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CRE Insights Blog

Why is the Family Office Industry Growing? (Zurich)

Hello. It’s Richard Wilson coming to you from Zurich, Switzerland. I’m actually here to chair at a conference of about 250 people on ultra high net worth investments and hedge funds. And the whole point of this conference is to attract more finance business to a suburb of Zurich called [inaudible 00:00:00:16], which is actually a pretty big financial center of Zurich. And what I’m going to speak about at the conference is about what’s driving growth in the family offices. So I just wanted to give you a real quick summary of what my speech, or my topic is going to be about while at this conference and working as the chairman there. So the first thing that I talk about is the four core drivers of family office growth. This comes from me working with family offices for over seven years and also just recently completing 36 recorded audio interviews with single and multifamily offices all around the world for an interview series I completed and a book that I’m writing right now in family offices. So basically there’s four things I’ve identified that are really driving the family office industry forward and just leading to global growth that I think is sustainable and is going to last for at least the next 10 years. So the first thing that’s driving the growth is that many family offices used to require 30 or $50 million before you can join them and many still do, but a good percentage of them now are only requiring 10 or $20 million. This is a significant difference because there are many more people in the world that have 10 and $20 million rather than 30 or $50 million. So it only takes a certain percentage of those family offices lowering their minimums and many clients are going to flood into those specific family offices that lower the minimums. I think this is being done because some of their costs are rising due to global compliance costs, fraud, anti-fraud compliance, anti-bribery compliance and globally, especially with the United States regulations, the cost of compliance are definitely going up. So to cover their bases and make sure that their multifamily office model remains profitable, many people have been lowering the minimums they require from their clients to start using their family office services. On top of that, the second area of growth that I’ve seen is that wealth management firms that used to perhaps require $1 million of net worth or somebody’s are now likely to call themselves a family office by saying, well, our new minimums for the client are $10 million, or our new minimum is $20 million. And the reality is that 90% of their client base are these $500,000 or $1 million or $3 million clients, but it looks better if on their website they say they offer a full family office solution. I understand where they’re coming from in trying to convert into a family office. Who doesn’t want to serve people that have $20 million instead of $2 million if you have the choice, right? It causes a little bit of confusion in the industry. Because some people now say, well you’re not a office unless you are a single family office or you’re not a family office unless you require at least 30 million for new clients. You know, who’s to say what the right definition is. I think that, you know, at the very minimum, somewhere around 20 million, maybe 10 million, but probably around 20 million is what would be considered a family office if they only work with people of those sizes. There are some exceptions though that provide great service even though you can have less assets than 20 million. So that’s another area though that’s really driving the industry forward, because many wealth management professionals would like to be running a multifamily office instead of a wealth management operation. So not everybody is going to succeed in converting their firm up the ladder that way and becoming more high end.

About the author

Richard Wilson