Family Office Recruitment: Market Update 2021

We are often asked about market conditions with regards to recruitment for family offices (or private offices), especially given the extraordinary events we have all witnessed in the past year. It is not a straightforward question to answer as it very much depends on a range of factors.

Some Background:

Here are some observations. The family office market is far more resilient than most. The primary purpose of a family office is to manage the assets of the Principal(s). Whilst family offices come in many different forms, this fundamental tenet does not change no matter what is going on in the outside world.  Depending on where the family office is in its cycle, the majority take a long-term view of events and situations as a primary aim is the preservation, growth, and transfer of wealth to the next generation. [1] Generally, they are not subject to quite the same pressures as traditional corporates, which tend to have a more diverse range of interested parties (both internal and external) to satisfy.

Within a UK context, it was very much a case of normal business resumed after the General Election of Dec 2019 had ruled out a Corbyn administration – a big fear for some family/private offices. Some Principals had prepared their metaphorical backpacks (a euphemism for getting everything in order with their advisors ready to depart the UK in the worst case scenario). Most other matters were secondary for a brief period. With the backpack put away, and the fog of BREXIT beginning to clear (at the time anyway), the first quarter of 2020 reflected this relief within a recruitment market context for family offices.

Current Market Conditions:

With the enormity of COVID-19 becoming apparent towards the end of Q1, 2020 and as reality hit home particularly after the brief period of relative normality during the summer, family offices adopted a range of approaches over the next few months which reflects their eclectic nature – none being the same. Hiring has continued for family offices, but notwithstanding their resilience it would be naïve to suggest that the market has been entirely immune to events of the past year. For the family office recruitment market, two factors are key: –

1/Churn. This is especially important within family offices as overall, they are quite stable organisations, not least because a family office craves continuity and longevity in its employees. Some family office executives who were perhaps considering a move have taken an attitude of “batten down the hatches” and been cognisant of preserving employment rights (where relevant) rather than take a perceived risk of changing jobs. Others have taken a pragmatic view accepting that one cannot necessarily dictate the optimum moment to take up a new post.

2/Confidence on the part of the family office.  For example, some Principals that were poised to launch their family office pressed the pause button and others scrapped their plans entirely particularly when this involved a move to a different jurisdiction that proved impossible due to travel restrictions.  Some established family offices perhaps reflected on the necessity and timing of any headcount plans and directed resources to more pressing matters brought about by incredibly difficult market conditions and the realities of working from home.

Family offices that have had exposure to particular asset classes that have been adversely impacted by the pandemic have faced significant challenges. For others, the crisis has allowed (or demanded) a laser focus on their family offices/private wealth. This last year has provided family offices an opportunity to reflect on existing arrangements and whether their “house is in order” and still fit for purpose.

For family offices that have hired during this period, there have been some hurdles to overcome. One of these has been assessing “fit” of the candidates being considered for the role – very pertinent for more senior positions. Video calls do not cut it when trying to ascertain the softer characteristics of an individual. As mentioned elsewhere on this website (, chemistry is key when hiring for a family office. Given the size of family offices, getting this wrong can be disastrous. Although working from home will remain (in some part at least) after this crisis, face-to-face contact will still be crucial despite what some commentators say. No more so than in a family office!

Looking Forward:

Despite these unprecedented headwinds there has been recruitment activity for family offices, but it is a complex picture and varies according to jurisdiction and other considerations. No doubt, sensible fiscal policy responses by governments will be crucial as we emerge from this crisis.

Confidence will depend on how well individual governments gain traction on tackling the crisis and implement their vaccine roll-outs. Provided there are no major shocks, the trajectory will improve as plans that were temporarily shelved are dusted off and new ideas hatched during lockdown are implemented.

If you would like to discuss market conditions or a potential hiring project for your family office, please contact Paul Avon on +44 (0) 20 7846 0025 or  Rest assured, any discussion will be confidential.

True House Partners is a specialist recruiter for family offices (both single and multi). Based in London, we undertake mandates for family offices in the UK and many overseas jurisdictions. We are also executive search specialists for the trust & fiduciary/corporate services market.

[1] As an aside, the reality is that the lion’s share of family offices have not served more than three generations.

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