Family Offices: What You Need to Know

Defining a family office is no easy task, given the wide-ranging variations that exist. Nowadays, private banks, law firms, accounting firms, and trust companies, among others, all offer family office services, further complicating matters.

The truth is, every affluent family essentially has a family office, whether they realize it or not. Within each family, someone is tasked with handling the responsibilities typically undertaken by a family office. In families involved in business enterprises, this may involve the chief financial officer or another individual overseeing both business and personal investments, collaborating with asset managers, managing real estate expenses, and overseeing private assets held by the family. However, the effectiveness of such an arrangement depends on the individual's expertise and the extent to which their role is properly structured for such a diverse range of tasks.

On the other hand, a more formal family office is explicitly established by a family to cater exclusively to their unique needs. It is worth noting that no two family offices are the same. For instance, the senior accountant of a family business who is nearing retirement may assume the role of the family office head following a liquidity event. In this capacity, they would coordinate external advisors and provide comprehensive support to the family in matters pertaining to assets, structures, and succession. This represents the simplest form of a family office, where someone assumes a coordinating role.

Many families find the cost and management burden associated with a dedicated single family office (SFO) overwhelming. As an alternative, they may consider a multi-family office (MFO) that provides services to multiple families. [1]

This comprehensive overview is a result of collaborative insights from each Wigmore firm, driven by the increasing frequency of inquiries. For more information about the Wigmore Association, please visit our website and feel free to reach out to us.

[1] McCullough, T. and Whitaker, K. (2018). Wealth of Wisdom, p. 313. Sourced, 16 November 2023

The History of Family Offices: Tracing the roots

The concept of family offices can be traced back to the 6th century when the noble families relied on major-domos to oversee their wealth and affairs. These skilled individuals acted as family managers, making arrangements, and representing the noble household. Fast forward to the 19th century, the modern concept of family offices began to take shape. In 1838, the House of Morgan was established by J.P. Morgan's family, serving as their dedicated asset manager. Similarly, the Rockefellers founded their own family office in 1882, which remains operational today.

Over the past 30 years, family offices have emerged as independent entities. As families amassed greater wealth through business successes and investments, their affairs became increasingly complex and necessitated dedicated management. What used to be easily manageable for a nuclear family with modest wealth evolved into a full-time responsibility as subsequent generations and substantial non-business assets came into play. In such cases, families sought the assistance of trusted advisors, often their lawyers, accountants, bankers, or investment managers. These advisors took charge of coordinating and managing various aspects of their family and financial lives, including investments, trusts, tax planning, family education, wealth transition, and financial administration. As the workload grew, additional staff was brought on board to support the family advisor, thus giving rise to the formation of family offices.

Quantifying the precise number of family offices proves challenging. According to a KPMG Global Family report[1], it is estimated that there are 7,500 family offices worldwide. However, the definition and exact count of single-family offices remain unknown, although it is believed to be around 7,500 to 10,000 globally, with a significant increase since 2008. These offices oversee an impressive $6 trillion in assets under management (EY, Campden) [2]. On the other hand, the number of multi-family offices is relatively smaller. When considering North American firms that have $1 billion in assets under management, serve a substantial client base with $30+ million, and offer a comprehensive suite of services, the total count falls below 150 (J.E. McLaughlin).

This overview aims to shed light on the questions surrounding family offices, as they have become increasingly prevalent in recent times. Should you desire more information about the Wigmore Association, please feel free to contact us.

[1] The 2023 Global Family Office Benchmark Report (, sourced 16 November 2023

[2] sourced 16 November 2023


What are the different benefits of a single or multi-family office?

Single-Family Offices (SFOs) are dedicated to meeting the unique needs of families, offering a wide range of in-house services. This ensures families have complete control, receive personalized and tailored assistance, enjoy privacy, and benefit from a family-oriented approach.

In contrast, Multi-Family Offices (MFOs) are commercial enterprises that provide similar services as SFOs, but for multiple families. MFO clients can take advantage of economies of scale, access comprehensive services, and tap into a pool of high-calibre professionals and advisors. These benefits are particularly valuable for international families, as MFOs assist with multi-jurisdictional aspects and connecting with top service providers such as accountants, lawyers, and registered agents.

Moreover, MFOs offer a wide range of tailored services beyond what retail private banks, wealth management, or brokerage firms typically offer. These services may include investment management, manager selection, due diligence, risk management, aggregated reporting, family education, family governance, capital sufficiency analysis, concierge services, bill payment, tax advice, and legal guidance. Some Wigmore Association family offices even provide additional services like private equity, corporate finance, real estate, estate planning, succession planning, financial education, and tax planning.

This collaborative overview offers insights from each Wigmore firm, aiming to address the frequently asked questions regarding the benefits of single or multi-family offices. For more information about the Wigmore Association, please don't hesitate to reach out to us through our website.