Originally launched by John D Rockefeller in 1882, the Rockefeller family office is the oldest of its kind in the world. For over a century, it has been a leading exponent of the use of family wealth as a force for good and has been credited with coining the term ‘impact investment’.
Today, it offers a comprehensive suite of investment management, tax and succession planning, inheritance tax consultancy and philanthropic services. Tim O’Hara, president of the family office and co-head of the Rockefeller global family office at Rockefeller Capital Management, discusses recent developments in the family office market at OMFIF’s Global Wealth Strategy Summit with managing editor and deputy chief executive Clive Horwood.
KEY SESSION FINDINGS:
· Over the last 15-20 years there has been an explosion of investment in the multifamily office model, which has established itself as a viable alternative to single family offices.
· In part, this has been a function of the rising costs of managing single family offices. O’Hara says that 30 years ago assets of around $100m were regarded as a benchmark requirement for a single family office; today, this has probably risen to at least $500m, if not to $1bn.
· The relentless need for investment in technology has been one of the main drivers of this shift. Today, wealth managers are searching for increasingly efficient ways of providing consolidated reporting for complex clients on a more scalable basis.
· Technology is also a prerequisite for providing clients with real-time access, secure information sharing and the provision of cybersecurity.
· Individuals and smaller offices have been unable to match the investment that the larger firms have channelled into this push for the optimal technology. Part of the reason for the acquisition of Rockefeller & Co by Rockefeller Capital Management in 2018 was the need for a constant infusion of capital.
· This process of consolidation has allowed the global family office to attract more clients and to broaden the range of services it offers them. Its access to investment banking capabilities, for example, is appealing to entrepreneurs.
· These pressures are likely to drive further consolidation among family offices even as wealth accumulation grows, creating more opportunities for market leaders.
· Another key feature of the next evolution of the family office will be the growing popularity of the virtual family office, aimed at containing overheads by outsourcing functions such as bill paying and preparing tax returns.
· Serving the next generation is becoming an essential pillar of the Rockefeller business model. ‘If you’re going to attract the next generation as clients you can no longer take for granted that inheritance family members are going to be happy working with their parents’ adviser,’ says O’Hara.
· This may require wealth managers to build a more proactive relationship with younger clients than they had with their parents. This calls for much more than arranging quarterly review meetings. It also means organising regular events and providing extensive networking opportunities for younger clients.
· It also means remaining ahead of the curve in impact investing and philanthropy, as Rockefeller has been since the early 1970s, when the family launched its first mission-related fund.
· Rockefeller’s latest survey indicates that its clients’ principal priorities are investment performance, estate planning and tax structuring, and reporting.
· Unsurprisingly, Rockefeller’s clients are uneasy about the global macroeconomic and geopolitical concerns that have unsettled equity and bond markets in recent months. But they have a typical investment horizon of 50 to 100 years, which allows them to focus on less liquid asset classes such as private equity. This makes them confident that they can ride out short-term volatility. As O’Hara puts it, ‘none of our clients are really changing course in terms of how they’re thinking about their lives or their investments.’