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What Family Offices Want From Alternative Investment Managers

By Diane Harrison

Competition within the alternatives sector for family office investments is at an all-time high, as these investors get more comfortable with the range of assets available to them and their general understanding of alternatives rises. Fund managers want to win these wealthy investors over, but often find they are unsure of how best to pursue them. The family office client is increasingly demanding a more tailored approach to wooing them over. Managers who can adapt their prospecting tactics stand a better chance of winning a partnership with these prized investors.


In a recent article on, “Single Family Offices and the Ultra-Wealthy are the Keys to Raising Capital for Smaller Hedge Funds,” Russ Alan Prince made an interesting observation about the broadening range of advisors who influence family office investment activity. Increasingly, other high-net-worth intermediaries beyond traditional financial advisors, such as lawyers and accountants, are weighing in on investment decisions for the wealthy.

In order to maximize the chance of getting a review from high-net-worth investors, fund managers, particularly smaller hedge funds lesser known overall, can widen their contact efforts to include private client attorneys and accountants who specialize in providing alternatives guidance, and in so doing, tailor their marketing communications to appeal to these professionals Topics of appeal to these individuals include favorable tax implications of fund structures, risk modification to portfolios including alternatives, and uncorrelated return characteristics to traditional asset classes, among other subjects. Endre Dobozy, manager of FTM Limited, a firm specializing in low-volatility alternative investments, agrees with these last two points, in a recent article on, “The Five Best Investment Deals You Can Make In 2018” Equities remain diversified until they aren’t. By including an alternate investment in your portfolio that has little to no correlation to the market, you are able to offset a portion of any market losses and reduce the overall drawdown of your portfolio.”


A Q4 2017 research study, "Single-Family Offices and Alternative Investments," by Institutional Capital Network, provides a framework for the changing dynamics in family office activity within the alternatives space. Some of the research findings that stand out in particular include:

First-generation founders have a "stay-rich" mentality, while second-generation are more likely to have a "get-richer" perspective. iCapital Network’s survey found that, as many first-generation family office individuals created the family office with wealth derived from their other business ventures, their overall goal is to preserve that wealth. In contrast, second-generation family office members view the wealth capital of the family office as their primary source of wealth accumulation, even if they have other professional careers, and therefore are more interested in an active investment stance to grow the family office assets through a variety of investments, including alternatives.

The investment numbers tell the story. The investment allocation figures compiled by iCapital Network seem to bear this out. In general, investments being made into alternatives by second-generation members have increased substantially. About 40% of second generation single-family offices are investing 15% or more of their total portfolios into alternatives, compared to 20% of first generation single-family offices that are investing at similar levels. In addition, the second-generation members tend to make allocations along the full range of alternative investments, with a particular interest in direct deals. In 2017, 71% increased their direct allocations relative to 2016, and 82% intend to do so in the future.

The direct route is gaining popularity among the wealthy. Two-thirds of family offices surveyed indi­cated they will participate in more direct deal transactions going forward. The survey findings suggest that one potential reason for the heightened interest in direct in­vestments is the long history of entrepreneurialism within the family office community and the desire to preserve that legacy for future generations. Most family wealth is created through entrepreneurial means.

The desire for internal control is also growing for family offices. Formerly, family single-family offices were largely content to rely on using third-party managers to build alternatives allocations and renegotiate fees in cases of substandard performance. The survey found that more often, today’s organiza­tions are seeking to hire portfolio managers directly to create in-house funds. The line between family offices and asset managers continues to blur as these investors focus on optimizing their allocation mix and maximizing returns.


The investment trend towards active investments, streamlined fees, favorable tax implications, and transparency and control is not necessarily a new path for family offices in alternatives. However, the approach to selling these aspects of alternatives has evolved. Peter Sasaki, managing member of CGS Associates, elaborated on this in the previously mentioned article on, “Single Family Offices and the Ultra-Wealthy are the Keys to Raising Capital for Smaller Hedge Funds.” Sasaki stated: “For smaller hedge funds, the strategic positioning of investment talent is often critical. This is all the more important when the smaller hedge fund lacks a well-established and impressive track record. Being seen as a thought leader, for instance, concerning the type of investing they’re doing can be instrumental in not only sourcing single-family offices but also getting them to commit funds. It plays a big role when I’m looking at hedge funds.”

For managers looking to gain a greater foothold in the family office space, crafting a clear and compelling description of the alternatives value they bring is priority number one for whatever investment offering they are marketing. Next is to structure that offering with an alignment of partnership interests that are appealing to these family offices, including co-investments and separate accounts. And third is to carry that message to the broader universe of third-party constituents, who serve this growing family office segment of the investment community,

 Diane Harrison is principal and owner of Panegyric Marketing, a strategic marketing communications firm founded in 2002 specializing in alternative assets.  She has over 25 years’ of expertise in hedge fund and private equity marketing, investor relations, articles, white papers, blog posts, and other thought leadership deliverables. 2018 AWARD WINNER: Acquisition International's Sustained Excellence in Specialized Marketing Communications - USA  |  Corporate Insider's Excellence in Marketing Communications – USA. 2017 AWARD WINNER:  Global Fund Awards 2017 Financial Services Marketing Firm of the Year - NY, USA  |  Corporate Insider Business Excellence Awards 2017 Financial Marketing Firm of the Year - USA  |  M&A Insider Awards 2017 Financial Services Marketing Firm of the Year - USA  |  Corporate LiveWire Innovation & Excellence Award 2018 shortlisted. A published author and speaker, Ms. Harrison’s work has appeared in many industry publications, both in print and on-line. To read more of her published work in alternatives, please visit Contact: or visit