Narva, Richard L
The family dimension of family offices
The author argues that too often the actual family, whose members founded and funded the family office, is overlooked. This oversight often coincides with family office staff and advisers who focus on the family office as merely a particular kind of private trust company. He urges that understanding the powerful impact of family systems issues is as important in a family office as comprehending the complexities of the financial instruments the office manages. He challenges family office advisers and executives to learn the skills to properly address the wishes, interests and talents of the particular family that founded their family office enterprise and not just the assets it controls. In his view: Those of us who manage, govern or advise family controlled enterprises, whether businesses, foundations or offices, share a fundamental duty to understand and integrate not only a respect for the institution of the family, but also a profound and specific understanding of the particular family whose endeavors, values and success underlie the enterprise we serve. Without that, he argues, advisers are merely highly paid and hopefully successful functionaries. In his view, leadership of a family office requires more: It commands that we know a family issue when we see one at work in our enterprise; that we learn to identify how this family issue impacts both the family and the enterprise it controls; and that we know how, or at least where to go and whom to retain, to address the impact of this issue with both sensitivity and success. The article is a good reminder of what is most important in family offices: the family.