The term family office is confusing; it needs a new name, says Harvard academic

The term family office is confusing and needs to be better defined, says Christina Wing, who teaches at Harvard Business School.

Wing was making her remarks at a webinar on The Evolution of Family Offices hosted by Family Capital and PwC earlier this week. 

“A new name is needed for the investment part of a family office,” said Wing. “We all know what venture capital, private equity, and sovereign wealth funds are, but family offices could be booking a private jet one minute and investing in a company the next.”

Apart from her full-time position at Harvard, Wing also runs Wingspan Legacy Partners, which works with many family offices and businesses worldwide. She also has first-hand experience with a family office after running one for a member of the Koch family in the US.  

She said the vagueness of the term causes confusion. 

“A family office, in many ways, is another family business,” Wing said. “It needs the same vision, governance, and mission as a family business would have. It needs all the same criteria as any professionally run business would have.”

Paul Carbone, president of Pritzker Private Capital, was also a participant in the webinar, and so too was Peter Englisch, PwC’s global family business leader. 

Over the next few weeks, Family Capital will bring its readers several other great insights from the webinar, but in the meantime, a full recording of the session is available here. 


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