Despite the fact that single-family offices manage billions of dollars, many are based in small towns and suburbs, often in the middle of nowhere, and avoid the big financial centres like London, New York and Zurich.
The family office of the world’s richest individual, Bill Gates, is based in the small city of Kirkland in the state of Washington, and the family office of the Cargill and MacMillan families, the owners of the commodities group Cargill, is based in Wayzata, Minnesota. Bayshore Global Management, the family office of Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, has its headquarters in Los Altos, California; Walton Enterprises, the family office of members of the Walton family, the owners of Walmart, is based in Bentonville, Arkansas; Crosby Advisors, the family office of the Johnson family, owners of Fidelity, is based in Salem, New Hampshire…the list goes on.
In Europe, Germany’s wealthiest family, the Quandts have a number of family offices based in Bad Homburg, a suburb of Frankfurt. Other German single-family offices are sprinkled throughout the country, and if there is any concentration of them it tends to be in Munich, not the country’s financial centre of Frankfurt.
Exor, the investment office of the Agnelli family, is based in Turin, not Italy’s financial centre of Milan. Swiss family offices are sometimes based in cantons outside of Zurich, although this is often for tax reasons. Aeris Capital, the family office of the German entrepreneur Klaus Tschira, is based in Pfäffikon, around an hour away from Zurich. The Swiss offices of the Lego family’s private investment group is also outside of Zurich.
Even in the UK, which is extremely London-focused when it comes to most things, family offices are often found in inner or outer suburbs of the capital like the Wates Family Office in Leatherhead, J.Leon Group in Hampstead and TY Danjuma Family Office in Esher. bScope Venture Partners, a family office of members of the Piëch family, who control Volkswagen, is based in Oxford.
Of course, there are many single-family offices based in the big financial centres, notable ones include MSD Capital, run by Michael Dell, which is based in New York City. George Soros has his family office in New York, so too do most of the other Wall Street titans. The Mayfair district of London is dotted with single-family offices, and Geneva and Zurich have their fair share of family offices.
Nevertheless, a great deal of the world’s wealthiest individuals locate their family offices outside of the world’s financial centres in often nondescript offices. Often this is to do with the communities they come from, but not always. One thing for sure, out of the way family offices don’t have any problem attracting top quality staff.
Indeed, staff of family offices often see being away from the big financial centres as an advantage. A chief investment officers of one of the family offices located in a small town in the midwest of America, reckons their location is an big advantage.
“Being away from the big financial centres helps with concentrating on what matters - managing the money of the family,” she said. “Distractions are considerably less and you get a lot less hassle from all the other financial players who are always trying to sell you something.”