Playing Ball on Running Water – The Strategic Importance of Human Resources for SFOs

Author: Dana Green, Matt Wesley, John Wong and Angelo J Robles
Family Office Association CEO & Founder

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Family offices are facing a critical set of inflection points. We are observing three emerging core trends that are challenging the industry to rethink its approach in fundamental ways. The first core trend is the recognition that effectively managing the client experience, as expressed through the family office’s brand promise, is critical to enduring success. A second trend is the recognition that understanding family culture plays a pivotal role in generating successful outcomes around both brand promise and client experience. And finally, there is a growing awareness of an extraordinarily tight linkage between governance, strategy, execution and human resources.

Leaders of family offices are recognizing that capitalizing on these trends will be key to driving their success. They know that they must meet client  expectations and deliver superior performance. At the same time, they have too often been expected to deliver services for which they are not equipped within a sea of changing and idiosyncratic expectations by their clients. In this sense, running a family office can be like playing ball on running water. Finding coherence is often elusive.

The three trends identified above – when disconnected – look like more of the same – at best increasing complication and at worst simply chaotic. Yet we believe, these trends converge and can actually serve to accelerate the power and effectiveness of the family office by creating clarity, focus and alignment. As we will see, the tip of this spear lies in the role of human resources. Traditionally, HR has been seen as a graveyard for administration and compliance. We suggest that the HR role is in fact a matter of strategic importance. Getting the right people on the bus, sitting in the right seat, to borrow from well used Jim Collins idiom, is not a tactical consideration, but a strategic imperative. We all know that, at the end of the day, the success of the family office depends on the people it hires. But getting the “right” people on the bus requires that we ask some deeper question first.

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