We believe that you should have control of your assets, not your advisers. We believe that the job and the mission of a family office is or should be to give you a complete picture of your wealth any time you want it in a way that maximizes YOUR control and confidentiality.
Any Family Office Software should make that job easier both for the wealthy client and the people charged with executing the duties required.
When I looked closely, all the available software packages designed for the Family Office were really geared to making the investment and tax advisers look good but did little to make the day to day functions easy, OR provide a truly comprehensive view of one’s wealth and its performance over time.
The greatest threat to one’s wealth is not taxes or investment performance, but those activities and assets for which there is no structure for tracking and accountability. Such things as an increase in value of an asset without adequate or any insurance, non tax transaction or investments, improperly structured trusts, household expenses for which there is no budget or reporting and limited partnerships with no structure for regular reporting. The list goes on and on.
Most people who decide to have their own Family Office, or use the services of a Multi-Family Office, assume that the people hired to deliver the service will be able to provide a complete comprehensive picture. But they don’t. Not really. Not in the typical Single or Multi-Family Office. In fact it is virtually impossible for them to do so for the simple reason that there is no benchmark of best practices, no real blueprint for setting up a truly client centered Family Office. Each one just kind of evolves starting with basic bookkeeping and accounting functions, bringing in an investment adviser, etc. If you want to open a McDonald’s, there’s a blueprint. It works in LA, in New York, even Beijing with some cultural modifications. But in contrast there is NO blueprint for setting up a typical Family Office let alone a truly independent, client centered one. Yet that is what the wealthy client wants – truly personal service and attention.
The wealthy client thinks that if they bring all their advisers under one roof, they’ll get better service. Meaning they’ll no longer be in the dark, uncertain about what they have and how it’s performing. They’ll be able to pick up the phone and finally get some answers. They won’t get blindsided. They finally get back their control.
They think that the source of the problem is lack of adviser focus. But in REALITY, since they draw their personnel from the investment and tax community, they bring “in-house” the same structure and philosophy that under-delivered before, with the added operational costs and employee expense.
The real source of the problem is NOT that the advisers are focused on multiple clients though that is certainly a contributing factor. The real problem is that their focus is on their particular area of investment, tax exposure, estate planning or contracts, regardless of how many clients they may have. They are not trained in or concerned with those areas that are not their specialty. There is a whole area that for them is not on the radar. The investment adviser could care less about the horse farm except how it fits in with his/her portfolio strategy. This area of non investment, non tax-related activity (possessions, travel, daily expenses, collections, food, salaries, fees etc. often referred to as “Back Office”) is where most of a person’s wealth and wealth activity exists.
For the tax or investment pro, those who usually command the highest salaries in a typical Family Office, the back office is a tedious, boring necessity. It is also the biggest area of expense, which is why most multi-family offices started out as Single Family Offices (Rockefeller, Mellons etc.) and they opened their doors in the mistaken belief that they could spread the expense across multiple clients. But experience has proven that back office cost expands in proportion to the increase in clients, similar to cost of sales (True Cost of Sales, as distinct from Cost of Goods Sold, often increases faster than profit when there is rapid growth in a business).
The chart shows that activity in non tax-related and non-investment assets constitute over half of the wealth related activity tracked in a family business. This activity is commonly poorly tracked, and some of it not at all, or relegated to miscellaneous expense rendering it immune from any kind of effective management.
Add to that the question of control and preservation of any documentation associated with a transaction, vital to the verification and ownership of that transaction/asset, as well as compiling and managing all such documentation related to things like insurance, contracts, art inventory, agent/provider contact information, etc. How will you get what you need when you need it?
Because the back office and document management functions are so time and labor intensive, they constitute the biggest variable expense for any Family Office. Expanding to include other families into a Multi-Family Office very soon results in needing more personnel and operating costs again go up. There are very real limits to this strategy. Since there are no metrics for measuring the ROI of the office other than from the investment portfolio, this operating cost is seen as an expense rather that an investment in the overall management of one’s wealth. Thus the back office and records management are rarely if ever a core competency for the typical Family Office. Yet it is the VERY FOUNDATION of true wealth management. Without it one can NEVER get a true picture of what’s going on.
OTHER COMPONENTS DWIMBS PHILOSOPHY: We believe the job of a Family Office is to provide:
1. A complete, accurate and reliable “Big Picture” of their client’s wealth as well as all the necessary details for any asset or group of assets. This should include not just activity history, but also change over time and all related documentation whenever needed.
2. Safe guard those assets by interfacing and being accountable directly to the wealthy client and being independent of other advisers.
3. Manage the day-to-day activities and transactions in such a way that nothing gets overlooked or falls through the cracks and advisers get the accurate, reliable data they DO need to do their job the best.
4. Provide strategic insight to empower you to direct your adviser relationships rather than leave it all up to them.
We look at Personal Wealth as if it were a Business vs. a Collection of Possessions, Investments and Expenses. Because of this we employ a different set of tools and measures for managing wealth activities and status.
The critical success factor in any financial strategy is records management. Without accurate and comprehensive tracking and reporting, even the best-laid plans under-perform or fail outright. What the true purpose of a Family Office should be:
– Function as a personal CFO
– Safe guard assets
– Ensure data and documentation integrity for all assets and related transactions
– Give client a truly complete, factual, objective view of all asset status and performance
– Be independent of all other advisers, but support and ensure that information advisers need to
have is accurate and factual.
Created to meet the specialized needs and demanding standards of investment bankers, DWIMBS offers a combination of confidentiality, control, and asset protection beyond the means of traditional accounting, financial planning, or family office service.
Over $1 Million and 15 years of real world testing and use went into the creation of this system. Our system is designed to make the most complex assets and transactions easy to manage and to give you a totally complete, accurate and independent picture of your assets and their performance.