Blog Business & Networking What is a family office? Why you need one and how it works

What is a family office? Why you need one and how it works

By Varun Bodhi


Did you know that family offices are not just for the ultra-rich? In fact, according to recent statistics, there has been a significant rise in the number of single-family offices catering to the financial needs of wealthy individuals, hedge funds, and businesses.

This trend is driven by the increasing demand for specialized services provided by wealth management firms. These private wealth management firms offer comprehensive services such as investment management, estate planning, tax advisory, and philanthropy. But what is a family office?

Table of Contents

  1. Definition and Purpose of Family Offices
  2. The Rising Trend of Family Offices in Asia
  3. Functions and Services Offered by Family Offices
  4. Understanding the Different Types of Family Offices
  5. Setting Up a Family Office: Key Considerations
  6. Benefits of Establishing a Family Office in Asia
  7. The Growing Importance of Family Offices

Definition and Purpose of Family Offices

A family office is an entity established by wealthy families or individuals to manage their financial affairs and preserve their wealth across generations. It is a one-stop shop for all their financial needs, offering tailored solutions based on the family's goals and values.

Whether managing investments or creating a family charter, these firms have a dedicated team of professionals to handle every aspect. With the increasing complexity of managing substantial financial capital and the desire for privacy and control over their assets, more families are turning to family offices.

In a hurry? Here’s a bite-sized snapshot of the purpose of family offices:

  • Provide comprehensive wealth management services for high-net-worth families

  • Preserve and grow family wealth across generations

  • Offer personalized financial planning and investment strategies

  • Coordinate and manage various aspects of family finances, including tax planning and estate planning

  • Facilitate family governance and communication

  • Provide access to a network of specialized professionals and resources

  • Offer confidentiality and privacy for family affairs

  • Serve as a centralized point of contact for all financial matters

The primary purpose of a traditional family office is to provide personalized services tailored to the unique needs and objectives of each family. It's all about putting the "family" in the "office."

They offer a centralized approach to wealth management, consolidating various functions under one roof. Instead of juggling multiple advisors and service providers, everything is streamlined within the family office. This allows for better coordination, communication, and decision-making.

So why do wealthy families opt for this all-in-one solution? Well, the main goal of a family office is long-term wealth preservation. These families have worked hard to accumulate their wealth, and they want to ensure it lasts for generations to come. And that’s where this unique workspace helps them achieve this by implementing strategies that focus on intergenerational wealth transfer.

But there’s more to it; it's also about maintaining family legacies. Wealthy families often have specific values, traditions, and philanthropic goals they want to pass down through the generations. A family office can help facilitate these objectives by guiding philanthropy initiatives or even setting up charitable foundations.

On top of this, a family office can handle a wide range of other services based on the specific needs of each family. These services may include tax planning, estate planning, risk management, insurance coordination, legal advice, concierge services - you name it!

And the beauty lies in its flexibility and customization. No two families are alike, so each family office is tailored accordingly. Whether you're looking for assistance with complex tax strategies or need someone to handle day-to-day administrative tasks like bill payments and household staff management - a well-run family office can do it all.

You also have access to a network of trusted professionals. These offices often have relationships with top-tier investment managers, lawyers, accountants, and other specialists. Families can tap into this network for expert advice and guidance whenever needed.

The Marina Bay Financial Centre is commonly used for family office space

Most people prefer using prestigious locations for their offices. For example, Servcorp’s serviced office locations are an excellent option for families looking for an avenue to manage their wealth. With addresses such as Marina Bay Financial Centre, CapitaGreen, The Metropolis, and Suntec Tower, families have many options to select from.

Are you looking for a family office? Contact us today.

The Rising Trend of Family Offices in Asia

So why is it popular in Asia?

Asia has experienced a significant surge in the establishment of family offices in recent years. Research indicates that 700 more family offices were registered from 2021 to 2022.

This trend can be attributed to several factors, including the region's economic growth, increasing affluence, and the growing complexity of wealth management.

Asian governments have also played a crucial role in fostering this trend by creating favorable regulations and incentives to attract more family office setups. These initiatives aim to position Asian countries as attractive destinations for high-net-worth individuals seeking comprehensive wealth management solutions.

The global nature of today's economy has further fueled the growth of family offices in Asia. With businesses expanding internationally and families engaging in cross-border investments, there is a need for specialized expertise that can navigate complex tax regulations, legal frameworks, and cultural nuances across different jurisdictions.

It is important to note that while family offices offer numerous advantages, they are not without challenges. Setting up and managing a family office requires significant financial resources, expertise, and infrastructure.

Moreover, ensuring effective governance and succession planning can be complex due to the involvement of multiple family members across different generations. And that’s why most people prefer to deal with office providers such as Servcorp.

Functions and Services Offered by Family Offices

Let's explore some of the critical areas where this service excels.

Investment Management

These offices handle investment strategies based on the family's risk tolerance and return objectives. They work closely with their clients to create diversified portfolios that align with their long-term financial goals.

