The Good Ancestor Movement (GAM) exists to disrupt the mainstream wealth advisory industry by challenging traditional ideas around the economy, excessive wealth accumulation, tax minimisation and the redistribution of resources and power in society. The GAM supports wealthy individuals, families, family offices, trusts and foundations with progressive wealth stewardship and radical redistribution.
The New Idea
Over the next twenty to thirty years, approximately £70 trillion is set to be transferred between the generations, with £5.5 trillion of this in the UK alone. At the same time, global wealth inequality continues to grow, with a minority holding the largest concentrations of wealth. While much attention is paid to extreme poverty, much less focus is on extreme wealth and its role in perpetuating global inequalities. GAM is tackling the root cause of the problem, focusing on transforming the norms and practices of the private wealth industry itself to question the concept and perpetuation of wealth. GAM is building a movement to work with wealth holders and their 'trusted advisors' to create a new paradigm in which wealth ceases to concentrate, where wealth holders proudly redistribute wealth privately and through proper tax contributions, where they invest in the solidarity economy not the extractive economy.
GAM is the UK's first advisory firm dedicated to supporting individuals and organisations with radical wealth redistribution. Unlike other groups or organisations, GAM focuses on transforming the financial industry from within, centring the role of wealth professionals along with their customers. As a former private wealth lawyer for over ten years, Stephanie holds deep knowledge about the mindsets, norms, and practices of these financial institutions. Stephanie founded GAM, recognising that the mainstream private wealth industry needed to be disrupted by challenging traditional ideas about the economy, excessive wealth accumulation, tax minimisation and redistribution of resources and power. Their model helps the world's most progressive wealth holders and custodians to play their part in a more equitable society and ecological resilience by making the concept practical.
There are three main strands to Stephanie's work. Firstly, through bespoke consultancy engagements, GAM activates the agency of wealth holders (working with high to ultra-high net wealth individuals) by enabling them in creating a wealth plan that sits in line with their values and serves as an independent accountability framework. The consultancy supports individuals and families to adopt reparative approaches to redistribution of excess wealth, going beyond the conceptualisation to actual implementation, such as changing their wealth structuring to maximise rather than minimise tax. Specifically, they do this by helping individuals and families to unpack their values and ideal vision of the world they want to leave future generations and identify where they are in conflict with their values having regard to their wealth and tax practices. GAM’s wealth planning process supports individuals and families to: set limits on wealth by interrogating the idea of “how much is enough”; align their tax practices with what they believe about tax and society; review and redefine their relationship to investment and financial returns; democratise ownership of private businesses; and explore whether an element of “repair” is needed in connection with the origins of their wealth creation and accumulation;
Secondly, GAM pioneered Reimagining Wealth, a cohort based learning programme for wealth holders which enables participants to situate their wealth in the context of the just transition, consider their relationship to wealth and society alongside like-minded peers, and to activate their agency as actors in the global economy. The content is delivered by experts and the curriculum covers: the need for a regenerative economy, narratives around extreme poverty and extreme wealth, taxation, ownership and inequality, western imperialism, reparations and an introduction to alternative economic practices. Speakers have included Kate Raworth, Miatta Fahnbulleh, Arun Advani, Faiza Shaheen, Gary Stevenson, Kojo Koram, Kehinde Andrews and Roman Krznaric. Reimagining Wealth is a critical part of the GAM’s work as it helps participants to understand how they can strategically use their wealth to resource the new systems of economy and governance that are needed to overcome our most challenging structural and systemic problems as a global community.
Thirdly, in contrast to other programmes that focus solely on changing the mindsets and practices of wealth holders, the GAM also works with the wealth and financial industry itself, leveraging industry practitioners to change their individual practices and advocate for new industry-wide standards. GAM does this by bringing together practitioners and key stakeholders in the private wealth industry and setting a new vision for the 'trusted advisor', such that the private wealth industry is better positioned to support wealth holders who wish to radically redistribute their wealth and embody more regenerative practices around wealth and tax.
GAM advocates for systemic change within the industry, questioning the legitimacy of wealth maximisation and accumulation by developing an evidence base demonstrating the role the wealth industry plays in perpetuating inequality. To do so, Stephanie partnered with Dr Bridget Kustin at Saïd Business School, Oxford University to publish a report on the future of the private wealth industry in the context of global inequality and climate change, and in view of changing trends with wealth holders who are rejecting the idea of excessive wealth accumulating and tax minimisation in their wealth stewardship. The GAM launched this report at an inaugural conference, Wealth Management’s New Imperatives, held at Saïd Business School in December 2022.
