The diversity of families appears to be reflected in family office personnel – at least when it comes to gender – research from Family Office Exchange (FOX) and US advisory firm Grant Thornton suggests.
In a survey of 112 family offices, 35% were headed by a female chief executive, said the 2015 FOX Family Office Compensation and Benefits Report, compared to 4.6% in the S&P 500. In a release FOX said the gender statistics had been “surprising”.
Family office consultant Kirby Rosplock, whose PhD examined women and wealth, says the report findings match previous research, and anecdotal evidence that daughters are encouraged alongside their brothers to join the family office. Terri Chernick, CIO at The Koffler Group, a US single family office founded by her grandfather, is one such example. “More women are coming into the family office than in decades past,” Rosplock says. “I believe it is a function of the democratisation of education and the fact that more women are in the workplace than ever.”
Non-family members are also well represented in the family office C-suite. In 2013, industry veteran Christine Galloway retired as the CEO of Okebena Company, following two decades serving the Dayton family. When it comes to multi family offices, Mel Lagomasino heads up WE Family Offices, based between New York and Miami, and Alexandra Altinger is CEO of Sandaire in the UK. Just a handful of female CEOs feature in the S&P 500, including Mary Barra (General Motors) and Indra Nooyi (Pepsi).
Lagomasino reckoned the family office industry was still dominated by male executives, but “certainly there is a higher percentage of women leaders as compared to publicly-held, Wall Street firms.”
KPMG’s head of family office services Catherine Grum said research has shown women take a more cautious and long-term approach to investment decision making. “This suits the family office environment when decisions are being taken with a particularly long-term view in mind, considering future generations rather than with an eye on the annual returns and the current share price.”
Emotional intelligence was also regarded as a strength among female executives. “Women quite naturally excel at collaboration and fostering relationships across genders and generations,” said Leslie Voth, CEO and president at US multi family office Pitcairn. “For example, as leaders of the family office, women tend to create a more holistic and engaging client experience, drawing on their strong communication skills and willingness to educate families on both financial and non-financial issues.”
Grum pointed out that gender was just one consideration when it comes to diversity. “Diversity is a key factor for success in any industry to generate better discussions, collaboration, and ultimately results,” she said. “Your gender, cultural background, and other influences all affect the way you think and work.”
Jane Flanagan, director of family research at FOX, said finding and retaining talent was the number one concern for family offices and the research helped office leadership ensure they were doing everything they could to remain competitive.