Insights for success: What are Australian Family Offices and UHNWI looking for when choosing their fund manager?

Jonathan Webster Director
6 minutes October 15th, 2021

For a small number of Australian-based Family Offices and an increasing list of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs), it’s a great time to be in the market for innovative wealth strategies.

The 2021 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report paints a rosy forecast of underlying conditions, classifying a record 3,600 Australians as UHNWI’s (i.e. amassing personal wealth greater than A$60 million) and predicting the number of millionaires in Australia will grow by a remarkable 70 per cent over the next five years. With an average adult wealth of US$483,760 (fourth in the world) and a median of US$238,070 (first), Australia ranks as one of the world’s wealthiest nations per capita.

Family Offices – while relatively few in number in Australia with about 80 Single and Multi-Family Offices – have the ability to wield extraordinary influence in their investment choices. Projections suggest that intergenerational wealth transfer in Australia over the next 20 years will top an incredible $4 trillion.

Winning their business is not only highly lucrative, but considered a mark of prestige, leading some global wealth management players such as US-based Goldman Sachs to establish a local team in Australia. Boutique fund managers with niche investment strategies and strong track records should also be on the radar of Family Offices. One such is Jameson Capital, the Melbourne based firm I work for, which specialises in real estate and structured credit.

A buyer’s market

The abundance of fund managers and strategies makes it a buyer’s market. UHNWIs and the chief investment officers for Family Offices can be incredibly selective with whom they do business.

The guiding strategy for the gatekeepers of this capital is invariably to establish a system that compounds wealth for future generations. They seek to protect the capital base, whilst still allowing some flexibility for family members to pursue their own interests.

Based on my experience in being responsible for more than $3bn in capital across 20 years, and working to identify ideas and design investment solutions for UHNWIs and Family Offices, here are some factors a potential suitor should consider when offering a service to these cohorts.


Family Offices are likely to be more relationship-focused than other institutional or individual investors, placing as much importance on integrity as they do on performance. It may take years to build the trust and confidence required to ink a deal. With an abundance of suitors to choose from, Family Offices expect a truly compelling narrative.

Track record

Prospective suitors will usually need to present a track record across at least one full market cycle. There has never been a substitute for experience, and impeccable performance across at least five years is the absolute minimum. They may also look to differentiate top-tier organisations from the rest by assessing the amount of investible assets, plus the calibre of other clients on their books as evidence of status.


Integrity in business dealings helps to build trust, but so too does your well-established bricks-and-mortar presence and team structure, plus an impeccable corporate track record. Expect due diligence as a matter of course across financial records and other evidentiary assets such as websites and social channels, and an on-site visit to meet key members of the investment team and see how you operate.


Globally, and especially in Europe, HNWIs may use private bankers who offer highly personalised services. Whereas here in Australia, due to regulatory reform, the big banks consider all but the most affluent to be retail investors unless proven otherwise. Yes, bigger families and investors still receive preferential treatment, but it remains a truism that people will always be prepared to pay for great service – and anyone can use that to differentiate themselves.


You can tick all the boxes, but you still need to be able to offer something bespoke. A key tenet we use is access to deal flow. In other words, offering something they can’t find elsewhere which usually involves developing proprietary sources of deal flow. For example, going out and cutting a deal directly with an asset owner, instead of waiting to receive a brokered term sheet (likely resulting in more competition). This gives you the chance for a much better entry point into an investment and leads to greater returns over time.
Often, Family Offices may have been coveting a particular style of investment – crypto currency or carbon credits are two recent examples – and are looking for a way to gain exposure. The past homework may mean niche fund managers can move from an educational style meeting to a targeted strategy presentation, quickly.


Many of the same principles of dealing with Family Offices apply to UHNWIs. Crucially, though, instead of working through a private company established to look after the interests of a Family Office, you may be engaging directly with an individual. They may come to you via a referral and be more used to trusting their gut, making deals on a handshake. Often, they are still involved in an operating business, and looking to invest earnings from the business, or proceeds from the sale of a business. They may be younger, and have greater appetite for risk. This calls for a more agile and progressive approach.

Either way, you probably only get one chance to pitch, or two at most. So make sure you take your best shot.

This article first appeared in Financial Standard here.