The History of the Family Office

Private family offices emerged in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries at a time when a handful of elite families amassed staggering wealth. To manage this wealth, the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Phippses, Carnegies and others organized offices and staffed them with full-time attorneys, accountants and investment professionals.

This structure ensured independent, unbiased advice and comprehensive counsel that best allocated the family’s resources to a variety of investments, properties and personal assets. Each discipline was tended by an expert responsible for managing and protecting the family’s wealth for, and from, future generations. The explosion of wealth in the late 20th century created demand for the service and sophistication offered by private family offices, but with a modern, results-oriented focus. Problematically, private family offices are expensive propositions. Despite the value they offered, even families with prodigious wealth sometimes found they couldn’t afford the expertise necessary to build and maintain a private family office themselves. Thus, the multi-family office was created, leveraging the private office concept to serve multiple families at a time when the demand for performance, transparency, accountability and technology-based investment solutions was on the rise.

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