Family offices, once primarily perceived as entities that manage the wealth of affluent families, have undergone a significant transformation in recent years. The concept of a family office has evolved from a rudimentary structure to a sophisticated and strategic institution. From an investment perspective, this professionalisation marks a remarkable shift in how family offices manage their assets, make investment decisions, and navigate the complex financial landscape.
In the below article, Lynda O Mahoney, Global Head of Business Development – Private Clients looks at the shift towards the professionalisation of the family office and the key considerations for family offices in taking on the role of investment managers when preserving and protecting their client's wealth.
What has encouraged the shift towards the professionalisation of family offices?
Historically, wealthy families entrusted investment managers to manage their financial assets. However, the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, followed by the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, led to a decline in investment managers' target returns, prompting clients to seek alternative approaches. As a result, the concept of professionalising family offices and empowering family office executives to directly manage financial assets and report to family members has gained traction.
Delegating responsibilities to investment managers have diminished due to low-income environments and the ongoing uncertainties in the global markets. This has left family offices seeking greater control and peace of mind while maintaining all data in one place. This transition requires the sourcing of skilled family office executives, facilitated by investment professionals seeking non-traditional career paths working within family offices.
What are the key drivers behind the professionalisation of the family office?
- Growing complexity: The global financial landscape has become increasingly intricate, with a wider range of investment opportunities and risks. Family offices now face the challenge of navigating complex regulatory environments, diverse asset classes, and rapidly changing market conditions that they are required to stay abreast of.
- Enhanced expertise: As family offices recognise the need for specialised knowledge, they have been recruiting professionals with diverse skill sets including investment analysts, financial planners, legal experts, and technologists. This infusion of talent has enabled family offices to conduct thorough due diligence, identify emerging trends, and capitalise on unique investment opportunities.
- Technological advancements: The digital revolution has significantly impacted the investment world. Family offices have embraced advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to enhance their investment decision-making processes. These technologies enable them to analyse vast amounts of data and make more informed investment choices.
- Alternative investments: The professionalisation of family offices has led to a greater willingness to explore alternative investments such as private equity, venture capital, hedge funds, and real assets. These investments offer the potential for higher returns but also come with greater complexity and risk, necessitating a more sophisticated approach to due diligence and risk management. Check out our recent release on family offices turning to alternative investments.
- Global perspective: Many family offices are now looking beyond their domestic markets for investment opportunities. This global outlook requires a deep understanding of international markets, currencies, and geopolitical factors.
The risk vs. reward of the professionalisation of the family office
The professionalisation of family offices offers several benefits, including improved risk management, increased access to diverse investment opportunities, and the ability to leverage advanced technologies for better decision-making. However, challenges do exist. Balancing the desire for higher returns with the need to manage risk, maintaining alignment with family values and objectives, and ensuring effective communication between family members and professional staff are ongoing concerns.
Looking ahead, the trend towards the professionalisation of family offices is likely to continue. As younger generations take over the reins, they are likely to demand even more sophisticated investment strategies and greater transparency. Family offices will need to adapt to changing family dynamics, evolving investment trends, and emerging technologies to remain relevant and effective.
Case Study: Family offices adding value to investment outcomes
A family office client of Ocorian invested in a start-up technology business, backing an existing management team who had created a valuable business unit within a large-listed firm.
The management team had the industry contacts and credibility to establish a new operation and had already worked together exceptionally well as a team. However, in their previous firm, they had relied on their finance function for all structuring, tax, and financial planning considerations.
The family office team therefore designed the group structure (building in tax neutrality), decided on the residence location of the company based on various practical factors, and sought specific favourable VAT rulings. The family office team then designed the financial control mechanisms, including foreign exchange risk mitigants, and performed all derivative financial trading to support the business' cash needs.
In a four-year period, the business grew rapidly and was sold for 17x original investment, a stellar result for management and family office alike.
How can Ocorian help with family office services?
We understand that a wealthy family in the 21st Century have many demands on their time and many responsibilities arising from the wealth they have generated. The team at Ocorian have been providing family office solutions to clients for decades and over that time have built up in-depth knowledge and experience across all aspects of life experienced by a wealthy family.
We provide a seamless and holistic approach to challenges and opportunities that those families are faced with. Reach out to the Ocorian family office team to find out more.
What is a modern family office?
Family offices were traditionally established to oversee the financial affairs of high-net-worth families, ensuring the preservation and growth of their wealth for future generations. These offices often took a conservative approach, investing mainly in traditional asset classes like stocks, bonds, and real estate. However, as families sought to diversify their portfolios and generate higher returns, family offices began to embrace a more innovative and proactive investment strategy.
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