Family offices and technology vendors are scrambling to accommodate the fast-rising popularity of mobile computing devices, according to executives at Family Office Metrics’ annual OpsTech conference in New York.
Family offices and technology vendors are scrambling to accommodate the fast-rising popularity of mobile computing devices, according to executives at Family Office Metrics’ annual OpsTech conference in New York yesterday.
“Mobile computing is rocking our world,” said Ray Haarstick, chief executive and founder of technology provider Relevant Equity Systems. “User interface is moving from laptop to mobile. It’s a paradigm change.”
Demand for reporting and content delivery on smart phones and tablets is being driven by younger members of family offices, executives at the conference said.
“Generation Y will be completely mobile by 2014,” said Andrew Fay, senior vice president of Fidelity Family Office Services. What’s more, the 18-to-35 age group will be “one of the most entrepreneurial generations in a long time,” Fay predicted. As a result, accommodating their desire to receive information wherever and whenever they want will be “a real challenge” for family offices and vendors, he said.
But family offices aren’t panicking just yet, said Dain Kistner, director of strategic planning for Pitcairn, the Jenkintown, Pa-based multi-family office. An older generation is still in charge at most family offices, Kistner pointed out.
“We’re not seeing the need for mobile applications at quite the level that the hype would have it, but it’s certainly on the rise,” he said.
While mobile computing is indeed “the next frontier” for family office technology, agreed Jon Carroll, president and chief executive of New York-based Family Office Metrics, he believes demand is being driven as much by style as content. “It’s all about Apple and the iPad and the iPhone,” Carroll said. “It’s as much a form issue as a content one.”
Changes in the markets since 2008 are also impacting technology and investment operations at family offices.
“Families are looking for more transparency and want to understand counter-party risk,” Fay said at a panel discussion on adapting to changing client needs. Family offices are also focusing more on cutting costs in the wake of the economic downturn, according to Haarstick. ”We’re seeing a lot of families want to take control of back offices and get expenses down,” he observed.
Perhaps surprisingly, the depressed economy hasn’t curtailed the formation of new single family offices, executives said.
“We’re seeing smaller, investment-oriented family offices come into the market,” Fay said. “They’ve been able to take advantage of technology that is cheaper and more accessible and levels the playing field.”
And fewer single-family offices than expected have combined forces to form multi-family offices, panelists said. Instead, single-family offices having a hard time staying afloat have joined MFOs.
Family offices want tech integration
Overall, family offices at the conference have expressed frustration, said program director and Family Office Metrics partner Paul McKibbon.
“Everyone is looking for new solutions,” McKibbon said. “Systems aren’t tightly integrated, and there’s a call among family offices for more collaboration among vendors.”
Carroll agreed there was “a real need” for a common language among software providers. He said he was optimistic after a closed-door executive session that a users group could be formed among family offices and software companies to “coordinate requirements and develop a methodology” to better organize the industry’s needs.