Mark Somers might not be a billionaire, at least not yet, but he’s become one of a few go-to and trusted headhunters for billionaires and their investment offices.
To such an extent, the London-based headhunter has just published a book about working for family offices. Entitled, How to Work for a Billionaire – Career Advice for those Wanting a Job in the Family Office Sector, the book is an in-depth and thorough analysis of the family office sector aimed at those wanting to work for one.
There’s nowhere else in the world where you can find such depth of talent and expertise than in London.
More than 50 pages long, How to Work for a Billionaire delves into the structures at family offices, both single and multi, and looks into all the different roles the two groups offer. For single-family offices that often means positions like CEOs, CIOs and COOs, but also often jobs associated with the family’s private jet and superyacht.
The book is enhanced with numerous quotes from many experts on the sector, including Family Capital contributor Keith Johnston (see this week’s Viewpoint: The challenges of retaining quality family office staff), the wealth management expert and co-founder of Scorpio Partnership, Seb Dovey, and various senior managers from family offices.
“We published the book to help professionalize the recruitment process at family offices, which traditionally had relied too much on word of mouth to hire staff,” says Somers. “This is changing but they still need to go some way to fully professionalize their recruitment efforts.” No doubt, reading the book will help.
Somers and his partners, who include his wife Jo, Ginny Hutchins, and Astrid Bek, who’s based in Geneva, see themselves more like a top-end recruitment specialist, but also offering strategic consultancy expertise on staffing for family offices.
“It’s one thing to be able to recruit top talent, but family offices also need to carefully select and then retain that talent, and this is where our expertise comes in as growth agents,” says Somers, who set up The Somers Partnership in 2005.
Understandably, Somers won’t talk too much about the single-family offices his group work with, but he says they include some of the biggest groups in the UK, as well as across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Right now he’s trying to recruit a CEO for a London-based family office as well as some other senior roles within similar investment groups.
He admits the US might have a more developed and biggest family office ecosystem than Europe, but says there’s nowhere else in the world where you can find such depth of talent and expertise than in London.
The UK capital’s role in this respect is particularly pertinent in the 2020s as the family office sector has, what many believe, entered a golden age of growth and development. That’s certainly the case when it comes to growing their businesses by hiring the best and the brightest. And these days they have the pick of the best and brightest.
“For family offices, it’s a great time to be recruiting top talent from sectors like wealth and investment management, as these sectors are squeezed more than ever,” he says.
“So there’s a lot to pick from, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy for family offices, because real talent is still very difficult to find,” says Somers.
Talent within any organisation, but particularly in the financial services sector, might be broken down in percentage terms as 10% rainmakers, 80% lawnmowers, and 10% well poisoners, says Somers. To find that 10% of rainmakers isn’t easy, but family offices often require something a little bit special as well. “The importance of emotional intelligence for a senior role at a family office is crucial,” he says.
To work for a family or entrepreneur is often a very different experience than working for a commercial business. Alignment of interest between the family/entrepreneur and the manager coming in from outside is essential, says Somers. And this isn’t always easy, as there is often conflicts of interest inherent within a role where there is a strong principal-agent relationship.
The challenges of hiring and retaining staff for a family office is therefore often difficult. Better to hire an expert to navigate these difficulties than to use the traditional word of mouth approach.