Duties & Responsibilities of 
Family- and Private Offices 
in a Global Crisis

Updated: Jan 6

We all feel that we are in the middle of a global crisis. We are facing serious challenges from both the medical and the economic perspective. The question arises of how we as a global community deal with and emerge from these challenges.


At the moment one can only speculate about the duration of the pandemic, the success of the countermeasures and the long-term effects. It seems clear that society will be different afterwards than we knew it.


For now let's take a look at family- and private offices and how they (can) deal with the current situation in order to meet and exceed expectations of their clients.




Family- and Private Offices before the Global Crisis


In the world we knew before Covid-19, family- and private offices were mostly concerned with wealth management for high-net-worth individuals. Most of them have also taken care of the often excessive lifestyle their clients have and made sure that yachts, private jets and luxurious estates work like a Swiss clockwork. So far so good.




Family- and Private Offices during the Global Crisis


The dynamism of the pandemic and the severity with which the global markets reacted to it in almost all asset classes surprised even wealthy clients and often caught them on the wrong foot. Margin calls caused headaches and as if that wasn't enough, social distancing, travel restrictions, closed airports and medical concerns made life more difficult.


One of the tasks of family- and private offices is risk assessment. Be it economically or for the personal safety of clients and their families.


But how do you analyze risks in a flood of new events that affect all areas of clients' lives? What are trustworthy sources at such times? How do you stay calm despite growing panic in society?



«How do you analyze risks in a flood of new events that affect all areas of clients' lives?»


After the initial shock, many of the leading family- and private offices rearranged their priorities. Instead of optimizing portfolios and guaranteeing champagne to be chilled at all times as before, the task now was to protect the client. Protecting assets that have been built up over generations. Protecting the health of clients and their families. Protecting the employees working in the clients' properties, which are often spread globally.


It's a bit like steering a ship in troubled waters. A storm is not a big threat to a ship as long as it is maneuverable. So we keep on moving and make sure everyone on board stays healthy. Trying not to be hit too hard by any wave to stay with the image of a ship.


How does this look in real life?




Maneuver in the storm


At Schöning & Partners Private Office, we observed the developments regarding Covid-19 from the moment it started in China. When the virus then started to spread across Italy, we worked out scenarios and analyzed how the situation could affect our clients.


Most of our clients are, same as we based in Switzerland so we had a couple of days to evaluate the upcoming situation.


In particular we had set the following priorities:


  • Ensuring the health of clients, their families and employees

  • Guaranteeing access to medical assistance at any time if needed

  • Guaranteeing safe travels back to Switzerland for clients abroad 

  • Creating safe spaces for clients, e.g. their main estate in Switzerland

  • Maintaining vital communication and information about changing situations



Communications


Understandably, clients have many questions and insecurities in such dynamic times. As a private office, we see the responsibility above all in keeping calm and being an anchor for the client.


A constant analysis of developments is essential and it should be guaranteed that clients are always well informed. In fact, we have tighten up the communication and are, as always in constant exchange with the teams on spot in the clients' estates.




How digitization helps


The majority of family- and private offices are modern and keep pace with the digital age. In the spontaneous requirement of social distance, this allowed a quick switch to home office solutions and virtual meetings with clients.


At Schöning & Partners Private Office we work with a project- and travel management tool specially designed for us. In this tool, our clients can track the current status of all projects in detail from anywhere in the world via laptop or smartphone and view important documents and download them if necessary. External partners can be involved online and a communication section makes cooperation easier for all parties.


In our case, we were able to adapt all processes within 24 hours and offer our clients the usual service.




Network and teamwork


In addition to meeting their clients' needs, family- and private offices also have a responsibility towards society specifically in a global crisis as we face right now. It is a time where we all need to stand together.


Especially the elderly and risk groups, can often be helped with the little things, such as doing the shopping. 


Also business partners who may have been hit harder by the crisis can be supported with know-how.




Conclusion


The current situation is also new territory for family- and private offices and the way how they deal with it and position themselves separates the wheat from the chaff.


Clients will feel how crisis-proof their office is and whether they can fully trust it even in critical phases.

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