GAM also launched at the conference the Progressive Advisor Movement, an effort to mobilise individual advisors as change agents to drive progressive reform in the private wealth industry. The Progressive Advisor Movement aims to build collective power among a strategic group of interdisciplinary wealth professionals by providing political education, conducting and publishing research, facilitating innovation sessions, and community building. The Progressive Advisor Movement will provide wealth professionals with resources and tools to offer alternative, more progressive advice and empower them to become advocates and innovators across the sector.
More broadly, Stephanie is raising awareness of extreme wealth inequality and the need for progressive tax reform through media, being invited to speak at a range of different conferences and private gatherings of some of the wealthiest Ultra High Net Wealth families in the world. She is now a spokesperson on broadcast media, and has written for The Guardian to spread the idea further. Stephanie believes that in order to create systems change, her work needs to be global. She intends to work toward developing an investment advisory service that provides non-extractive investment advice and encourages wealth holders to redistribute their capital directly into community led initiatives that would otherwise struggle to access mainstream finance.
Wealth inequality is rising globally, and we are witnessing a historically unprecedented intergenerational concentration of wealth. A critical part of addressing inequality is that wealth is continually concentrated in the hands of small numbers of wealthy people, the companies they own and the trusts they manage. In the UK, the richest 10% of households in the UK hold 44% of all wealth and in contrast, the poorest 50% own just 9%.
The wealth and financial industries play an essential role in perpetuating these inequalities. Wealth management is a broad field of corporate, financial, and legal activity that includes financial planners, tax advisors, lawyers, private and merchant bankers, accountants, trustees and fiduciaries, investment advisors, family office executives, and consultants specialising in family governance, succession planning, coaching, and philanthropy. These professionals are united by a single goal: the preservation of wealth, usually for high net worth or ultra-high net worth individuals and families. Wealth management professionals create the technical conditions of possibility for their clients’ wealth to endure. Legal firms, tax advisory firms, wealth managers and planners tend to a) have a disproportionate influence on the actions of wealth holders and b) exert that influence towards a ‘conserve and accumulate’ model. Such approaches position tax as ‘waste’, wealth as both necessary and fragile, cooperative models as risk, social and environmental harm as necessary externalities and sub-scale philanthropy as social licence to ignore the above. Wealth management firms often tie their fees to ‘assets under management’ – the more client money grows, the more theirs does.
The demand for more value-aligned investment and wealth stewardship is growing at both a mass consumer and ultra-high net worth level. Yet the supporting infrastructure needed to enable this transition remains a major blocker to progress. Even the more ‘ethical’ wealth planners, wealth managers, lawyers and tax planners are highly invested in a conservative approach to preservation and accumulation. Such practices and narratives are fundamentally incompatible with the values shared by this emerging generation of wealth holders and advisors are ill-equipped to adapt.
However, there is increasing awareness from within the industry and a lack of knowledge of how to advocate for change and implement alternatives. The most progressive advisors are particularly frustrated: they do not want to leave the industry, doing work they are skilled in alongside colleagues they value, but also do not want to be the first line of defence for the worst of the extractive economy. They want to do work which reflects their values alongside people who share those values. At its worst, the industry is supporting and normalising its clients’ behaviours of excessive wealth accumulation, tax avoidance and extractive investment.
Parallel to this, we are witnessing the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in human history. Up to $70 trillion will be changing hands between baby boomers and millennials globally in the next few decades. This is known as the Great Wealth Transfer. An increasing number of individuals receiving and/or creating wealth have strong social values and share concerns around the biggest problems of our time: climate change and wealth inequality. So far, their intent is more progressive than previous generations, but their actions are not. When it comes to managing their wealth, they are equally reliant on their ‘trusted advisors’. As such, they are largely underserved by mainstream wealth advisory firms, which tend to reinforce the prevailing narratives around growth, excessive wealth accumulation and tax minimisation.
