While for a long time now Switzerland has stood shoulder to shoulder with London as one of Europe’s leading family office hubs, these companies remain a source of mystery for a large number of candidates. There follows a number of important insights into recruitment in this booming industry and its sometimes unknown workings.
Family offices are private organisations set up to hold and manage the assets of one or several families. They manage family-owned wealth and offer a range of services such as inheritance planning, wealth management and even asset consolidation. A family officer organises and provides a package of services, which are primarily financial, legal and fiscal, for the ongoing wellbeing of families’ economic interests. In contrast to a private banker, whose role mainly consists of assembling and managing financial assets, a family officer gives advice on significant holdings but does not sell anything. There are several types of family office. There are some which are solely focused on one family and others which manage several and could be likened to trusts.
Three specific types of family office can be identified. The mono or single-family office (SFO), the multifamily office (MFO) and the banking office. Single family offices are reserved for considerable holdings that are used to pay employees involved in wealth management. As regards the multifamily office, this is an independent company which uses its commission to pay its employees and works for several families. Lastly, banking offices are run by banks.
In terms of salary, family offices have comparable pay schemes to those of banks (certain among them come in at 10 or even 20% above average). In addition to their fixed salaries, investment advisors are paid a performance-related bonus, while associates receive dividends.
In general, desired candidates are largely those who possess a strong entrepreneurial mindset (a sense of responsibility, development capacity and autonomy), in tandem with experience and high-level technical expertise (investment, legal, accounting, property and administration) as well as an ability to attract clients. In short, prospective candidates tend to be senior and bilingual English speakers in light of the wide ranging cultural and geographical client background (over half are international). The human aspect is also critical. Candidates require a certain intellectual agility in order to be able to engage in high-level, technical exchanges with clients while at the same time remaining at an arm’s length where necessary. The working environment is a highly demanding one (in terms of candidate availability (e.g. 24/ 7 for CFO roles)) and subject to absolute confidentiality, which is determined by the different regulations governing the sector. In summary, close attention will be paid to hard skills as well as soft skills.
The world of the family office is renowned for its discretion, and sometimes even secrecy, which often remains misunderstood by finance candidates. Despite being niche work, there is still occasional recruitment within the sector. Recruitment is often carried out through networks, on the basis of recommendations or by headhunting firms, with financial prudence remaining the watchword. Over recent years, Family Offices in Switzerland have recruited no more than an average of 5 to 10 new members of staff per year. However, in the 10 years that lie ahead, the sector looks set to undergo large-scale development, in the knowledge that such organisations currently only cater for around 20% of potential clients.
The Swiss Morgan Philips team in collaboration with Miguel Hernandez