There is an old saying in creative industries: it takes a lot of effort to make something look effortless. The same can be said of the Global Family Office Report, which takes 12-months to put together. Michael Finnigan talks to the team behind the industry-leading report.
Before the ink has dried on the latest edition of the Global Family Office Report, Campden Wealth’s in-house research team has started work on the next edition.
“It is one of those reports where you literally pick up a pen for next year’s edition the day after you have finished the current report,” explains Stuart Rutherford, director of research at Campden Wealth.
“It is a 12-month exercise that starts with consulting the family office community about what they want to investigate and agreeing your research scope for the following year.”
It is little wonder that the process takes a year: Rutherford and his three-person team must develop question sets, engage more than 242 family offices, and “slice and dice” the data to put together a 74-page report. Then there are the difficulties of gaining access to one of the most notoriously secretive wealth sub-sectors.
“It is just a whole heck of a lot of moving parts,” Rutherford reflects.
“And a lot of thought and energy goes into each of the stages. At times it feels like there is a cast of millions. It is very much a team effort.”
The Global Family Office Report was first published in 2014 in partnership with Swiss financial services company UBS, which in the past had produced a number of regionally-focused family office reports with Campden Wealth.
Building upon the success of the inaugural edition, Rutherford—a former journalist and graduate of South Africa’s Witwatersrand University—added sections providing in-depth coverage of investments, costs and services, and origins of offices. He also introduced three new areas in 2016 that are currently of concern to executives: the use of software, the issue of cyber security, and the preparedness of offices for succession.
“Part of being a good researcher is keeping an open mind, analysing the data, and forming your view based on that and direct conversations with people in the space,” Rutherford explains.
“You must ensure that you do not make any Herculean leaps. One interesting case that we chose not to include in the report this year, because it might have revealed a vulnerability, was related to a cyber security breach within a family office. We thought it would not have been responsible of us to highlight that in hindsight.”
While Rutherford steers the ship, production of the Global Family Office Report is a group effort. Research consultant Brenda O’Donnell, who joined the team in 2015 is responsible for the project management of the Global Family Office Report, while research associate Philip Blackburn assists with data analysis, data gathering, and survey design. The newest member of the team, Zuzanna Sojka, a quantitative research manager, has helped to bring a new level of sophistication to the data.
“It is very much a team-based project, particularly through their engagement with the community and other key stakeholders,” Rutherford explains.
“This year we reached record levels of participation. It speaks to the growing brand recognition and value of the project but equally the proactive engagement by the team. Having a new quantitative research manager also helps us to provide a greater level of sophistication in our data analysis, ensuring that we can extract as much value from having multi-year data as possible. Not only do we have the biggest sample size and breadth of data globally, but we also have that multi-year data.”
Sojka says one of the main challenges was aggregating the past three years of data into one easily accessible database. In doing so, the team is now able to run robust trend analysis for the various sections of the report, as well as offering performance tracking of any participating family office all the way back to 2012. Sojka says family offices can now measure their performance against more than 150 metrics utilising this new benchmarking service.
Rutherford says the Global Family Office Report will remain a career highlight, adding it is a very hard act to follow. He says working with UBS has been a “fantastic” experience.
“I do not think people realise how closely they work with us in an advisory fashion, while obviously maintaining our own independence. They bring a lot of ideas and a wealth of knowledge in many of the more technical areas of investments and other kind of advisory areas.”
This year the Global Family Office Report also benefited from an advisory panel of office executives, introduced by Campden Wealth’s chief executive Dominic Samuelson. Rutherford says this group helps the research team sculpt questions, add context to the findings, and ultimately ensure the report is meeting the needs of the community.
With so many moving parts, it is no wonder that Rutherford likens production of the Global Family Office Report to “running a marathon”. Time for the team to start training for 2017.