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Family Office Insights from the Asia-Pacific Region

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The family office ecosystem is growing and evolving in the Asia-Pacific region.

Scott Charlton, Head of Client Development for Northern Trust’s Global Family and Private Investment Offices (GFO) in Asia-Pacific, sat down with Jane Flanagan, Director of Family Office Advisory, to share the top priorities of families and family offices in the region.

Jane Flanagan: Scott, tell us about how your team in Singapore is serving families and family offices in the region.

Scott Charlton: GFO is privileged to work with families located in 10 countries across the region, which gives us a great foundation to learn from. Northern Trust has had a presence in the region for over 25 years now, serving corporate and institutional clients. We’re now leveraging that infrastructure and technology, along with our 40-plus years of experience serving the world’s largest families, to support families and family offices in the region. The family office ecosystem here is evolving and growing, and the families and advisors that I’ve met are keen to learn from other families. We’re able to bring the wisdom and experience of our client community — 500-plus family offices in 30 countries — to the issues that challenge families here.

JF: What are the common challenges or key themes that you’ve noticed? 

SC: Three themes stand out:

1

Navigating change.

Many of the families I’ve met are business owners who are preparing for a generational transition in the family and the business. Letting go is hard. Preparing the next generation and planning for succession are top of mind for many.

2

Global, diversified portfolios.

Families here have a truly global perspective when it comes to investing. They seek advisors who share this view and can provide access to quality deal flow and top-tier managers.

3

Formalizing the family office.

Many family offices start as a small team inside the operating business. As  families grow, so does complexity, and they often separate the family office from the business and begin to put the structures in place to manage the family wealth as a business. Many of the families I’ve met are in the process of formalizing their family offices. Whether it is bringing on a new Chief Investment Officer or investing in technology to provide consolidated reporting for the family, we’re seeing a focus on professionalizing the family office.

“Letting go is hard. Preparing the next generation and planning for succession are top of mind for many.”

JF: These challenges certainly resonate with what we’re hearing from family office clients around the world. How are you finding opportunities to help these families?

SC: Being able to share the perspective and practices used by our broader client community is invaluable. We can offer best practices and lessons learned from other families, along with an unbundled service menu that includes state-of-the-art global custody, technology designed specifically for family offices, asset management, fiduciary services — for example, trustee/co-trustee in the U.S., Guernsey and Cayman Islands — and, of course, credit solutions. At the end of the day, our dedicated focus on serving the wealthiest families in the world for the past 40-plus years allows us to bring a level of expertise and custom solutions that have been designed with families in mind.

JF: We are hearing a lot about talent — attracting and retaining it — when we ask families about their top priorities. What are you hearing?

SC: Talent is definitely top of mind, especially as we see more families formalizing their family offices and looking to hire accordingly. The other priority we see is investing in technology that allows the office to streamline operations and support global portfolios across multiple banks. Finally, many are looking for ways to better administer, track and report on their private equity portfolios. 

JF: This has been really helpful, Scott. You’ve given us some great insight about what is top of mind for families and family offices in the Asia-Pacific region. Is there any advice you would like to leave our readers with today?

SF: We are excited to be a part of the region’s family office ecosystem and are here to help families evolve and grow for the long term. Working in a family office can be lonely. Families and family office executives need to connect with other family offices who have similar challenges and experiences. It’s a great way to learn and avoid reinventing the wheel. We look forward to bringing clients together in a safe space to learn from each other and gain an understanding of the custom solutions that can help them manage their complexity.

JF: Scott, thank you very much for your time and your perspective. 

To learn more about how Northern Trust’s Global Family and Private Investment Office works with families and family offices, please contact an advisor.

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Disclosures

This information is not intended to be and should not be treated as legal, investment, accounting or tax advice and is for informational purposes only. Readers, including professionals, should under no circumstances rely upon this information as a substitute for their own research or for obtaining specific legal, accounting or tax advice from their own counsel.  All information discussed herein is current only as of the date appearing in this material and is subject to change at any time without notice.

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