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According to a study by American expert and businessman Russ Alan Prince, three quarters of surveyed wealthy people in the world (with assets of more than $30 million) prefer to use the services of multi-family offices (MFOs). At the same time, 85% of those participating in the study would like to organize their own family office — single-family office (SFO), if they could afford it. It is very unusual that such sentiments arise despite standardization and automation of financial services. Today, managing your own liquidity is no longer technologically complex, and the link to the bank, as an infrastructure, is weakening.
Access to your wealth, in this case, is not only yours, but also your bank’s. Often you are directly dependent on its whims and regulatory panic. At the same time, additional services that were previously typical only for exclusive packages at the bank are becoming more practical and appropriate for family offices. This includes services such as legal and tax advice, support for relations with partners, risk and liability management, international tax issues and compliance, as well as the search for necessary contractors and performers, administrative support.
Therefore, very rich clients have a desire to have a dedicated team of specialists with whom it will be comfortable to work inside a multi-family office, and even better — their own family office, and not constantly use the services of a crowd of consultants from large banks.
Today’s respect for banking and commercial secrets is collapsing, and some of them often can’t keep a secret by leaking information to regulators, the press and regulatory authorities, and even more often — information is leaked to your direct competitors.
If you ask any millionaire: “Do you want, instead of highly specialized companies that provide only financial products, to work with a comprehensive team, with an open architecture and a proactive approach to solving problems not only in the financial sphere, but also other important aspects of family life?”.
Of course, the answer will be yes.
However, analyzing this situation from the point of view of succession planning and long-term sustainability, we can say that MFOs have a number of serious advantages over SFOs. Here is some of them:
- Institutionalization. While SFO often does not even have a legal structure — usually it is a few employees who are engaged in the main business of the beneficiary, MFOs are dedicated teams and organizations. They have built a corporate governance model, there are well-established procedures for long-term interaction with customers, the office has developed a succession plan and a strategy for working with stress scenarios.
- Lack of strict personal liaison to one client. The practice of working with wealthy clients shows that the life of the SFO does not exceed the life of the main beneficiary. Own family offices are so tailored to the personalized requirements of the Beneficiary that they cannot adapt to the requirements of the heirs.
- Wide customer base. MFO clients typically range from a few families with a wide range of assets and interests to dozens of families with a simpler capital structure. In any case, this pluralism allows the MFO team to get rich “multi-experience” both in terms of the diversity of client situations and solutions, and in working with various providers, as well as in building relationships with new customers and their families based on professionalism, and not just loyalty. In addition, such a structure is an exchange of contacts and investment opportunities within the office between its various members. Additionally, such offices have a wider client base of accredited investors for those who are looking for alternative sources to finance their investment projects and even start-ups
- Financial stability. The presence of several clients, of course, reduces the financial dependence of MFO on each of them, as well as on difficult situations that they may encounter. We see that the periods of creating private family offices or expanding them at the expense of expensive high-class teams coincide with the heyday of business. Unfortunately, during the recession, these same structures are the first to be reduced. In the case of MFO, the cost of the team is distributed among all customers. So significant synergy is achieved.
There is an entire industry in the world known as wealth management. Examples include the Rockefeller, Phipps, and Pitcairn family offices. Moreover, the private Morgan Bank was the first to take the path of providing “family office” services to wealthy families (DuPont, Guggenheim, and Vanderbilt). A “family office” can be the main “brain” of a family in the process of combining assets, transferring wealth to heirs, and safeguarding family assets.
Therefore, the client is provided with services for an independent analysis of all possible investment decisions and development of an investment strategy. Often in the framework of the provision of such services, trusts and holdings are created. A family office can be the main family consultant, pool of resources, organize and carry out the transfer of business from one generation to another, and represent a single contact person for the whole family to properly maintain and manage the wealth.
At the same time, family offices not only solve financial issues, but also affect the social aspects of ensuring welfare, and also pay attention to the human factor. The organizational form of a family office can be very different — from one person to a company with a staff. There are currently two main types of family offices:
1) A family office as a single family office (SFO)
Such family offices provide services to only one family. Since the cost of maintaining this type of family office is quite high, a company of this type is more suitable for families and entrepreneurs with a fortune exceeding $500 million dollars
2) Multi-Family Office (MFO)
Such a family office provides services to several families, related by family ties or a common business. Each family’s fortune usually exceeds $100 million. Multi-family offices can also be created, staffed and managed by banks or trust companies.
