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.