Family Office

INTERVIEW: Family Office Reaps Real Dividends From Wigmore Association - Pitcairn CEO

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, July 21, 2017

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An association formed by major family offices over half a decade ago is proving its worth for investment and business decision-making in these volatile times, Pitcairn's CEO tells this publication.

Multi-family and single-family offices come in different shapes and sizes and for even the larger organizations, there is a need to consider pooling resources or forming mutual-support networks to get the resources that are hard to find to secure in-house.

When six heavyweight family offices teamed up in 2011 to form the Wigmore Association they achieved greater clout on the investment research and manager selection side.

The association also opened up possibilities about the way family offices from different countries could work together. The members include HQ Trust (Germany), The Myer Family Company (Australia), Northwood Family Office (Canada), Pitcairn (US), Progeny 3 (US), SandAire (UK), Turim Family Office and Investment Management (Brazil) and Promecap (Mexico). During the past six years, the group has brought together chief investment officers; in addition to monthly check-ins, they meet twice a year to exchange views on the global economy and markets. Meetings have been held in London, New York, Melbourne, Toronto, Frankfurt, Rio de Janeiro, Montana, Silicon Valley,  Singapore, and India.

The group has achieved such momentum that since 2015, chief executive officers have joined Wigmore’s schedule, sharing best practices and swapping ideas about how their organizations can be run. 
Recently, Leslie Voth, who is president and CEO of Pitcairn, spoke to Family Wealth Report about how she views the association and what such collaboration can achieve. Joining Pitcairn in 1993, Voth has been a member of its executive team since 1996. She has served in several leadership roles including director of marketing from 1996-2001, president of the wealth management group from 2002-2008, and president and chief operating officer from 2008 until taking on her present role.

“The Wigmore Association is  a global partnership  that offers significant value to each member’s clients and business platforms,” Voth said. Recently, the group’s CEOs have talked about issues such as cyber security and next-generation issues, she shared.

In the investment conversations, there have been shared discussions and due diligence around private equity, Voth said, when asked about the current apparent vogue among family offices for direct investing and private markets. The participant family offices have gained real benefits from their global connectivity, discussing issues such as opportunities in global infrastructure investing, or more recently, the issues around Brexit, she continued. “Not only does this shared insight expand our global thinking, but it also gives us confidence to stay the course,” Voth said.

Since the Wigmore Association was set up it has expanded and from time to time its members have spoken about its work to FWR. Back in August 2012, a senior figure from member firm Sandaire, for example, said they don’t view the other family office members as competition, making it easier than it might otherwise be to pool ideas. 

International viewpoint
The investment conversations have ensured that family offices, even if they seek to take a global view rather than a more domestic one, can really deliver on this international perspective, Voth said. “Global investing has long been an important part of our investment platform for families and Wigmore has allowed us to become more advanced in our long-term strategy,” she said. 
A firm such as Pitcairn, which will be 100 years old in 2023, has to keep thinking of what developments lie around the corner, and a network such as the Wigmore Association is invaluable in helping to achieve that, she said.

Voth is proud of the fact that exactly half of the CEOs in the Wigmore Association are female; as a senior executive in the industry she is conscious of how important gender, and generational, diversity is to a healthy wealth industry in the future.

The sector as a whole faces a number of challenges – and chances for growth: changing wealth needs from Millennials; impact of modern financial technology, and multi-trillion dollar wealth transfers going on as the Baby Boomer generation passes on. Voth, along with her fellow Wigmore CEO members, is certain that it makes sense for family offices to network intelligently to stay ahead of the game.

 

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