In recent years, MFOs have become an increasingly popular platform for comprehensively serving the interests of wealthy families (High-Net-Worth Families) in relation to the most optimal legal structure of client corporate structures with the aim of their full protection, effective management, possible alienation or transfer to the next generation, tax optimization and distribution of dividends to the ultimate owner with guaranteed protection of his name from public control.
This platform gains particular significance when the issue of maintaining a family business, which has become problematic or not entirely viable for some family reasons, came first. For example, if the next generation chooses another profession or occupation. In this case, the use of MFO structures and tools allows managing family assets in the long term and provides balanced solutions between the individual management of the manager and the ultimate control of the beneficiaries from an investment point of view. Today you can still see the following classification of typical family offices:
- Class A. Their employees specialize exclusively in finance and real estate.
- Class B. The role of specialists is played by banks and consulting companies, therefore it is not surprising that their specialization is finance.
- Class C. Medium-sized law offices help their clients conduct real estate transactions.
Benefits of the MFO format
Wealthy families are increasingly interested in the solutions and tools by the MFO, which provides both traditional investment services and a full range of services for all family members.
Today, typical wealthy families are globally connected and active, very mobile and have access to the best consultants at any time. Families are turning towards a more mobile, individual, but nonetheless comprehensive model of using MFOs as a structure for coordinating, controlling, consolidating and supervising all financial and non-financial assets, as well as family actions.
MFOs, in particular, must adapt to much higher requirements from different families and take into account the requirements of future generations. To traditional services such as investment advice, asset management, and trust services, family offices provide the following additional services:
- Concierge services
- Acquisition of yachts and small aircraft, as well as their management and administration
- Purchase of art at auctions
- Organization of exclusive tours
- Search, purchase, and administration of luxury real estate around the world
- Advising and securing residency and economic citizenship in selected jurisdictions
- Selection and organization of school and university education for family members, etc.
- Exploring the possibilities of venture offers and identifying start-ups or venture projects that could potentially give X in the short term
- Diversification of the family investment portfolio by projects with a long-term stable financial outlook
The classification of requirements and challenges for a family office is a complex and unique task. Accordingly, for each individual family, there is a unique list of requirements, solutions, and approaches. Of course, every manager and every generation of the family puts their own meaning and solves the issue of proper control and management in their own way.
New generations of family members are well educated, intelligent, financially visionary, technically prepared, mobile, and proud of their heritage and origin, while attracting the same experienced and educated consultants. When deciding on the services of a family office, the following aspects must be kept in mind:
- Does this family need a family office to create it from scratch or use the services of the MFO
- What type of family office is best
- In which jurisdictions it is best to create a family office
Usually, the need to create a family office arises when:
- the family manages and is ready to invest assets in excess of US $100m;
- assets are complex and consist of several classes located in many jurisdictions of the world, which increases their mobility
- the family consists of many members and several generations living in different countries of the world
- requires highly specialized and highly individual approaches to solving current issues
- The family prefers to rely on a narrow circle of specialists and consultants, but is ready to be open to the polarity of opinions and accepts different points of view in decision-making. It has the ability to listen to opinions and is able to make its own unique decision based on various expert findings.
It is also extremely important to know the following nuances about relationships among family members when you, as an expert, work with family offices:
- Who is potentially more likely to be an opponent or supporter when discussing and making decisions?
- Is there a dominant figure in the family that usually gives instructions and directions?
- Whose interests dominate when making a decision — a dominant figure or the whole family?
When the question of transferring family assets and wealth arises before the family as a whole or each of its members individually, the following are key questions:
- What does the family need with respect to long-term wealth-raising projects, ongoing payments, and hiring professionals?
- Is there room for a common approach, taking into account an increase in the number of family members and, accordingly, an increase in the diversity of approaches diversification?
- What responsibilities will each family member have in relation to past, current and future generations?
- What do experts recommend for a long-term perspective, what investment opportunities should you pay attention to, what investment risk is acceptable for a family?
