Family offices take on many roles - organiser, steward and advisor to name a few – and choosing an address that complements them all is a complicated task.
At one time, the selection was made largely on the basis of the location of the family’s principal residence. But with family members increasingly moving and living across continents – along with their assets and investments – there is more to weigh up than their current postcode.
This doesn’t just apply to families setting up an office for the first time. There is a growing trend among existing family offices to revisit the question of location to ensure they are offering optimal administration, tax efficiency and are able to respond to fluctuating market dynamics and regulatory changes.
There are three key areas of consideration when it comes to family office location:
Where does the family reside, work, study and travel, so that functions can be readily accessed by family members?
What structures, staff and processes will enable the family office to operate most effectively, match the family’s goals, and satisfy issues such as strong governance and tax efficiency?
What types of financial assets does the family hold and where? Do the family’s financial holdings and investments dictate certain locations or access to professional talent to manage the assets?
The answer to these questions will often suggest very different locations for each area and this need not be an either/or decision. For example, an ultra-high-net-worth family might access concierge services in their home city, select investment advisors in a financial capital, and create the family office structure in a tax neutral location to help juggle the various jurisdictions where family members reside.
The good news is that, as the requirements of families have changed over the years, so too have the tools for them to leverage. Video conferencing and secure electronic networks make it easier for a family office to provide a combination of different functions which are capable of being located across a number of physical places. Hosting different functions in different locations can increase ease and effectiveness across all the different hats the family office wears.
Of course, there are some places that are more popular than others. Gibraltar, for example, is a low tax jurisdiction renowned for having the professional expertise required for a successful family office, as well as the benefits of a common law legal system, an excellent communications network and a Mediterranean climate
But, before any location is selected, it would be prudent for families to first consult advisors who have a global reach. An impartial overview of the consequences of locating in a particular jurisdiction, or of the interaction of taxes across a number of jurisdictions, something which continually evolves over time, will be invaluable in making the final decision for the best location for any family’s specific circumstances.