Family Office

Family Structures – Fit for Purpose?

Editorial Staff 13 September 2022

Family Structures – Fit for Purpose?

In this short question-and-answer exchange, Crestbridge Family Office Services discusses why it thinks now is a fruitful time for family advisors to prove their worth.

Daniel Channing, director, Crestbridge Family Office Services at Crestbridge, based in Jersey, explains why now is the time for families to assess their structures holistically to ensure that they are future-proofed and fit for purpose. (This news service has been gathering views of various organisations in Jersey and Guernsey, such as here and here.)

Why is it particularly important to be proactive in reviewing family structures at the current time?
Daniel Channing: Fundamentally it is always a useful exercise to periodically review structures. This is because, by their very nature, a family’s circumstances and requirements evolve.

However, currently there is a heightened sensitivity to political tensions, geopolitical instability, inflationary pressures, and greater public scrutiny. Families, who were already becoming more sophisticated and multijurisdictional in their outlook and behaviours, need to navigate through it and find clarity in what is a complex environment. 

For that reason I feel that right now represents a really unprecedented opportunity for family advisors to demonstrate their capabilities and ensure that their clients are comfortable and prepared for the future. Being proactive now – reviewing existing structures and documents, revisiting family values – could really help families focus on their future direction, and future-proof their strategies.

Does this indicate a different approach to what family office advisors have done in the past? 
This new context feels a bit different. Families have faced pressures, challenges and crises in the past, but a generally increased sophistication within a family’s understanding of their structuring and what it truly seeks to achieve is focusing minds at the moment.

There are two major drivers behind this – a greater focus now on sustainability, and the acceleration of digital adoption. These two drivers are evolving constantly and at impressive speeds. For some families this is exciting; it opens up new possibilities that they are keen to embrace and explore. For others, though, it’s really challenging; questioning their traditional values and disrupting business as usual

Our ethos remains to work as an extension of our clients’ teams, but this new context gives us added impetus and rationale to be proactive in ensuring that every aspect of their structure, model and approach is future-proof.

So what does this mean in practice?
It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s true that all families are different, and advisors have always needed to adapt to make sure that they are able to give independent and tailored advice which is personalised to their circumstances. 

It’s the greater complexity of the environment families are now operating in and the pace of change within that environment which means that being proactive, and not waiting until the next challenge comes around, is so important. Ultimately, what families want is certainty.

We’ve seen this in a number of ways over recent months – from working with families to enable them to address specific challenges to managing the migration of decision-making to the next generation.

Governance and oversight is a key area where families are looking for greater support as they gear up for the future. The regulatory, reporting and disclosure requirements families face now are a million miles from where they were just five years ago, and they’ve needed to ramp up expertise quickly. Getting expert advice to inform that journey is vital.

Can you give any examples of how the team has been proactive?
We’ve seen a definite trend towards looking carefully at succession planning and instilling a robust governance framework – but in our experience, families don’t want that to be at the expense of maintaining an element of flexibility for the future. They still want their structures to be able to accommodate future shifts in investment and succession strategies.

In some cases, that has required the team to take on a more project management role – working hard to make sure that governance protocols are watertight but maintaining a close relationship with the family office team to develop further governance frameworks as structures have evolved and a family’s desire has shifted to institutionalise their portfolio. In one case, the team established a new regulated advisory firm in another jurisdiction and relocated part of the local office to achieve the aim. That included providing support for IT and operations, so a really holistic team-based approach.

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