Family Office Options
With regard to the territorial location of the family office, as well as its activities, the following factors will play an important role:
- Proximity to family members
- Politically stable territory
- Politically neutral territory
- Territory with multicultural views
- A stable and profitable legal system with the ability to use many legal and tax instruments
However, for almost all families, there are general parameters and requirements:
- Specialized and individual approaches to solving problems
- Decrease in volumes of complexity and managerial levels
- Access to a wide selection of specialists, services, and capabilities
- A consolidated point of view based on a practical and balanced analysis of the situation by the experts involved
- Management based on a high professional approach
- Cost reduction and emphasis on high efficiency
- The principle of “Advocatus Diaboli” for the family
- Planning the most efficient transfer of family wealth to future generations
- Family cohesion — written and unwritten rules of conduct in the family
- Family values, control, and philanthropy
Currently, in Europe, families with centuries of tradition and business experience are in transition from a traditional approach to professionally managed family offices. The new generation, combining technical knowledge and financial entrepreneurship, is a new formation of private clients. They are much more demanding and want much more involvement in the process of making tactical and strategic decisions.
Such clients usually have huge assets in the form of stocks, bonds, companies or real estate, but are limited by periods and access to free financial resources. As a result, they are usually constrained in the use of liquid funds, and require access to a wide range of non-investment services. Those asset managers and private consultants, who are mainly focused on traditional investment products and have gaps in modern technological knowledge and approaches, are not ready for the current level of competition in this market of services and the new requirements of private clients.
The same principle applies to knowledge about the use of alternative tools and sources of investment, and knowledge about new investment, consumer and innovative trends. Accordingly, those who are looking for investments from family offices should understand that while the employees of family offices have a conservative view of the tools and projects that are worth investing in, as the priority is the safety of the welfare of the client and his family, guaranteed income, minimal risks. However, the possibility of Xs is also attractive to family offices.
In such cases, you, as a businessman who is interested in a family office — as an alternative tool for fundraising your project, should have in hand recommendations from people who have business relations with families from family offices, their managers. You need to work out your quality and more detailed project and presentation documentation, to approach this issue even more thoroughly than to negotiations with the bank on credits.
The diversity of the family office models comes from the fact that, despite the common platform of basic requirements, each family, at different stages of its development, requires an individual approach and needs different market tools and solutions. This fact clearly emphasizes the current trend of transforming some offices in the direction of a private family office.
Accordingly, unconventional financing and views on methods of increasing wealth today have a place even in a conservative institution such as the Family Office.
Family Office Jurisdictions
British Isles — Guernsey Island
Guernsey is widely known, first of all, as a reliable and stable offshore territory with English law, which provides services in the areas of fund management, subsidiary insurance organizations and investment management. Typically, Guernsey is used by family offices as holding jurisdictions to coordinate and effectively manage family assets and investment products. The main factors determining the placement of a family office in Guernsey are:
- Political, economic and financial stability
- Independence of jurisdiction and decision making [Guernsey is a unique example of government. At the same time, it is both a territory dependent on the UK and a state with its parliament, legislation and currency system]
- Zero tax legislation in relation to non-residents
- Proximity to world financial centers (London, Paris, Frankfurt)
- Jurisdiction is not part of the EU and, therefore, is not required to comply with any EU directives
- English law and the ability to use various trust and stock instruments
Recently, there has been a steady demand from wealthy families for trust services regarding the establishment of private trust companies (PTCs). This form of company is created specifically for operating as a trust for one or more families. In this case, the principal with the help of PTC can create and effectively manage his own trust. In the event that the PTC services are unsatisfactory as a trust, the principal can easily appoint a new trust. I would like to note one nuance, in the case of the implementation of PTC trust services for a large number of customers, this company will need to obtain a license to provide trust services from the regulator.
In 2008, Guernsey introduced innovation in its legislation regarding purpose trusts. This form allows you to create a trust for a specific purpose and, at the same time, not have beneficial owners. As an example of a trust, you can indicate the possibility of creating this type of trust for the acquisition and ownership of a specific stake in a particular company/instrument. This allows you to separate the ownership of PTC and family, which is extremely beneficial for the family business. Now, Guernsey legislation allows the use of such forms of organization of family offices as cellular or non-cellular, organic partnership, general partnership, trust or foundation.
