A common question that wealth managers are asked is, “How wealthy does my family need to be to establish a Family Office?” Some say you need $500m to start your own Family Office, however, we think this is a misconception and help families establish their own structures with less than $100m. It’s important to understand that the amount of funds, investments and assets managed by a family might start lower and build over time; and these amounts are less important than the complexities of a family’s needs.
Why we believe it’s better to form a Family Office earlier rather than later
Setting good governance and educating the next generation takes time and we believe that establishing a Family Office to build good governance is more important than waiting until a family has a set amount of funds. Educating the next generation require a complete mindset shift on their part, from focusing on their obligations to considering their opportunities. Some families might need to address trust and communication issues, or alignment of family members that want to go in a different direction.
In addition, families often interested in goals beyond growing wealth or expanding a business, and these need to be presented to the group and a strategy determined. For example, many Family Offices have a strong philanthropy-arm and need to determine where their charitable funds are directed. To support their philanthropic goals, aspects of their philanthropic strategy should be integrated into the governance of the Family Office.
The difference between a Family Office and a bank-owned model or Multi-Family Office Group
Our role is to help families address any issues and facilitate a process to help them design, build and own their own Family Office. We do not act as their Family Office, as a bank would in a bank-owned model or a firm managing a Multi-Family Office Group. A Multi-Family Office acts as an external Family Office, banks offer products and transactions rather than services, and both have non-family shareholders.
The difference is that in a traditional Family Office model, like the ones we establish and assist at William Buck, family members are shareholders in their own family enterprise or management company. This is why we arm the family with enough education and guidance to decide whether their wealth and circumstances constitute the establishment of a Family Office.
Costs to establish and assist a Family Office
Even the largest family office will need to assess whether to outsource services. It’s unreasonable to insource services where the family has no expertise and there are no economic benefits. They may have some internal resources such as family members and non-family members working on investments, reporting or administration. They may also outsource services as needed such as compliance, tax planning, legal, banking, wealth advice, philanthropy, education, due diligence, asset management or investment products. This supports access to know-how and expertise, independent advice and economies of scale.
Family offices typically have operating costs of between 0.3% and 1.2% of assets managed. The 1% rule of thumb can be used as an indication for family groups looking to balance inhouse staff with outsourced professional services. We base pricing on the operational structures that make sense, family member involvement and skills outsourced.
When people ask us about funds required to start a Family Office, our response is always that good governance should come first and there is no set minimum required to establish a Family office.
While it’s tempting to start with the financial strategy, when governance comes first, families are better placed to deal with their financial and/or business strategies. They will be on the way to achieving unity and alignment, making collective decisions about the family wealth and investment policy, and younger generations will be engaged. Roles will be clear and the family’s purpose and decision-making processes will be documented and understood. We believe that with these foundations in place, your Family Office will stand the test of time.
For more on establishing a Family Office, contact your local William Buck Wealth Advisor.