Fit for purpose
Daniel Channing, Director, Crestbridge Family Office Services, examines why it may now be the perfect time for families to assess their structures holistically, ensuring they are both future-proofed and fit for purpose…
Q: Why is it particularly important to be proactive in reviewing family structures at the current time?
Daniel Channing (DC): Fundamentally it is always a useful exercise periodically to review structures. This is because, by their very nature, a family’s circumstances and requirements evolve.
However there is currently a heightened sensitivity to political tensions, geopolitical instability, and inflationary pressures, as well as greater public scrutiny. Families, who were already becoming more sophisticated and multijurisdictional in their outlook and behaviours, need to navigate through it and find clarity in what is a complex environment.
For this reason I feel that right now is an unprecedented opportunity for family advisers to demonstrate their capabilities and ensure their clients are comfortable and prepared for the future. Being proactive now – reviewing existing structures and documents, revisiting family values – could really help families focus on their future direction, and future-proof their strategies.
Q: Does this indicate a different approach to what family office advisers have done in the past?
DC: It feels like this new context is a bit different. Families have faced pressures, challenges, and crises in the past. However a generally increased sophistication within a family’s understanding of their structuring, and what it truly seeks to achieve, is focusing minds at the moment. There are two major drivers behind this – a greater focus now on sustainability, and acceleration of digital adoption. Both are evolving constantly and at increasing speed.
For some families this is exciting, revealing new possibilities that they are keen to embrace and explore. For others, though, it’s really challenging, and is questioning their traditional values and disrupting business as usual.
Our ethos remains to work as an extension of our clients’ teams. But this new context gives us added impetus and rationale to be proactive in ensuring every aspect of their structure, model and approach is future-proof.
Q: So what does this mean in practice?
DC: It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s true that all families are different, and advisers have always needed to adapt to make sure they are able to give independent advice tailored to the individual, and to their circumstances.
It’s the greater complexity of the environment families are now operating in, and the pace of change within that environment, that means that being proactive, and not waiting until the next challenge comes around, is so important. Ultimately, what families want is certainty.
We’ve seen this in several ways in recent months – from working with families to enable them to address specific challenges to managing the migration of decision-making to the next generation.
Governance and oversight is a key area where families are looking for greater support as they gear up for the future. The regulatory, reporting and disclosure requirements families now face are a million miles from where they were just five years ago, and they’ve needed to ramp up expertise quickly. Getting expert advice to inform that journey is vital.
Q: Can you give any examples of how the team has been proactive?
DC: We’ve seen a definite trend towards looking carefully at succession planning and instilling a robust governance framework, but in our experience, families don’t want that to be at the expense of maintaining an element of flexibility for the future. They still want their structures to be able to accommodate future shifts in investment and succession strategies.
In some cases, that’s required the team to take on a more project management role – working hard to make sure governance protocols are watertight, but maintaining a close relationship with the family office
team to develop further governance frameworks as structures have evolved and a family’s desire has shifted to institutionalise their portfolio.
In one case, the team established a new regulated advisory firm in another jurisdiction and relocated part of the local office to achieve the aim. That included providing support around IT and operations, so a really holistic team-based approach.