Another very popular form of family ownership and asset management is the protected cell company (PCC). Despite the fact that equivalent structures exist in many jurisdictions, including the Cayman Islands, BVI, Mauritius, and Jersey, this form was first developed conceptually and introduced into the current legislation in Guernsey.
PCC is used mainly for managing various investment platforms, subsidiary insurance companies, a wide range of structured products and, of course, managing family assets. Moreover, legislative innovations in 2006 made another new form of company — incorporated cell company (ICC). This form of companies further increases the flexibility and effectiveness of management by creating the legal possibility of separating ICC from the holding’s target structure and acquiring the status of a fully independent company. This allows you to disclose, identify and transfer the assets necessary today from the general structure of the family’s assets.
Over the past decade, large Swiss banks have offered various forms of family office platforms along with traditional ones such as investment management, consulting services, long-term asset planning, philanthropy and practical training for the next generation.
However, in my opinion, over the past 5 years, the legal, financial and economic situation in this jurisdiction has changed dramatically. I do not agree with those consultants who continue to position Switzerland as a paradise that provides reliable and confidential services in the financial sector. Switzerland adopted a law on bank secrecy, which guarantees confidentiality of information on deposits in Swiss banks, back in 1935, but its effect today is a fiction.
It is enough to give an example of the unprecedented US pressure in 2006–2009, because of which the Swiss bank UBS, one of the first in the confederation, revealed 4,500 personal files of its depositors and paid US $780m. In 2008, UBS customers closed accounts worth more than CHF220bn.
Another Swiss bank Credit Suisse in 2011 informed the US Department of Justice about the accounts of 130 people and their assets worth more than US $ 3bn. Similar investigations had previously been launched by the US Department of Justice regarding HSBC’s Swiss affiliates, as well as Julius Baer and Basler Kantonalbank. The same happened in relation to a number of European countries (Germany, UK, Austria).
The Rubik Agreements, in force from the beginning of 2013, oblige Switzerland to report for its foreign investors to the tax authorities of the countries that have signed this agreement. The question concerns mainly tax residents of partner countries who have not declared their accounts with Swiss banks. Confederate banks fulfill their obligations to the tax authorities without naming their customers.
The Rubik model provides, in addition to the above scheme, another option for “disclosing all cards” to the authorities of partner states. The total amount of funds “open” to the tax authorities of customers, according to the Swiss financial institutions, is CHF6.4bn. Unexpected and extremely unpleasant for the reputation of Switzerland was the situation with the bankruptcy of the oldest Swiss bank “Wegelin & Co”, which was founded in St. Galen in 1741.
In April 2013, he declared bankruptcy. The US government played a key role in this matter. Also October 15, 2013. Switzerland, without drawing too much attention, has signed the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. This is another blow to bank secrecy, which is no longer fully respected.
This document provides all forms of cooperation to combat the transfer of capital abroad for the purpose of non-payment of taxes: information exchange, simultaneous tax control, assistance in collecting taxes. The Convention “prepares the transition to an automatic exchange of tax data”, which is introduced in 2015. Thus, one can ask about the very possibility of Switzerland to remain a popular and effective center for managing assets and wealth of families.
Taking into account stagnation, volatility and slowdown in economic growth in Europe and the USA, Asia is becoming the most attractive wealth management market, and Singapore is one of the leading world centers, consolidating all the advantages of rapid economic growth throughout the region and offering a wide range of flexible financial and legal instruments.
Despite the fact that, in managing assets and wealth, Singapore law allows for the application of a wide range of legal structures, including wills, special powers of attorney, insurance agreements, offshore companies, and funds, trusts are undoubtedly the leading ones. The trust is a relatively new and little-known legal form for many Asian private clients who are not familiar with the Common Law system or the concept of trust.
In accordance with Singapore law [The Trustees Act, Cap 337], a trust is a legal agreement of the parties, not a separate legal entity, and provides that trusts must be the owner of all trust property and enter into any agreements on behalf of the trust created.
