We interviewed Sara Hamilton, Founder and CEO of Family Office Exchange, as our featured business for the month of October. Sara has been named as one of the “Top 50 Women in Wealth Management” by Wealth Manager for the past three years. Read the full interview below!
S&S: When did Family Office Exchange open? Tell us a little about the history of the company.
FOX: Family Office Exchange (FOX) was founded in 1989 as a peer network for families seeking objective information about managing their wealth and guiding their children to becoming productive adults. I saw a need for an organization like FOX while I was working as a trust officer at Harris Bank in Chicago in the late 1980s and witnessed the emergence of family wealth management as an industry. Hundreds of U.S. families had become centi-millionaires overnight through leveraged buyouts, spawning private financial offices—commonly called family offices—to manage family assets and educate wealth owners. It was becoming clear that ownership was a complex family business, and I knew that if there were a secure way for families to share their knowledge and experiences, they could help one another.
FOX has become an industry advocate, a source of education and training for family office staff, and a platform for sharing family wealth management best practices. FOX has also grown globally, now serving members in over 20 countries.
S&S: What services do you offer?
FOX: FOX provides its members with access to a community of true peers, guidance from their FOX Relationship Managers and other families in our network, and a wide array of learning resources to help them make better, more informed decisions for their families.
FOX members are able to connect with one another by participating in any of 12 Peer Councils, five Special Interest Networks, 16 FOXChat Online Discussion Groups, and five FOX Forums per year. Our 14 FOX Relationship Managers are readily available to answer questions or help connect members with information and resources. Finally, members utilize FOX learning resources such as semi-monthly webinars, our online Knowledge Center, and FOX Member Surveys which quantify investment approaches, family office services, and costs of operating a family office.
S&S: Why is it beneficial for a family office to join FOX?
FOX: Family offices that join FOX are provided the opportunity to connect with a true peer group. FOX is a place where you don’t have to explain to others where you are coming from because the other members share similar needs and face similar situations. It is an organization where members can gain insight into what their peers are doing, learn the right questions to ask, and move forward with best practices for governing their own families.
S&S: Is a family office required to be a certain size or have a minimum net worth to join FOX?
FOX: Not at all. Our members range from individual private investors and small family offices to large, single or multi-family offices.
The primary requirement for membership is a desire to learn best practices for leading a family of wealth and a willingness to share experiences with the community.
S&S: Tell us about the FOX team.
FOX: Our team consists of people who have devoted their careers to helping financially successful families. We are well-resourced to support our members with high-level subject matter experts on staff. Being a global organization, FOX has team members based in Chicago, San Francisco, Aspen, New York, Madrid and Sydney.
S&S: What are the qualifications you look for in an employee?
FOX: We look for people with a sincere interest in working in a smart environment of skilled professionals, serving a fascinating client base and identifying best practices for family-wealth management.
S&S: Have you received any awards or accolades you would like to mention?
FOX: Family Office Exchange was honored with “outstanding contribution to wealth management thought leadership” by Family Wealth Report in 2014. And as CEO, I have been named as one of the “Top 50 Women in Wealth Management” by Wealth Manager for the past three years.
S&S: What sets FOX apart from other family office consulting companies?
FOX: FOX is independent and member-supported which means we’re objective. We provide a comprehensive source of answers about all the topics that families need to be thinking about, not just investments. We provide multiple ways for members meet each other and really get to know each other. Because of our high (90%) renewal rate, FOX members connect with each other—at FOX events, through Peer Councils and FOX networks—again and again over the years and develop close-knit relationships.
We’re also are set apart by our length of experience, having served the families for nearly three decades and by our investment in gathering knowledge.
S&S: Do you only service family offices in the United States? Or do you also work with family offices that are international?
FOX: We work with U.S.-based and international families, with about 20 percent of our members coming from outside the United States. Internationally, we serve family offices in Europe, Australia and Latin America.
S&S: How can potential family offices learn more about your services, if they are interested in joining the Family Office Exchange?
FOX: We invite interested parties to visit our robust website and look through the treasure trove of resources available to members. We can also be reached through our website or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.