Why use a Multi-Family Office?
The main reason for families to engage a multi-family office is control. The family office is used to manage your wealth once your wealth is so substantial that it is too complex to manage by yourself, when it takes up too much time or you just do not have the capacity and/or knowledge to manage it yourself. Or when several generations are (getting) involved. The multi-family office will be your single point of contact, will support you with a broad range of (financial) issues and will represent the family in numerous situations in the outside world.
From private banking to multi-family office services
During the years (or often decades) your wealth is built, your need for support in managing it will gradually grow. As a result of this development most families will first start to work with one private bank and only over time use more private banks in order to diversify their investment risk. In addition to banks a wealthy family often uses other (financial) professionals such as lawyers, tax advisors, trustees and accountants to manage or structure their non-financial assets, such as, for example, the family business, real estate, private yachts, aircraft, art collections and private equity. But working with a growing number of (financial) intermediaries will increase your own (administrative) work considerably as you have to communicate with all of them and often also have to coordinate between them.
Having attained a certain amount of wealth you will on the one hand spend all your time managing your wealth instead of enjoying it and on the other hand no longer be satisfied with the level of fragmented services provided. Or several generations are (getting) involved and it’s increasingly difficult to find a common path.
A multi-family office acting as a single point of contact could streamline and coordinate all your worldwide (financial) affairs and your quality of life could increase considerably because of its services. You regain control over your assets.
The multiple roles of a family office
A multi-family office supports wealthy families with the management and organisation of their worldwide wealth and acts as the coordinator for most of their needs. As a result you no longer have to deal with various private banks and professional advisors yourself.
One of the key activities of a family office is to consolidate all relevant financial information in one report, coordinate with banks and establish an overall investment strategy (or asset allocation). This set-up saves you a lot of time and brings more focus to your investment strategy. It also reduces your investment risk.
A multi-family office may also act as a connection between family members and as a coach for younger generations. Research has taught us that many wealthy families are not able to preserve their wealth for longer than three generations. This is often caused by a lack of strategy within the family or a lack of communication between the family members. A multi-family office can build long-term relationships with all family members and involve and educate the younger generation. As the family office is a third party, it is often easier for family members to work with the family office instead of dealing directly with each other. As over the next decades an immense amount of wealth will transfer to the next generation, a good family office may have a vital role in aiding this process.
Furthermore a good multi-family office often supports the family with all its wealth planning needs. It has access to a large external network of specialists and can draw on the experience it has gained in serving other wealthy families. What happens when the next generation does not want to get involved in the family business? How do you structure the sale of a large company? What do you do when you consider buying property in a foreign jurisdiction such as Spain or the United Kingdom? How would you structure this, and who could you trust? Where would you start if you were considering acquiring a private jet or yacht? To which foreign private schools could you send your children? Which private banks are stable and safe?
These are all questions and issues with which a multi-family office can assist you, and for which it has the necessary experience as well as an existing network of trustworthy external specialists. With respect to the above it will also be of benefit to you to select a multi-family office which serves clients similar to yourself, concerned with similar issues, e.g. clients of a comparable size, from the same region or with a similar generational profile.
A family office may also be focussed on the more practical needs of the family, such as supporting it with the operational management of yachts and aircraft, providing secretarial services, offering (international) real estate management, etc. These kinds of so-called lifestyle management services offer a lot of convenience to the family (or its individual members).
The multi-family office as trusted advisor
As most multi-family offices are privately owned, they have, compared to private banks, a low turnover of staff and often very strong relationships are built over time between members of the family and the family office staff. Eventually a family office will in most cases grow into the trusted advisor of the family. One of the important reasons for this is that the family office is involved not only in the management of the bankable assets, but also in all other investments and other decisions and often even plays a role in the family’s holding company. Guiding the future generation through education and mentoring can also contribute to creating this strong relationship.
The decision to actually use a multi-family office
The decision to use or set up a family office (in Switzerland) is one you (normally) only take once in your life. Therefore the selection of the appropriate multi-family office is a very important decision. The selection should be made very carefully, as your family's future wealth and fortune will depend on it. Since you make this decision only once, the question is how to select the right multi-family office, because there is no 'one size fits all' solution. Every multi-family office operates differently, has a different philosophy, culture and communication style, offers different services, is experienced in specific areas, has its own level of professionalism and is therefore very well able or completely unable to deliver the customized services your family needs. One should also keep in mind that different multi-family offices may provide similar services in widely differing manners.
Use of the title ‘family office’ is not protected
On top of this, the title "family office" is not protected. This means that without having any specific qualification or experience everyone and any company can use this title and offer "multi-family office services" to the public. So how will you ensure it offers exactly the high-quality services you need? And are you sure whom you are actually approaching to provide you with those services?