun with the topic, as well. I found myself chuckling throughout the book at the humorous anecdotes and relative experiences. I have already forwarded, referenced and recommended the book to colleagues, clients, and friends, alike.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ForresterFamilyTrustee on January 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent, comprehensive guide to wealth management written by someone who is truly in the know. There are some wannabes out there these days writing about wealth management and family offices, but this book is the real deal. It is long, it will take you a while to get through but the information is helpful and it's also written with a sense of humour and a willingness to stake out some ideas some people may find controversial. This book would be worthwhile for both high net worth individuals, families as well as their advisors. Not often you see a book that so well covers what wealth management really is.
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