Recognising that the scale of the problem requires GAM to be extremely focused, Stephanie has built a strategy based on the principles of the law diffusion of innovation, focusing on the innovators and early adopters. She does this through three strands of her strategy: (1) working with wealth holders to pioneer a progressive and holistic model of values-led wealth stewardship which does not yet exist in mainstream private wealth advisory, (2) building awareness of the economic mindsets and narratives we have inherited in Western societies and challenging them through educational programmes which focus on wealth and political economy, and (3) working with industry professionals, the ‘trusted advisors’, to raise awareness and change mindsets about the role of wealth in society, and mobilise a movement among them leading to a transformed sector. The ultimate ambition is to have a mass movement of capital from the extractive economy to the new economy where it drives repair, redistribution, and regeneration towards the overriding purpose of ecological and social wellbeing. Her work is underpinned by the Strategy Framework for a Just Transition and based on the principles of resist and build; resisting the current system while demonstrating an alternative path. GAM directly confronts existing norms and challenges people to think differently (and often uncomfortably) about their role in perpetuating existing inequalities whilst at the same time offering and building alternative propositions for a more fair and just economy.
Stephanie firstly targets wealth holders (ranging from high net worth to ultra-high net worth individuals and families), educating them and encouraging them to recognise their influence on society using well developed tools that equip them to advocate for change themselves. These individuals are political donors and asset owners, landlords and clients, investors, and philanthropists. By investing in influencing them, Stephanie helps fundamentally shift the wider system. As part of this, GAM run a 3-month cohort-based educational programme, ‘Reimagining Wealth’. Here invited speakers offer their expertise, connecting wealth holders to different issues and allowing them to uniquely reflect on their role on different parts of the economy and society. This encourages attendees to act and consider how they might go about rewriting their own wealth narrative and become progressive changemakers. Attendees are also equipped with new knowledge and language to confront their wealth and taxation advisors and demand alternative advice. Previous speakers include Kate Raworth, Miatta Fahnbulleh, Arun Advani, Kehinde Andrews and Roman Krznaric.
GAM offers private client work that involves working with wealth holders (normally families or individuals but also corporate or foundation entities) to align their wealth planning and investments with their values. Clients are encouraged to map out their values and write a new wealth story. This story guides their spending, their relationship with tax, with investments, with accumulation and with repair. GAM also work to create a space for reparations where wealth holders are encouraged to trace how their wealth was made and/or accumulated and how they can make good on it. These services are offered specifically to individuals serious about redistributing their money, committed to capping or reducing their wealth.
Secondly, GAM has run three Reimagining Wealth programmes so far, with 21 wealth holders (ranging from GBP 10 million to £1 billion) from UK, USA, Austria, Netherlands, and Germany. As a result of the programme, two attendees are actively exploring putting reparations into their financial strategies turning these internal reflection work into practice. One-third of those participants became new signatories to open letters to political leaders demanding higher taxes on wealth. Additionally, at least four participants are actively going through a wealth planning process to set limits on their wealth (meaning they commit to not accumulating more wealth above a certain amount). This is based on the principle of ‘excess wealth’ a key concept underpinning all GAM’s work that encourages clients to think through what is ‘enough’ and to push back on ideas of perpetual wealth consolidation and accumulation. GAM plan to grow the number of people they work with to 40 individuals, increasing private clients, and institutional clients (family offices, trusts and foundations) in the next 2 years. In order to demonstrate best practice and bring more visibility and accountability to their work, GAM is codifying their private client work through a Wealth Spectrum for progressive wealth holders. The tool enables individuals and advisors to assess themselves against this Wealth Spectrum (i.e. to assess their own activities and behaviours) thus enabling others to take up this work.
Thirdly, Stephanie targets industry practitioners to mobilise transformation in the industry and build the supply of alternative wealth services. GAM launched a Progressive Advisor Movement, designed to identify and engage progressive voices within the advisory community and help them build an ‘early adopter’ movement of those looking to lead change in the sector. GAM trains advisors to meet the demands of growing progressive clients, by helping them to reimagine their role in the system, understand progressive arguments around and attitudes toward tax, investment, and wealth planning, as well as equipping them to advise clients who are committed to a new economic model. It also includes retreats, educational events, cohort-based programmes for advisors who meet regularly, and workshops to set strategies, move to action, and hold each other accountable.
