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CRE Insights Blog

Family Office Business Models

Hello, my name is Richard Wilson and today I want to talk to you about the family office commercialization curve. Most family offices that I work with start out as a single family office. They get really good at managing their own money. After five or ten years, other families constantly are asking them to help. They say no to almost everybody, but then a few families with some similar worldviews on investments finally convince them to manage some money for them. They take on a second family, a third, they realize things need to be formalized for reporting purposes. And then all of a sudden they realize because of compliance, they might as well take on more families. Now they have professional staff in place and they’re a multi-family office. That’s the first to second stage of family office commercialization. After that, the next stage is typically doing some co-investment work, investment banking work, or a club investing. This can sometimes come before a multi-family office has started. Nowadays because direct investing and co-investing is becoming such a big trend, oftentimes it does come slightly before converting into a multi-family office. But those are the first few things that happen. And then longterm what I see is that the families that get really good at offering a multi-family office, get really good at offering investment banking, co-investing, club investing type services often create an asset management division. And then become a fully diversified asset management business. And the number of families who can go from being a successful single family office, to a multifamily office, to a fully diversified asset management firm with potentially an investment banking division, real estate fund management, the multi-family office doing all of that is very rare. Most people don’t even have that intention or desire. Just having a single family office is hard enough, and it meets their goals. Or just having a single and multi-family office is far complicated and hairy enough when it comes to compliance regulations. But some people do seek to go that full spectrum. And it’s typically the larger more successful groups. Because they have the extra resources, and some profits, and some extra team talent to expand, and they want to go that way. Because they don’t see many people who have family office expertise, but really offering a full asset management or investment banking solution. So this is something that I’m talking to with one of my billion dollar plus clients in the family office industry right now. I’ve got four or five other $1 billion to $10 billion firms that are either looking at this commercialization curve and figuring out how to move up at faster, or where they should stop. And how they build a team and the governance to get there. One note I wanted to make sure and emphasize is that the reason why this is so difficult is that besides global regulation, global taxation, the different needs of different families, hiring the right talent that can wear all the different hats to manage the client service work, but also oversee portfolio management and have that investment knowledge, but also that client management knowledge.

About the author

Richard Wilson