Family Capital: Angelo, Family Office Association (FOA) is a highly successful and established organization within the family office community. Yet I understand that significant transformation is underway as we speak. As its leader, how and why do you see the need for these changes?
Angelo Robles: It’s a good question. Yes, we certainly are well established, and we know from all sorts of measures that our stakeholders—UHNW families, the family offices that serve them, and the providers they engage—are very pleased with the work we have done for more than ten years.
Still, as a highly capable business, we know that failure to change and transform with the times would be courting doom. It’s critical to learn from history— in this case, from Fortune 500 companies of two and three decades ago that didn’t change and transform—in order not to repeat their mistakes.
We see the need for our own transformation by closely tracking cultural trends through our multigenerational, multicultural collaborators and colleagues. We can already see transformation in the way rising generations of stars in sports, music and film fundamentally change the way we produce and consume products.
Witness the seismic transition in the decisions of young NBA stars to gravitate from old sneaker deal power centres to brands like New Balance and Puma, where Jay Z now serves as the creative director for Puma basketball. New methods of distribution and control by artists like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift have turned the A&R business upside down and inside out.
The agenting business has cross-collateralized to match the multidisciplinary reach of today’s stars across sports, music, film, politics, and more. It is key to note that successful advisers to these rising stars understand their culture, language, learning preferences, and communication.
Single-family offices are subject to the same predilections of their rising stars and the challenges inherent in requisite intergenerational conversations create a big obstacle to their continuity.
The rising generation has grown up with different technologies, acquires information differently, learns differently and has different motivations for learning. They have different cultural references and cultural icons. They may wish to operate in an ecosystem model and see the family’s performance in regendering, sustainability and spirituality as new and separate qualitative capitals to be kept track of on their own balance sheets.
They may even be adherents to a re-imagining of wealth that values the ability to sustain and transfer what is most treasured for themselves to future generations. And regardless of the desires of the rising family generation and their advisers, they will be subject to and need to understand and engage with the accelerating realities of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, including AI and blockchain.
So it’s very clear that everyone will be impacted, including families and the organizations and providers that support them. Correspondingly, we have expert advisors and friends of FOA preparing our members with the skills necessary for success with the coming changes.
For instance, FOA has several times engaged the Peak Year organization and its founder, Dr Stephen Rudin—a renowned expert in mentoring the experiential acquisition of Executive Functions and other neurocognitive skills that the World Economic Forum in Davos cites as most important for success in the Fourth Industrial Revolution—to work with FOA members; he also works with the children and young adult members of FOA families.
Family Capital: I imagine that just as importantly, part of the transformation is about people?
Angelo Robles: Absolutely! It’s both about our audience of families, single-family offices and providers, and also about the changing universe of millennial social entrepreneurs, impact investors and even this rise of social media influencers. It’s really all about the changes in generations.
And so we began the Family Office Association Intergenerational Track, created, in large part by NEXUS Purpose Lab Co-founders David Chang—an amazing person of heart, spirit, and social connecting superpowers—and his lovely, sharp as a tack, multicultural partner in marriage, Sofia Sunaga, along with Dr. Stephen Rudin, who serves as Elder and Chief Learning Officer for our small Intergenerational Track, and larger, more inclusive Intergenerational Collaborative.
This initiative was facilitated by other very talented millennials including Pascale Deau and Corey Cleland, together with speakers from our intergenerational events including Raquel Wong of RW Group, Yuli Miller of Atomic Capital, and Jordan Luftig of Twin Peaks Family. Through our Intergenerational Track we are reaching out to invite and include Millennials and Gen-Zers to feel welcome and have agency in the FOA community.
Gen-Zers are native to social media. Some may have “close friends” they have never seen in person, but passionately align with over causes. Correspondingly, FOA needs to evolve to use technology, create content, communicate, and present opportunities not just for meeting and for social impact investing, but to have meaningful channels and connections to impact the great issues before us.
These may include the regendering of wealth, climate change, scarcity, economic disparity, racial divide, and the redefinition of the wealth ecosystem, presented itself in a manner that will be attractive, if not inspiring, to that audience.
Family Capital: So FOA is really transforming itself to be of more interest to the next generation of its families and family offices?
Angelo Robles: Of course. If as a leader I don’t adapt and have an organizational philosophy, and the technology, communication and content of interest to them, I won’t have a membership base a couple of years from now. The current transformation process creates a win-win communication and collaboration between generations.
