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Recruiting the best executives for family offices

By Ben Ingram

Family offices are known for being unique, traditional and private, reflecting the distinct nature and wealth of the people and histories they serve.

As a result, when it comes to sourcing management talent there is often a risk-averse and comfortable reliance on the ‘black book’, favouring those with knowledge of the family office landscape.

Yet, this can hinder the preservation, development and growth of wealth and legacy for both the immediate and future family. Property and land is often a major part of a family’s wealth, and at present, there are significant opportunities in real estate. With a national housing shortage, major government infrastructure projects and a booming e-commerce market driving industrial demand, landed and property-rich family offices are well placed to enhance their wealth and legacy. Those held back by caution and tradition are losing out.

Family offices that attract specialist talent to open doors and navigate the market, while also respecting the traditional values and characteristics of the office, will not only survive, but thrive in the long term. The upper echelons of these distinct organisations require a unique breed of leader, and an equally unique approach to recruiting them.      

A special breed of specialist

Although family offices can be cautious about embracing external individuals, there is undeniable merit in gaining access to their wealth of experience, networks and impartial position, free from any family nuances. In areas such as finance, technology and investment management, hiring people to plug competency gaps can marry strategy and delivery to improve results. People from institutional and corporate environments may also bring welcome structure, driving efficiencies and improving governance.

In real estate, specialist executives can introduce enhanced land and asset strategies, better sweating the assets of their family office. The likes of Howard de Walden, Cadogan and Calthorpe Estate have all benefited from taking on external real estate professionals.

With such unique environments in family offices, it’s important to note that some candidates can fall short in softer aspects of the job, or may not have a personality suited to an office’s character. As examples, egotistical and confrontational individuals tend to cause unproductive and destructive environments. But, a strong work ethic, modesty, patience, discretion and integrity are all mandatory qualities. So too is the ability to act with the family business in mind and mediate any politics and feuds.