Experts From ExCel Global Family Office, Advocus Private Wealth, NewEdge Wealth, Callan Family Office, Sandalwood Securities And CCFO Investments Share Insights
What does 2024 hold for family offices and their ultra-high net worth clients? To find out, WSR spoke with several leading experts in the space.
Family offices must steer their UHNW clients through uncertain market conditions and emerging macro risks, develop intergenerational client solutions fit for this new era, access alternative investment strategies that minimize volatility, as well as enhance the technological capabilities of their own firms.
“Historically, family offices every year are concerned about best practices,” says Brian Weiner, Founder and CEO of ExCel Global Family Office. “They want to know, what are other family offices doing?”
Perhaps the greatest asset of a family office is its reputation for superb client service. Given the tumultuous geopolitical events of the fourth quarter and the extreme weather of the past year, family offices would do well to take client service to the next level, according to Weiner. This entails educating clients on physical and travel-related risks, addressing communications needs of people in distant locations and protecting financial data during a crisis.
Matthew Anderson, Founding Partner and Private Wealth Advisor at Advocus Private Wealth, a Summit Financial firm, emphasizes the importance of meeting with each member of the family to help intergenerational clients align on values. Whereas achieving maximum yield was the goal for older generations, many investors now seek that same yield but through a lens of socially responsible investments, he says.
The initial stages of the significant wealth transfer from the baby boomer generation merits expanding beyond conventional next-generational wealth transfer strategies to include next generation education and philanthropic considerations, according to Rob Sechan, CEO and Co-Founder of NewEdge Wealth. In both contexts, the objective should be to thoroughly comprehend clients’ goals and values.
“Subsequently, we collaborate on wealth planning and investment strategies that align with their aspirations, ensuring the wealth amassed over a lifetime leaves a lasting impact for generations to come,” Sechan says. “This process is deeply personal and meaningful for our clients, and it isn’t always focused on investment returns, but rather providing a feeling of control over what will happen to their assets into the future.”
UHNW family wealth brings special considerations. The endowment model popularized by Ivy League universities has been widely adapted by family offices for decades, and non-correlated asset diversification is their first line of defense, says Chuck Clarvit, CEO of CCFO Investments, LLC.
For some families, their private business interest is both illiquid and their largest investment, but families that have sufficient business free cash flow can diversify into other investments, he suggests. Clarvit’s family sold their business about 15 years ago, now only has financial assets to deploy and has a 10-year horizon seeking a high multiple on their investments.
Dan Burke, Investment Partner at Callan Family Office, finds that UHNW families are different from affluent or high net worth investors in two important ways. First, they have sprawling ownership structures that span multiple generations, multiple investment managers and multiple custodians. Second, they require individualized advice and implementation to ensure that investment and financial plans are coordinated to maximize outcomes on an after-tax basis.
Anderson concurs. “More and more clients have been inquiring about how they can reduce their tax liability,” Anderson says. “As a result, many investment vehicles have evolved to include or enhance tax efficiencies, making the offering more attractive while simultaneously achieving strong yield.”
Anderson also warns that, with the constantly evolving regulatory landscape and the sunset of current tax provisions, family office advisors must remain active and focused on estate planning, while regularly ensuring that all estate and legal documents are up to date.
One area where family offices are especially well positioned to add value for clients is in accessing alternative investments such as hedge funds, venture capital, real estate, private equity and private credit. Firms can do so through any number of highly trusted platforms, from BlackRock and Goldman Sachs to CAIS and Crystal Capital Partners.
Yet another such provider, Sandalwood Securities, is a family office itself that also has a PWC-audited master fund which houses each of its alternative investments in its underlying managers. Sandalwood makes its platform available to other family offices and advisors by creating feeder funds with different characteristics, says Founder and President Marty Gross.
“We subject potential investment managers to a rigorous qualitative and quantitative evaluation process consisting of a long list of considerations, and we construct portfolios based upon a top-down assessment of the markets along with a bottom-up manager assessment which attempts to reflect our macro views, the specifics of which Sandalwood reviews with all potential clients,” Gross says.
He advises that a careful selection of alternative investments can significantly reduce portfolio risk, while increasing the potential for returns that are not correlated to public equities and which exceed their historic returns. This approach can enable UHNW investors and family offices to lower volatility while achieving steadier returns, according to Gross.
At Advocus, Anderson leverages its network to procure bespoke private deals and then identify those best suited for the needs of clients. These investment opportunities often involve creative structuring to enhance returns, minimize risk as well as align with sometimes complex financial arrangements of the family office client.
Weiner of ExCel Global Family Office notes that families in socialist-leaning countries could benefit from diversifying into U.S. holdings, and that opportunities could arise next year in U.S.-based distressed real estate or private credit. He points to recent inflation data as a sign that the Federal Reserve is unlikely to drastically lower interest rates soon. In addition, Weiner encourages family offices to diversify their own assets instead of relying on a single bank.
At CCFO Investments, “We look for off-the-run, non-correlated investments as well as early-stage venture investments directly on the cap table (QSBS eligible),” Clarvit says. “We have a 10-year horizon seeking a high multiple on investment. However, given the recent rise in interest rates, private lending is a highly attractive area.”
Family Office Tech
Regarding technology, Clarvit says his firm requires tools to streamline tasks such as performance reporting, wires, KYC/AML, completing subscription documents, K-1 and 1099 tax collection, and accessing and reviewing documents from multiple sources in varying formats like capital accounts.
Weiner says family offices need to focus on tools for information security and reporting, receiving and disseminating information, remote work and artificial intelligence. He also cites the high rate of cyber hacks in recent years, by foreign-based entities against financial institutions, as a risk for outdated family offices.
The ability to seamlessly collect and report on large volumes of data, across a variety of complex assets with inconsistent frequencies, is critical to helping analyze investments and having the time to offer superior client service, according to Anderson.
Yet – as Burke of Callan Family Office sees it – despite the incredible growth of sophisticated fintech software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions over the last decade, family office advisors are still commonly doing complex and custom work for UHNW families in Microsoft Excel, a technology created in 1985.
Firms must choose between building an integrated platform of specialized SaaS tools and purchasing turnkey solutions that may lack customization, Burke says. He thinks the advantage goes to firms that employ tech savvy experts, have a blank technology slate with no legacy systems and the resources to build an API-first cloud platform. But other family offices that need to solve for this gap will have to make substantial investments in process and technology.
Sechan of NewEdge Wealth says UHNW clients need family offices to consolidate their diverse financial information – including on assets held at other firms, and other non-traditional assets – and present it to them in a clear and concise manner.
“Our ability to utilize technology to accomplish this has not only enhanced the overall client experience in managing complex portfolios and financial strategies, but can also give clients the peace of mind of knowing exactly where things stand with their wealth,” Sechan says.
Chris Latham, Managing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org