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Understanding the role of a family office

By rotide
Created 07/09/2016 - 11:58
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The news tends to focus on rich people and their achievements, but behind the scenes is a hard working team of professionals looking after their assets and interests.

The role of a family office is to the manage the wealth of an ultra-high net worth family, including tax planning, investments, property and other aspects of their lifestyle. This service first appeared in New York in the late 19th Century, with the Rockefeller family needing expertise to manage their vast fortune. This offering became more mainstream in the 1980s and now there are over 1,000 family offices in the UK, looking after wealth that runs in the trillions. Several high profile families work with these offices to manage their assets including James Dyson, Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. (Source: The Guardian [1])

The difference between a single and multi-family office

A single family office provides management and support to just one family and given that the family has enough assets and interests, they can focus their attention on just the one family. A multi family office means that the company provides their expertise to several families at once, finding synergies across the board and potentially joint investment opportunities.

The services they provide

Investments - Some family offices will have teams dedicated to boosting the existing wealth of their client through different investment opportunities. With employees specialising in private equity, currencies, trading, property and more, the company will always be looking for new investments in the global markets. The services are considered separate to investment bankers who will focus on increasing wealth for not only individuals, but also companies, groups and their own assets.

Tax - A common feature of family offices [2] is to have a team of accountants that focus on tax planning in order to maximise their client's income and savings. This includes using tax havens, off shore accounts, charitable donations, deductions and exemptions to limit the effects of high tax bills.

Legacy - Family offices are commonly used for legacy purposes. This refers to how their great wealth is used to benefit future generations when the current family members die. This includes managing and distributing inheritance to family members, creating trust funds and giving charitable donations.

Lifestyle - More recently, firms have extended their offering to concierge services which can include booking flights, yacht management and looking after an art collection. The role of the family office is to adhere to the family's everyday needs, whether big or small.

How much wealth do you require to be eligible?

Single and multi-family offices will have different criteria when it comes to how much wealth you require to be eligible. Some companies are able to offer their services to those with £5-£10 million and others catering to those families with £100 million+.

The fees charged can also vary depending on your wealth, with smaller firms charging hourly rates or contracts and some of the larger firms charging around £250,000 per year and upwards. Some of the largest families will be paying millions of pounds per year for wealth management.

 


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