Elders are sharing their knowledge and experience with rising-gens in addressing their most important issues in these times. Millennials and Gen-Zers are sharing their concerns, and also teaching about social media, influencers, tech, and their understanding of blockchain, cannabis, and AI technology, as well as the consumer interests of their generations.
An organization like mine currently tends to skew older and conservative, which is very common in the family office world. We want to continue to be of service to them, but also want to work with all generations of the family and give better guidance and direction to the single-family office and the advisors that serve those offices.
Family Capital: How do you anticipate that social changes in the rising generations may affect families, single-family offices, and the FOA?
Angelo Robles: Given the millennial concerns over climate change, planet population, scarcity of food and water, and their outlook on relationships and marriage, I think we are looking at generations with many individuals who are planning to have less children, if they have children or marry at all.
Looking twenty to thirty years out, smaller family units will affect trust and estates planning, trustee services, investing and philanthropy. On another note, as family units get smaller and technology improves, single-family offices may be leaner and more efficient, especially by applying selective outsourcing.
Family Capital: Then will these leaner single-family offices need to answer the questions “Who are we? What are we about? What is our purpose?” And separate from those questions being asked within the families they serve?
Angelo Robles: Yes!!! While it’s true that single-family offices will always serve the needs of the family that creates, runs, pays for it, and ultimately is the boss, leadership in teams of any size single-family office also needs to develop their own culture, business plan, strategy, and process to facilitate the family achieving its goals. Family office leaders need to constantly consider and communicate: Who are we? What are we about? What is our purpose?” It’s not sufficient just to say that the family needs to answer those questions, the family office must also answer these questions and demonstrate true leadership and accountability.
Family office leaders need to constantly consider the questions “Do I know where to focus my time as the leader and to make sure the investment of my time matches the office’s key priorities?”
Leaders need to be aware if they are mentor/coaching those that report directly to them to achieve the best outcomes and whether they themselves are getting coached for maximal success. And that their process includes training to address weaknesses and amplify strengths. And that action items and activities are reviewed and critiqued. Leaders need to constantly ask: “is the office’s culture, structure and processes still aligned with its vision, brand and priorities?”
Good leaders make sure the single-family office supports its priorities and involves key employees in the action plan. Their leadership leads to the right answers. It develops principles, set priorities and sticks to its goals. Good leaders create cultures of merit, and as the late and great Peter Drucker put it: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Family Capital: What do you consider is paramount in the recruitment, career satisfaction, and personal satisfaction of single-family office employees?
Angelo Robles: The first thing is leadership. The litany is that leadership creates culture, and culture shapes behaviour. It is incredibly important for success in single-family offices, including the recruitment, career satisfaction, and personal satisfaction of their employees. Ultimately leadership makes the decisions that down the line help an office become great or one that is just average to good.
Family Capital: So what makes a great single-family office and how does it sustain over time?
Angelo Robles: It’s about people, people, people. And in a single-family office, not only A-plus people. You select vibrant and talented good learners, who as Dr Adam Grant points out in Give and Take, are “givers not takers.” You want givers, not takers in your office. People who believe in the value of the mission and team collaboration. And the goal is not a homogenous team, but one with lots of variation in personality, culture, and age so you have the rising-gen’s talents.
Simply maintaining and increasing the quantitative wealth of a billionaire family won’t stay attractive to talented, curious, and impassioned employees. However, if employees feel alignment with the family, belief in what the family believes, how they invest for social impact, where the family allocates philanthropic and charitable dollars, employees will be proud to contribute their efforts to the family foundation or family office.
About Family Office Association
Welcome to The Family Office Association, the place where successful families connect and share within an exclusive and highly private community that is as extraordinary as they are. Here you’ll be able to turn to peers among the world’s most prosperous families for the specialized expertise and resources specific to family offices. It is these connections, together with proprietary research, practical tools and methodologies, and access to top experts and thought leaders, that have made the Family Office Association so valued in this community.
Founder & Chairman
Family Office Association
Author of the Book: Effective Family Office
Host of the Podcast: Angelo Robles’s Effective Family Office Podcast
THIS IS A PARTNER CONTENT ARTICLE IN ASSOCIATION WITH FAMILY CAPITAL