Trust is endowed with special obligations and is obliged to act exclusively in the interests of the beneficial owner and in accordance with the terms of the concluded trust agreement. Professional trusts should only provide services after obtaining a license for this type of activity at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
The trust may be revocable or irrevocable with a clear indication of the beneficiary. The founder of the trust (Settlor) may retain some authority to manage the trust after its creation. In a trust agreement, Settlor may specify any criteria for trusts to include additional “desirable” beneficial owners, the order in which dividends are received and exclude “unwanted” beneficial owners, and also provide the right to trust to determine specific amounts for subsequent distribution between beneficiaries.
As a measure of additional control and monitoring of trusts, Settlor may designate a Protector. In addition, Singapore offers other attractive legal solutions for private clients. For example — Singapore Foreign Trust. This tool was created specifically for the national tax system and eliminates the use of income tax and income tax [Regulation 2A of the Income Tax (Exemption of Income of Foreign Trusts) Regulations (Income Tax Regulations)]. Mandatory key conditions of this type of trust is the absence of Singapore citizenship or residence with Settlor and the beneficial owner. In the case of companies, this company must be a foreign legal entity whose beneficial owners are not citizens or residents of Singapore.
Family offices as investors
The industry of family offices, as an alternative investment tool, is rather narrow, because there are about 4000 such institutions in the world. In the standard version, the family office offers direct and portfolio investments in real estate, business projects, and securities abroad. Particular attention is paid to strategies for investing in value and searching for undervalued assets. In terms of risk, family offices work in three areas:
- Conservative strategies to protect family capital (2–4% per annum) — for such investments they recommend clients to spend up to 70% of the capital of one family in management
- Investments with moderate risk to increase the profitability of the investment portfolio (from 4% to 28% per annum, for some projects more) — for such investment projects, family offices recommend to allocate up to 20% of the capital of one family in management
- High-risk investments in innovation, start-up projects, venture projects (from 20% to 200% per annum) — for such projects, offices recommend that customers allocate up to 10% of the capital of one family in management
In most cases, it is clear that the financial services provided by such family offices do not go beyond managing customer accounts and their investment portfolios in private banks, but there are a limited number of family offices specializing in other types of investments, including club deals, co-investment, impact — investing and investing in private capital. Experience has shown that in these types of investments, offices are often more active. Now in more detail, through which tools you can attract the capital of family offices (within the framework of the legislation) into your project:
Business — angel investing
Carry out at the earliest stage of the investment cycle. Usually, the capital necessary for the project is provided (more often, start-up) for additional research, the creation of a prototype. Since angel investments are made in the early stages of a business, in the startup phase, the amount required for an investment is often not that big. Nowadays, when a growing number of young entrepreneurs are focusing on new technologies with potentially high returns, this type of investment from family offices is becoming a trend. Here, an angel investor usually seeks to get a share in the company’s capital or a debt that can be sold at a high price if the new business is successful)
This is an investment in private projects (companies), carried out by the combined efforts of several investors. Such several investors may be members — clients of one multi-family office, since investors from such an office tend to form a syndicate among themselves in order to gain access to the results of a venture investment project or to a larger transaction.
This tool comes with a professional accredited investor (clients and members of multi-family offices). At the same time, investment can be in assets of different classes, including private business, real estate, hedge funds, and start-ups. Unlike club deals, when co-investing, the main investor is clearly identified, taking the lead and making the largest investments in the project. The attractiveness of co-investment is that behind a large investor in the pool you can always attract additional capital by attracting second-tier investors from the same members of family offices.
Impact — investing
It is carried out not only for the sake of obtaining financial income from family assets, but also for the purpose of a certain social impact on society, stimulating one’s image and goodwill of the family. This means that such investments have additional tasks. Usually environmental or social that the investor is trying to solve.
However, unlike philanthropy, the goal here is to return the invested amounts back and with a profit. The principle of impact investing is more often like microfinance. These are projects aimed at improving the environment, medical research, and the development of sustainable energy sources.
The trend of recent years that family offices are increasingly becoming drivers of such investments, where the young generation of wealthy families, using this tool, begins its operations. Therefore, it is possible for your project through family offices to attract the attention of the younger generation through small amounts and collect the necessary amount for the project, if, in addition to profit, you prove the social viability of your investment idea.
