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Perspectives

National Family Office Forum

Insights from executives

The Deloitte National Family Office Forum is a biennial gathering of single-family office executives at Deloitte University’s Leadership Center in Westlake, Texas. This program is an interactive event designed to enhance the strategic knowledge of senior family office executives through insightful speakers, immersive environments, and peer networking. The ideas presented here reflect participants’ insights from the forums.

The family office value proposition

What is in a value proposition? Some say it is an organization’s promise to provide value to its customers. Many go further, emphasizing the importance of how the organization actually delivers on that promise of value. Either way, developing a value proposition bears particular challenges for single-family offices (SFOs). One challenge is the typical SFO’s richness of benefits, which seems difficult to distill, much less convey. Another is the unique organizational structure of an SFO. While other organizations have industry standards to guide them, SFOs often must look to one another for leading practices.

With that in mind, Deloitte hosted a series of breakout sessions on the family office value proposition in February 2018 during the National Family Office Forum. Roughly 100 people gathered in four conference rooms at the Deloitte University facility in Westlake, Texas. Their mission? Evaluate where SFOs stand today, then brainstorm innovative ideas that might be used to define the value of the SFO going forward.

Deloitte consolidated the ideas and drew out the highlights—along with, we hope, a dash of inspiration for taking your own family office to the next level.

2018 Survey report

February 2018 marked the second National Family Office Forum at Deloitte University, following up the inaugural event from two years earlier. These forums are a place where single family office executives can share leading practices, build new relationships with peers in the industry, and discover what others in their field are doing to meet the family’s needs.

Although no two family offices are alike, many single family offices (SFOs) do have a great deal in common. They offer many of the same services as elite private banks and investment firms. They reflect the attributes of the family they serve. And they share an ambition to administer the family’s affairs via the most modern and effective means possible.

To help with those objectives, we accompany each forum with a survey about the issues that are currently important to SFOs. The 2016 edition had 86 participants and covered a wide range of topics. This year, we updated the survey to reflect what we’re seeing in the marketplace today. A total of 108 executives with significant SFO tenure told us about the key challenges they face in their efforts to adapt, innovate, and transform the offices they serve. Across the responses, an overarching theme of resiliency shines through.

2016 Survey report

In conjunction with the inaugural Deloitte National Family Office Forum held at Deloitte University in February 2016, Deloitte embarked upon a survey to investigate key challenges and themes important to single family offices (SFO). 86 executives leading a single family office based in the United States responded to the survey.

Regardless of office tenure, number of employees, or number of households served, the survey results indicate that the top challenge facing the family is overwhelmingly that of educating and motivating the next generation. This generation is critical to the overall succession of the family office irrespective of decisions to transfer governance or full ownership.

Not surprisingly, technology is the most frequently cited unmet service gap in the industry regardless of office size. However, responses indicate that the focus changes with the size of office. For example, when the SFO has >50 employees, enhanced ERP/GL is the biggest focus while IT security is critical when the SFO has <50 employees. Furthermore, technology intersects with transformation. Responses indicate that tenure of the office affects the area of focus for transformation changes. When the SFO has been in existence >25 years there is a tie between data and people transformation; when the tenure is <25 years the focus is clearly on data. The key to effective use of technology at the family office is the ability to access, analyze, employ, and report data. For many reasons, this is much easier said than done.

The expectations of value a SFO provides are clearly increasing. No matter where the office falls today on the spectrum of sophistication, more family offices are adopting formal governance structures, realigning their organizational structures, implementing risk management programs, embedding more rigorous controls, and reevaluating their technology platforms. The family office industry continues to undergo tremendous change. It is important that executives stay on top of change as the technology evolves and the family members’ needs change.

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