Client Affairs

Programme Steers Family Businesses Around Wealth, Ownership Challenges

Philip Marcovici 5 April 2019

Programme Steers Family Businesses Around Wealth, Ownership Challenges

The programme, held in Cambridge, is designed to educate HNW and UHNW families in a private environment to stimulate learning and fresh ideas. One of its driving forces is a member of this publication's editorial advisory board.

A new iteration of a programme to educate high net worth and UHNW families to manage their wealth and business will take place in Cambridge, UK, later this year. The project kicked off last year in the university town at the Cambridge Judge Business School.

A member of this publication's editorial advisory board, Philip Marcovici, writes here about the programme and its purpose. Philip contributed ideas on how the Cambridge programme should be structured. He is retired from the practice of law and consults with governments, financial institutions and global families in relation to tax, wealth management and other matters. Philip was the founder and CEO of LawInContext (now called Baker McKenzie Link), the interactive knowledge venture of global law firm, Baker McKenzie. The editors are grateful for this report and invite readers to respond. They can contact the editor at

In October 2018, families from Asia, the Middle East, the US and Europe were represented at the inaugural Responsible Family Business & Wealth Ownership Programme organised by the Executive Education division of the Cambridge Judge Business School in Cambridge.

The theme for 2018 was risk management in a world characterised by disruption, and the programme explored this from a variety of angles relevant to families and family business.

For 2019, the theme of the Responsible Family Business & Wealth Ownership Programme will be the circular economy. Led by Professor Khal Soufani, the academic programme director and the director of the Cambridge Judge Circular Economy Centre, the faculty for the 2019 programme is gearing up for what will be an innovative and valuable approach to examining issues relevant to global family business and wealth owners. (See details here.)

The circular economy as a theme
Circularity in business models is gaining interest globally as economic research demonstrates that the ability of circular approaches adds value and jobs. In the context of family businesses and wealth, the purpose of keeping the family together is also increasingly important. Without circular approaches, whatever resources are involved in the production process are eventually exhausted.

Impact investing and an environmental, social and governance focus are only part of what makes up a circular economy approach to planning.  Circularity involves retaining value in the lifecycle of materials, resources and products. Waste is transformed into something useful.

The 2019 programme will seek to identify the opportunities and benefits of a circular approach in a much wider context than has been normally considered.

Benefits of a circular approach rather than a linear approach:

-- Add value and jobs;
-- Develop a sustainable purpose;
-- Extend the lifecycle of resources that are otherwise exhausted;
-- Value creation through value retention;
-- Minimise value destruction;
-- Reuse products, parts and resources;
-- Adopt a restorative and regenerative approach;
-- Replace “take-make-waste” and planned obsolescence with a focus on minimising waste of every kind; and
-- Use natural capital sparingly, and have parts last virtually forever.

Can the ideas of a circular economy extend beyond the business to family wealth, governance and how families engage?

The concept of minimising waste and ensuring that production is organised in cycles rather than on a linear basis can be extended to family governance and how families deal with matters such as succession, the ageing process, and interaction with governments, for example.

Capital that needs purpose and sparing use includes natural, financial and cultural capital, and not just parts and resources used in the production of goods. Minimising waste also means minimising the waste of useful resources within a family, such as inadequate use and motivation of family members who may not be involved directly in the family business, but who may have a direct or indirect stake in the family business.

Families which are wealthy rather than business owners may waste human resources within their family through over-reliance on external asset managers and under preparation of family members as wealth owners. And what of the older generation - the need to find ways to ensure that they are part of an effective mentoring process, ensuring that the valuable resource, which is experience, is not wasted?

Reducing the “use” of materials and resources, in the family context, may mean ensuring that there is more focus on appropriate life/work balances, creating a more effective and cohesive family construct.

Soon, family businesses will have up to four generations managing their organisations. Important considerations about strategy and direction will come from different perspectives and from generations with varied priorities – the circular economy brings these perspectives together in a holistic and beneficial way for their business and society as a whole. Family businesses are in a unique position to take advantage of this benefit by taking a medium- to long-term view.

Circularity and and some details of the 2019 programme

Among the topics to be covered:

-- Family businesses and the circular economy;
-- Understanding conflicts of interest and political change;
-- Supporting our communities and why this matters;
-- Developing a strategic growth mindset;
-- Navigating the new innovation landscape;
-- Organisational behaviour and the family business;
-- Family governance – family constitutions and more;
-- Leadership in families and family businesses;
-- Building effective teams;
-- International taxation and the needs of wealth and business owners in the coming decades: political risk minimisation planning, asset protection and the real challenges coming up;
-- Alternative finance;
-- The structures that families use – trusts, partnerships, foundations and  the other “Animals in the Zoo”; and
-- Reconciling the past and future of your family business.

The circular economics overlay to the topics to be covered in 2019 will provide participants with a unique opportunity to explore what is meaningful for families, family business and family wealth, and how doing things in innotive ways may bring new opportunities for growth, sustainability, excitement, engagement and longevity.

The magic of Cambridge
Apart from the academic rigour and reputation of Cambridge University, the programme brings the distinctive magic of Cambridge and its 31 colleges to participants, helping to create a memorable and valuable experience for those attending on their own or with family members of different generations. The programme features distinguished guest speakers from prominent business families. The 2019 opening dinner is to be held at Trinity Hall College, founded in 1350. One of the programme’s sessions - building effective teams - will be held in the Goldie Boathouse, the spiritual home of the Cambridge Boat Club, built in 1873. Families attending the course can choose from a variety of optional elements to enhance the programme. These will include the organisation and running of individual family retreats, business strategy training, personal and leadership development for the next generation, family governance and succession planning.

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