This element of Stephanie’s strategy focuses on mindset shift and movement building through convening, advocacy, and developing open-sourced tools for others to adopt. GAM have partnered with the Saïd Business School to conduct an action inquiry that catalyses a movement around the future of the private wealth advisory industry and, in particular, the role of the ‘trusted advisor’. This work can both accelerate newcomers into the industry whilst also pushing for reform amongst incumbents and giving space to intrapreneurs who are pursuing this agenda from within.
In order to scale their impact, GAM are also developing opensource tools in partnership with advisory communities that can help accelerate the rate of change. The first tool they are seeking to develop is a ‘tax pride assessment tool’. The de facto practice in most advisory firms is to presume that clients wish to avoid all the tax they legally can as well as to take advantage of any and all state benefits they are entitled to. They are working alongside advisors to see how they might move from an ‘autoenrolment’ in tax avoidance to an assessment of what clients want and how they feel about tax. The tool will likely take the form of a questionnaire for wealth holders seeking advice, helping them to gain a deeper understanding of their relationship with citizenship as well as society in relation to taxes. Such a tool is used as a benchmark for client attitudes on tax and firms could commit to trying to improve levels of tax pride should they wish to do so. Through answers provided tax advice would be tailored instead of automatically preservative, allowing wealth holders who wish to pay more fairly to do so without added barriers. Firms already use such tools to examine e.g. client risk appetite within investments, meaning this is a tool that can be taken up more easily by advisors.
Stephanie's parents moved to the UK from Ghana in the 1980s. Growing up in a working-class migrant family, Stephanie was exposed to extreme wealth disparity from a young age. She was born and raised in social housing in Hammersmith, London. Stephanie emphasises the importance of her community in her childhood, and her parents reinforced this sense of community as well. Stephanie attributes many of the values which led her to start GAM to her mother who taught her to understand the essential nature of civic participation and educated her about the importance of contributing to society, including being a proud taxpayer.
Stephanie attended state schools where she excelled academically and became head girl. She credits her academic success to her teachers who were utterly devoted to seeing her and her peers thrive. Stephanie originally wanted to be a human rights lawyer but ultimately, and surprising herself, became interested in private client law. She had no proximity and limited knowledge about wealth but was captivated by the human element of private client work. She equally found the law academically and intellectually stimulating.
Stephanie qualified as a private wealth lawyer in 2011 and practiced at a law firm in the City of London for a decade. For the next ten years she focused on building up economic stability for herself, having come from economic precarity. During her time in private practice, she advised a variety of domestic and international clients on a broad range of matters concerning their private wealth. She qualified as a full member of the Society for Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) following completion of the diploma for England and Wales in 2013. She gained an outstanding reputation in the private wealth industry and was named one of eprivateclient's Top 35 Under 35 in 2020 and 2018. She was also listed as a Rising Star in the tax and trust category of the Spear's indices 2019 and was named in the Spear's 500 as a recommended tax and trust lawyer in 2020. She was also ranked as an 'Associate to Watch' in Chambers & Partners High Net Worth Guide 2021. In the midst of this often alienating professional ‘success’, Stephanie strived to remain connected to her community, volunteering for a variety of grassroots organisations and serving on the board of several charities.
It was at a New Year's Eve party in 2019, a conversation changed her life. Her friend shared that even though the UK is the 5th most advanced economy in the world, there are more food banks than McDonalds. She became obsessed with the question: 'how we can have so much philanthropic capital and impact investment and still such extreme inequality in our economy? Where on earth is capital in the twenty first century, and if it isn't reaching the places that need it most, then what is it fuelling instead?' This led her to spend the following 18 months in deep reflection and analysis, questioning the state of our economy and in doing so, questioning her own role as an actor in the global economy and her entire career as a private wealth lawyer. During her working career, she had been exposed to clients with great wealth which she was responsible for helping them manage, preserve and indeed accumulate. She observed how normalised it was to avoid tax wherever possible and to prioritise growing wealth even for those who already had 'enough'. She also saw how complicit respected firms and highly competent and empathetic individuals including herself was in this system: it was just normal. This enabled her to see first-hand how economic and tax systems are broken and designed to benefit the most privileged in our society at the expense of the most vulnerable. During this time, she also reached out to organisers, NGOs, and wealth holders to learn what else was out there, who was thinking about these things, and how she could contribute. She realised there was a clear role for her to play, and began drafting a business plan, fundraising, and developing her strategy while still working in private practice 4 days a week. She was on the cusp of becoming a partner when she decided to step away to devote herself full time and formally launch GAM.