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Family office leader’s departure at KPMG comes on the back of similar loss at PwC – what’s going on?

Two of the big four professional services firms have lost their UK-based family office heads in the space of a few months, prompting questions about their business models in the sector. 

Catherine Grum, the former head of family office services at KPMG in London, has left to join BDO, the London-based accountancy and business advisory group, in a similar role. 

Although Grum’s position has been replaced by KPMG partner Greg Limb in a sideways move, the professional services firm didn’t go outside the group to find a heavyweight as they did with Grum when she was recruited in 2015. 

Sian Steele, who was head of PwC’s family office services based in the UK, left earlier this year and was not replaced by a new appointment. 

Although all of the big professional services firms, the so-called Big Four, have partners involved with family office services in other countries, particularly in the US, the departure of Grum and Steele might indicate how difficult it is for the big four to make money from family offices, at least in Europe. 

As one partner at the Big Four told Family Capital: “Unlike the institutional world, family offices are much more esoteric and idiosyncratic,” he says. “Yes, occasionally the advisory fees can be good from one or two clients in the sector, but nothing compared with the steady flow you get with, say, institutional private equity groups. Family offices require a lot of work for often a lot less reward.” 

This is particularly the case in Europe where the family office world doesn’t have the same level of depth as it does in the North American market. 

 

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