3 Things Family Offices Wish They Knew About Digital Transformation
Family office services often start informally offered through a family’s operating business or by senior members of the family. Due to the organic way in which family offices are established, the function of the family office tends to be unique to the needs of every family. There is very little uniformity in how family offices are structured from one family to the next.
When it comes to technologies serving family offices, we see a similar trend, with every family office using a different technology to support the management of the function. Often these technologies are legacy tools carried over from other businesses in the family enterprise and they do not adequately support the functions of the single family office. E&Y noted in a recent study that single family offices are facing significant pressures to increase performance beyond traditional financial measures. Specifically, “SFO respondents are taking action to pursue more diverse strategies and robust governance frameworks to help ensure their ambitions are being met.” In relation to how single family offices approach digitalisation and security, the study found that 74% of respondents have experienced a cyber breach in recent years, yet 72% do not have a cyber incident plan and 61% do not have processes in place to detect IT breaches. As a result of these gaps, single family offices are looking to invest in digital technologies that will support not just financial management matters but also governance and social connectivity for the family it serves.
The purpose for single family offices has become very broad as compared to their original purpose which was to provide investment support to ultra-high net worth families. To manage the broad range of services that single family offices now offer families, a well-thought-through family office technology solution plan is critical.
What follows are 3 areas that you should address when developing your family office technology solution plan:
1. Family Office Internal Operations
- How will documents be stored electronically and shared among family office employees?
- What types of reporting requirements will be expected for the family office to produce on behalf of the family stakeholders to keep family members informed about the business assets they own, liquid investments, taxes, properties, and charitable contributions?
- How can reports and other sensitive information be consolidated and made available securely to family stakeholders?
- What information security tools will be used to protect the family office’s electronic data?
2. External Communication
- What platforms will be used to communicate and share sensitive information with family stakeholders and third-party providers?
- How will you balance generational differences in online communication preferences between the senior and next-generation members?
3. Family Information Management (CRM)
- What are the needs of the family to have information centralized such as birth certificates, travel documents, health records, etc.)
- What historical documents need to be electronically archived (e.g. photos, books, and articles) so family members can access information on the family history and legacy?
Because family offices often start informally, they integrate their technology solutions in an ad-hoc manner as the needs of the family evolve. Going through a technology needs assessment at the onset of establishing the family office can greatly reduce the risks of inefficiencies caused by having multiple digital solutions, which are often overall in capabilities. When designing your technology plan look for solutions that will provide:
- Simplicity in use of the platform to address your needs
- Adaptability of features to address your requirements
- Sophisticated, gold-standard security capabilities
- High-touch customer relationship management to help troubleshoot and design custom features