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How to Surround Your Single Family Office With Great Advisors

Most Single Family Offices ("SFO") draw on the expertise of a variety of outside advisors, including lawyers, accountants, bankers, insurance providers, investment advisors, philanthropic consultants, and information technology specialists, among others.  Seeking advice when needed, contracting for services, and coordinating the efforts of these specialists is a major responsibility of the SFO.

A well-run SFO will have a clear process for selecting and vetting advisors.  While many members of the SFO team will have experience working with various service providers, it is important for the team to have clear procedures for selecting advisors to avoid conflicts of interest or playing favorites. Many SFOs establish budgets for advisor-related expenditures on an annual or more frequent basis, thereby prioritizing needs and giving SFO staff clear parameters for defining the scope of each project with advisory team members. Performance of existing advisors should be reviewed frequently to ensure the services they provide are of high quality and appropriate to the problems the SFO faces.  Important questions to ask on a regular basis include:

1.Is family privacy and confidentiality respected?

2. Are fees appropriate to the work accomplished?

3. Are the advisor’s services relevant, comprehensive, and delivered on a timely basis?

4. Does the advisor alert SFO staff to newly arising or unexpected issues or opportunities?

5. Does the advisor coordinate with other service providers working on the same issues?

While many SFOs seek to develop in-house expertise in certain areas, many SFO activities can be outsourced, which may offer the family greater access to expertise at lower cost. An extreme example of this trend is the virtual SFO, an entity without an office or even dedicated staff of its own; rather, SFO services are provided by a group of advisors on a contract basis, quarterbacked by one of those advisors.

The advantages of having an in-house, dedicated team to manage the SFO are clear:

1. The team's focus will be undivided; its skills will be matched to the needs and requirements of the family, and the SFO’s specific assets rather than those of each team member's own general client base.

2. The family's privacy and confidentiality will be maintained, and the expertise will be on-call and available whenever needed. Highly confidential and mission-critical services should be the first priority when determining which activities will be handled in-house.

3. Generally speaking, in-house professionals will tend to be more focused on and responsive to the family’s needs, and their work will be under the sole control of the family.

Having said that, the advantages of outsourcing SFO services are also significant:

1. Lower cost, exposure to a broader range of advice and the perspective and experience gained from serving multiple similarly situated families.

2. Economies of scale and access to higher-level expertise, particularly in areas where the SFO’s investments or needs don't justify the expense of a full-time individual or bespoke service.

3. Highly complex services requiring substantial capital investment and delivered in rapidly changing environments and circumstances should be the first priority when determining which activities will be outsourced.

4. Generally speaking, outsourced service providers tend to have  better access to a wider range of information and are subject to the discipline and best practices of the wider marketplace.

Marc J. Sharpe is the founder and Chairman of TFOA, an organization formed in 2007 to provide a forum for education and networking and to serve as a resource for single family office principals and professionals to share ideas and best practices, pool buying power, leverage talent and conduct due diligence. Mr. Sharpe is active in the community and has served on the Board of the Holocaust Museum Houston, the HBS Houston Angels, and on the Investment Committee for two Texas based foundations. Contact: Marc

TFOA's 8th Annual Single Family Office Symposium

If you would like to participate in our 8th Annual Single Family Office Symposium this October 17th & 18th 2022 in Houston, TX, please consider:

  1. Virtually Attending – open to anyone, see our website and click the Virtual Track button: Registration
  2. Joining TFOA – attendance in person is open to single family office principals and executives only: Membership
  3. Sponsoring – open to a few select sponsors to attend in person at next year's 2023 symposium in Fort Worth, please email for more information: Sponsoring
  4. Speaking– interested in speaking at next year's 2023 symposium in Fort Worth, please email for more information: Speakers

Why is TFOA’s Annual Single Family Office Symposium unique?

✔️ Attendees are family office executives and principals who actively engage in our single family office community throughout the year.

✔️ Speakers are invited to attend based on their expertise, not because they pay for the opportunity.

✔️ Sponsors are aligned philosophically with our long-term relationship and brand building approach. There is no solicitation.

✔️ We partner with top universities to emphasize our commitment to learning and education. Profits from our Symposium are donated to our university partners for student scholarships.

✔️ TFOA is not a commercial organization. Everything we do is designed to ensure a high quality and high impact experience for our stakeholders.

David Bonderman, Mitch Kapor, Anne Griffin Dias, Peter Kraus, Dick Kramlich, Randi Zuckerberg, and John Goff are just some of the speakers who have participated in the past. This year we’ll be joined by Neil Bush, Rob Jasminski, John Billingsley and many other exciting speakers!

My passion in founding www.tfoatx.com over fifteen years ago stems from my experience working as CIO for a large, multi-generational family office. I wanted to find a network of like-minded peers who were willing to share their ideas, knowledge, deal flow, and experience in a safe and trusted environment. Today, TFOA’s family office community leads the way by delivering world-class educational content, unique networking opportunities, and exceptional leadership to a highly curated network of the world’s largest and wealthiest families.

We hope you’ll consider joining us. Cheers!

Take care,

Marc J. Sharpe

Chairman & Founder


If you'd like to stay in touch on a more frequent basis, please follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter. In the meantime, please check out our free library of family office whitepapers, podcasts and videos at Media. Thank you!

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TFOA is an affinity group dedicated primarily to the interests of Single Family Offices. TFOA is intended to provide members with educational information and a forum in which to exchange information of mutual interest. TFOA does not participate in the offer, sale or distribution of any securities nor does it provide investment advice. Further, TFOA does not provide tax, legal or financial advice. Materials distributed by TFOA are provided for informational purposes only and shall not be construed to be a recommendation to buy or sell securities or a recommendation to retain the services of any investment adviser or other professional adviser. The identification or listing of products, services, links or other information does not constitute or imply any warranty, endorsement, guaranty, sponsorship, affiliation or recommendation by TFOA. Any investment decisions you may make based on any information provided by TFOA is your sole responsibility. The TFOA logo and all related product and service names, designs, and slogans are the trademarks or service marks of The Texas Family Office Association. All other product and service marks on materials provided by TFOA are the trademarks of their respective owners. All of the intellectual property rights of TFOA or its contributors remain the property of TFOA or such contributor, as the case may be, such rights may be protected by United States and international laws and none of such rights are transferred to you as a result of such material appearing on the TFOA web site. The information presented by TFOA has been obtained by TFOA from sources it believes are reliable. However, TFOA does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any such information. All such information has been prepared and provided solely for general informational purposes and is not intended as user specific advice.