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The Value of a Family Office

Family office takes on many sizes and shapes depending on the needs and desires of an individual or their family. From consulting on financial matters, investments, insurance, marriage, death and divorce issues, there is a family office model to suit your needs. However, since Family office services are not cheap, it is a value driven service – one that often employs experienced professionals to do what most other single-service professionals won’t do – provide independent guidance, advice and direction.

Good family office service providers also bring to the table another service most professional won’t provide, the independent ability to say “no!” even if it threatens to upset a family member or the head of the family. Candid, direct, forthright and independent advice is something that is hard to find in today’s world of commissions, referral fees and other less-than-independent ways to monetize services.

For years, many family office clients have come to their advisers for much more than what is initially understood and mandated. Why? Trust. A Family Office provider can only do the job that you, the client, truly need if the trust is built for the family to look to their Family Office adviser for a second opinion, to break a tie, to mentor their children or to be there in a time of need. Many Family office calls are made “after hours” or on weekends, not because that is when its convenient, but rather that’s when the issues arise and require support. Running a Family Office, in my professional opinion, is like being “on call” – support and advice requirements do not follow a timetable.

Your Family Office lead advisor has a job to do – protect the family – financially and any other manner that may be agreed upon and expected. That includes not being a “yes man” for the sake of protecting their own mandate or pocketbook. However, for that honest, sincere, independent and protective direction, be prepared to pay the right advisor for the value they bring to your family…and then make sure you get what you pay for.

A price for any good or service is not based on the absolute dollar amount paid, or the relative wealth of the individual paying it. Rather it is based on perceived value. The same price may seem expensive to one yet a bargain to another. Value is in the eye of the beholder, not the service provider. Therefore, ensuring a clear and concise mandate coupled with independence and candor provide value – if you don’t see that value, then maybe a Family Office is not for you.

As one of my clients has said to me for years, her sense of value is not based on my hourly rate, but rather on what others won’t do. As she has told me for 20 years: “I pay you to tell me no when no one else will”… Because its in her best interest, not mine.

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