The family office is something that has been discussed in the advisor world for as long as I can recall. It has gained a heightened awareness over the last decade. What exactly is a family office?

Simply put, the family office is a business model that financial services firms have touted to the ultra-high-net-worth as a one-stop place for all of their financial needs. This idea would allow for a financial professional to handle everything from investments to bill paying and property management.

But this full service idea hasn't really been done with great success on a mass scale. This lack of success is likely due to the cost involved in maintaining the service, but also the concept hasn't really been introduced or designed with an entire family in mind.

In order to be a true family office, I believe that the entire family should be engaged throughout the planning process and must continue throughout each of their lifetimes. This type of commitment to the entire family allows an advisor to maintain a client relationship for generations.

That generational overlap allows for an entire office to truly create deep meaningful relationships with their clients. This dedicated level of service however is quite a commitment for an entire firm and unlikely to be pulled off by the solo practitioner. This is even a difficult task to pull off in bigger firms where each advisor works their own individual business, which is - in essence a solo practitioner - but it is masked by the size of the firm.

This family office concept requires the commitment of a unified, teamwork oriented firm to pull this off and to create economies of scale that maintain profitability.

So let's take a look at some of the elements that I believe to be necessary in creating the type of office that can serve an entire family. All of the normal touch points are necessary, but on a variety of age appropriate levels. Should your practice consider offering these services or ways to engage with clients, prospects, family members of all different ages?

-- Do you offer a dedicated website to each client? One that consolidates and updates their accounts daily?

-- Have several opportunities to educate your clients each month?

-- Consistent publications that keep your clients informed?

-- Events to engage your client's children or grandchildren?

-- Publications that speak to senior related topics or concerns?

-- Do you send your clients books that they will enjoy?

-- Does your or your firm have a consistent Social media presence?

-- Do you offer budgeting tips and tools for different stages of life?

-- Offer advisor relationships that are the right age, personality, gender fit?

-- Offer a team approach that consists of specialists?

-- Provide a disaster file that is shared and discussed with all generations and other advisors?

The items above have been proven to create a practice that maintains a relationship with an entire family and develops business for an entire firm. The list above is primarily ways to add services and value to the lives of those that have entrusted you with their money and families. The ways that you serve the families in your network may ultimately vary, but it all starts with creating a conversation with them to see how they would like to be served. 

Are there other ways that you might suggest to engage and serve an entire family? 


Todd Burkhalter is a financial planner and managing Partner at Catalyst Wealth Management. He has worked in the financial service industry since 1997, and is a member of The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisers, and a Licensed LEAP Practitioner. Email him directly at

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