Posted on: August 24th, 2022
As the number of affluent American households continues to rise, so does interest in professional family offices designed to address their many and often complex needs—both financial and otherwise.
It’s not entirely clear just how many family offices exist in the U.S. One study by Capgemini estimates there are around 3,000 single-family offices—each one catering to a single family—and roughly 150 multifamily offices that serve more than one family. Another report estimates there are more than 7,000 single-family offices around the globe.
And of course, the rise of virtual family offices in recent years means that some wealth management firms that aren’t technically classified as family offices have a real family office look and feel.
But family offices aren’t a panacea for every wealthy family. Key questions must be asked and important considerations must be assessed when families start thinking about possibly getting involved with a family office of some kind.
That’s true even if you’re not part of the Super Rich (net worth of $500 million or more) community to whom family offices tend to cater. Today, even many “merely affluent” families can work with their wealth managers to create virtual family offices that feature many of the capabilities of the more traditional options.
Some things to think about if you’re exploring the idea of a family office include the following:
Despite the advantages that single-family offices can bring, there are a wide variety of reasons wealthy families should not establish single-family offices. The following are some of the questions that (depending on the answers) might indicate that a single-family office is a poor choice.
So, where does that leave wealthy families?
Based on our experiences working with wealthy families that either want an SFO or already have one, it has become apparent that for a meaningful number of affluent families, this business model is not appropriate. In addition to these broad issues, there are others that can easily erode the value of a single-family office—or worse, make it a costly disaster.
In a survey of 114 single-family offices, only about one in five family members involved in strategic oversight said their family office is performing well (see Exhibit 1). These single-family offices were exceeding the expectations of their families.
The majority reported that their single-family offices were performing adequately—in other words, generally in line with what was expected of them.
Meanwhile, about a quarter of the single-family offices were seen as underperforming expectations.
Despite good intentions, some wealthy families create Frankenstein family offices—patchwork networks of unaligned service providers loosely sewn together. Single-family office formation is not a science project but an exercise in engineering and social management.
A single-family office needs to be geared for precision and customized with premium components for responsiveness. Choosing the right structure allows the family to put all the pieces in place more quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. Customizable, turnkey approaches are also gaining traction among established SFO operations that are looking to enhance client service capabilities.
Whatever the choice of operational structure for a new single-family office, there are five interconnected, related characteristics that are foundational.
There are many times when the superior approach would be to engage a multifamily office or to build a virtual family office with a team of outside experts. However, it makes sense to apply the same foundational considerations that are used when setting up a single-family office. For example:
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you’re exploring a single-family office, a multifamily office or a virtual family office facilitated through a wealth manager. If you arm yourself with these questions and considerations going into the process, you can conduct more effective and more insightful due diligence on the option that may be appropriate for you and your family.
This report was prepared by, and is reprinted with permission from, VFO Inner Circle. AES Nation, LLC is the creator and publisher of VFO Inner Circle reports.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra IS or Kestra AS. The material is for informational purposes only. It represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results. It is not guaranteed by Kestra IS or Kestra AS for accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions. It should also not be construed as advice meeting the particular investment needs of any investor. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS.
Fusion Wealth Management is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. https://www.kestrafinancial.com/disclosures
VFO Inner Circle Special Report
By Russ Alan Prince and John J. Bowen Jr.
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