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CRE Insights Blog

Family Office Board of Advisors Tips

Hello, this is Richard Wilson and I’m coming to you from my hotel room balcony here at the Marriott East Side in Midtown New York, and today I want to talk to you about building your advisory board council or your board of advisors for your family office. This is a topic that can’t be talked about enough because it’s a very high leverage point for cost versus return for single and multi-family offices, and we just signed a contract recently helping a multi-hundred million dollar direct investment oriented family office rebuild their advisory board. They had lost members consistently over the past several years and they came to me asking me who I knew that would want to join their board, and we have a Family Office Executive Search division, so we are happy to help them with that. And what we have found is that the most important part of this process, just like when you set up a family office, is defining exactly what the family office’s goals are, their investment objectives, what skills they have internally, they need to supplement with the board, and what they’re really trying to achieve for their clients. Is it asset protection? Or is it more like in the $300 million single family office that I’m the CEO of, is it asset growth? They’re trying to grow from $300 million to a billion dollars. So unlike most family offices, it’s not all about capital protection. It’s about playing good offense as part of the defense strategy. So I think that knowing that up front will change completely who should be on the board or the council of your family office. That might seem obvious, but many people don’t start there. They say, do you know any good board members you can refer to me? Without me knowing anything about who they are. And so I think that is something really important not to overlook. Spend a lot of time on where you’re going and who’s going to help you get there, who’s not already on your team. The second thing I would encourage is to work through referrals, people you trust, the people that have long-term relationships. This morning I introduced a potential CFO to a multi-hundred million dollar single family office and it was an easy recommendation to make because I know this person is excellent. They have a great attention to detail. They used to work for two different billion dollar plus families for 15 years. They’re very loyal and they can really be relied upon when they commit to doing something and fulfilling a responsibility for a family. So you get those types of introductions and relationships by working with people who are already embedded in the industry. I would really warn against adding anybody to an advisory board or adding more than one or two members to the advisory board who haven’t worked with families because there’s some very unique aspects and challenges of working with a family office versus a law firm or an investment fund. So I’d keep it pretty family office centric and industry specific to what you’re investing in. So that comes back to that initial question of what you’re trying to build. In terms of benchmarks for what family office board members are typically paid. I’ve seen it as low as $7,500 a year for two to three days of full-time onsite time plus travel expenses. And I’ve seen it as high as $60,000 a year for board members and reportedly in some publications, some well known, you know, former prime minister types can get paid several hundred thousand to a million dollars a year for being advisor to a family office or an investment fund.

About the author

Richard Wilson