Investments in private business and projects
These are mainly investments in existing companies and projects whose shares are not yet traded on the stock exchange, but an IPO is planned in the future. Investments in private business are made in the form of investments in shares or by providing financing (private debt). Often the purpose of such an investment is to seize a controlling stake in the company.
Family offices, for the sake of diversification and risk reduction, often through investment companies or through private equity funds do such operations. The purpose of the family office is to generate a long-term stable income for the family in order to enter an IPO and then sell such a business.
These are direct investments in assets having a material form, for example, the purchase of land, farms, and production. Real investments are made in tangible objects where investors can see with their own eyes what they are investing in. If your business and project have such real properties (asset, production), then family offices can be your investors, although not all of them specialize in such operations.
This is an investment in companies and projects at the start-up stage. Recently, family offices have been showing more and more interest in such projects, especially in the field of IT (boom of blockchain projects), AI, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and robotics.
It is worth noting that according to statistics, all the technology projects and companies popular today such as Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Twitter in the early stages for their development attracted significant venture investments from large single-family offices, despite all the conservative prejudices associated with these institutions.
Crunchbase has reviewed recent investments made by family investment offices (https://news.crunchbase.com/news/charting-adoption-direct-startup-investments-family-offices/). It was found that the growth rate of transactions with these private groups that invest on behalf of one rich family (and sometimes several) are significantly ahead of the investment pace of traditional venture capital firms.
There is some irrefutable evidence that many family offices make their first investments directly in startups (as opposed to investing in a venture fund as a limited partner). However, it would be interesting to know which investment groups are most active in investing in startups. In addition, which ones are the most successful? This study shows some interesting facts and names a number of family offices that can consider your venture and innovative investment project with great interest:
- Omidyar Network — is the most active in this activity. The Omidyar Network portfolio is represented in education, information technology, and the fintech industry.
- Kapor Capital is led by the founder of Mitchell “Mitch” Kapor and Freada Kapor Klein, the investor, and founder of the ProjectInclude project. Many of his portfolio companies focus on mobile devices and services, education and healthcare. Kapor Capital has many successful examples, one of which is Uber’s startup back in 2010.
- Webb Investment Network — made venture investments in companies such as Okta, Zuora, Hipmunk and Indiegogo, although the company currently makes less publicly disclosed investments (compared to a couple of years ago), but the fund is still active and is developing its partnership network.
- J. Hunt Holdings — invests from $100 thousand to $1.1 million in the early stages, mainly working with startups in five main categories: video, data center management, social media, data security, and “other” sectors.
- Hedgewood — invests at various stages in a diverse group of companies, primarily in the field of healthcare, SaaS and financial services.
- Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss — is the only company on this list that has invested in bitcoin and blockchain. In 2017, the company participated in initial coin offerings (ICOs) for Filecoin and Blockstack startups. Tyler and Cameron are also co-founders of Gemini, an exchange platform for bitcoins and other assets.
- Bezos Expeditions — invests venture capital in the initial, early and late stages of startups from a wide variety of sectors. Previous portfolio companies include Workday, Twitter, JunoTherapeutics and media company BusinessInsider. The company currently invests in companies such as GRAIL, Convoy, PioneerSquareLabs, Domo and Rethink Robotics.
- Iconiq Capital — invests the capital of a large number of senior executives of Silicon Valley. According to Forbes and The Wall Street Journal, Makan’s customers include Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey, and Reid Hoffman. Interests in various sectors of the economy
- The R-Group, LLC — the firm’s portfolio is also rather aggregated by sector, but usually invests in SaaS or e-commerce companies, many of which are located in the Northwest Pacific Ocean. Previous portfolio investments include PracticeFusion, Notion, BillGuard, and FaradayBicycles.
- Smedvig Capital — makes investments in the Series A and B stages, and she often invests in companies in several consecutive rounds. Their portfolio companies are almost exclusively based in the UK and Scandinavia.
All these family offices are known for innovative interests and are boldly considering startups. In fact, contrary to conservatism, these institutions are at the forefront of technology and innovation.
First, the families whose capital these family offices managing are quite wealthy. They realized that technology startups, attracting younger generations, would eventually start making big money. Therefore, in addition to the activity of venture capital funds that have already become traditional in the venture industry, you should pay attention and start networking with family offices.