Covidspursfamilyoffices to rebootbusinessmodels


The Covid-19 pandemic has forced family offices to adopt newtechnology at pace, helped in no small part by the engagement of younger family members


ovid lockdowns and a massmove to remote working have laid bare weaknesses in the governance processes

and risk management ofmany family offices, driving a significant shift to digitalisation. While most still adopt a very

archaic approach to running their affairs, multi-generational families—particularly those with a complex structure—were forced to digitalise their communication strategies very quickly. Whilemany embraced technology tomake more timely, secure and effective business decisions, themovewas vital to avoid using email for sharing sensitive information and making decisions on critical issues. “With social and travel restrictions

making it difficult to meet in person, the pandemic has really pushed the digital transformation ofmany families,” says Edouard Thijssen,

co-founder and chief executive at Trusted Family, a technology provider headquartered in Brussels, with offices inNewYork and London. The number of his new family office clients rose by 20 per cent in 2020. Hismobile,modular system

enables families to securely share, organise and send information to their members, cast their vote and take decisions, creating greater transparency and accountability. The servicewas initially launched

15 years ago to meet the needs of the two founders’ownbusinesses, and nowserves 150 family offices across 25 countries. Activities cover a range of areas,

fromthe families’ownbusinesses and investments to succession planning and philanthropy, and fromchildren’s education to event management. During the pandemic, the platform has been particularly useful in managing relationships between family members, explains Mr Thijssen, as family leaders had to make crucial decisions, very quickly, in a very uncertain context. “In every family, there are people

who have an active role, and those who don’t.Whenthings go well, no one complains, butwhen things are so uncertain, transparency

and communication becomeeven more important,” adds Mr Thijssen. “We have a health crisiswhich has becomean economic crisis. You don’twant to have a family crisis on top of it.” It is important to identify best

practices and then share them with other families, he adds. One notable trend is that of patriarchs kickstarting more regular communications with family members and shareholders, to build trust, enhance transparency and avoid family disputes. The system also enables leaders to run different scenarios.

THENEXTGENERATION Also important is the accelerating involvement of more tech-savvy next generation members in family affairs,who arenowoften appointed to boards to help drive the digital transformation of their family businesses, reports Mr Thijseen. While patriarchsmay be resistant

The pandemic has

really pushed the digital transformation ofmany families


to change, the second- and third- generations are very receptive to embracing technology, believes Bobby Console-Verma, chief executive at 1fsWealth, a London- based wealth technology and data platform for family offices and wealthy individuals.“Most of our dealingsmay start with a conversation with the patriarch, but then it rapidlymoves to full engagement with the next generations,” he says. But increasingly, patriarchs are

also acknowledging the importance of digitalisation to increasing business efficiency, put to the test by the pandemic. During the crisis,many family

offices have struggled to get access to historical documentation, having “to hunt for documents globally”,which has caused issues with transactions.

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