Wealth Planning

The traditional family office can assist with various aspects of wealth management, including estate planning, tax optimization, succession planning, trust administration, and more. These services preserve wealth for future generations, minimize tax liabilities, and maintain legal compliance.

Philanthropy Support

Many affluent families are passionate about giving back to society through philanthropic endeavors. Family offices play a significant role in supporting these initiatives by providing guidance and assistance in managing charitable giving programs.

They help families identify causes aligned with their values, establish charitable foundations or trusts, facilitate donations, and monitor the impact of their philanthropic activities.

Lifestyle Services

Some family offices offer lifestyle services aimed at enhancing the overall well-being of their clients. These concierge-like services can include travel arrangements, property management, art collection curation, event planning, personal security arrangements, and much more.

By outsourcing these tasks to experienced professionals within the family office structure, affluent families can enjoy a seamless lifestyle without worrying about mundane details.

Risk Management

Family offices also take an active role in risk management for their clients' assets. They analyze potential risks associated with investments or other financial decisions and implement mitigation strategies.

This can include diversification of investment portfolios, insurance coverage, and contingency planning. By proactively managing risks, family offices help protect their clients' wealth and ensure long-term financial stability.

Education and Next-Generation Support

Many family offices recognize the importance of educating future generations about financial responsibility and wealth management. They provide educational resources and support to younger family members, helping them understand the complexities of managing substantial assets.

This may involve financial literacy programs, mentorship opportunities, internships within the family office, or access to specialized training in areas like entrepreneurship or investment management.

Family Governance

Family governance is a critical function offered by some family offices. They assist families in establishing structures and processes for effective decision-making and conflict resolution among family members.

This ensures that the family's values, vision, and goals are upheld across generations. Family offices help create frameworks for communication, establish family constitutions or charters, facilitate family meetings, and mediate disputes when necessary.

Understanding the Different Types of Family Offices

Not all family offices are created equal. Various types of family offices cater to different needs and circumstances. Let's take a closer look at these different types:

Single-family office (SFO)

A single-family office is designed to serve the needs of one affluent individual or an extended multi-generational family. It operates as a private entity dedicated solely to managing the financial affairs and assets of a specific family. The primary advantage of an SFO is its ability to tailor its services precisely according to the unique requirements and preferences of the family it serves.


  • Highly personalized service tailored specifically for one family.

  • Complete control over investment decisions and strategies.

  • Enhanced privacy and confidentiality due to exclusivity.


  • High costs associated with setting up and maintaining an SFO.

  • Limited access to external expertise or specialized services.

  • Potential lack of scalability for future generations.

Multi-family office (MFO)

Unlike single-family offices, multi-family offices provide services to multiple unrelated wealthy families. These MFOs pool resources together, allowing families with smaller asset sizes to benefit from professional wealth management services that would otherwise be out of reach individually. MFOs offer economies of scale by sharing costs among multiple clients while delivering customized solutions.


  • Access to a broader range of investment opportunities due to pooled resources.

  • Cost-effective solution for families with smaller asset sizes.

  • Shared expertise and knowledge from serving multiple families.


  • Less personalized service compared to single-family offices.

  • Potential conflicts of interest when serving multiple families simultaneously.

  • Limited control over investment decisions due to shared resources.

Virtual family office

The rise of technology has paved the way for virtual family offices, which offer similar services as traditional family offices but with a more streamlined and technology-driven approach.

Virtual offices leverage outsourcing and digital solutions to provide cost-effective and efficient services, allowing families to access professional expertise without needing a physical office space. For example, a family can still have a virtual office at Marina Bay Financial Centre without the typical costs of leasing a traditional office.


  • Reduced costs compared to traditional family offices.

  • Access to specialized expertise through outsourcing.

  • Flexibility in choosing services based on individual needs.


  • Potential challenges in maintaining personalized relationships due to remote communication.

  • Dependence on technology infrastructure for seamless operations.

  • Limited control over outsourced functions.


It’s crucial to understand the different types of family offices to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of wealth management solutions. Each has its own pros and cons, which makes it essential to select one that best aligns with your unique preferences.

Setting Up a Family Office: Key Considerations

To successfully set up a family office, several key considerations need to be considered. These considerations will help determine the scope of services required, establish investment objectives and risk tolerance, identify qualified professionals, and develop a practical governance framework.

Determine Scope of Services Required

The first step in setting up a family office is to determine the scope of services required. This involves assessing whether a Single-Family Office (SFO) or Multi-Family Office (MFO) structure suits the family's needs.

  • Single-Family Office (SFO): An SFO is a private wealth management entity that serves one affluent family. It provides personalized services tailored specifically to meet the unique needs and goals of that particular family.

  • Multi-Family Office (MFO): Conversely, an MFO caters to multiple families and pools their resources together. This allows for cost-sharing and access to a broader range of services and expertise.

Define Investment Objectives and Risk Tolerance

After determining the structure, it is essential to define investment objectives and risk tolerance. This involves establishing clear goals for wealth preservation, growth, philanthropy, or any other objectives the family may have.

  • Defining investment objectives helps ensure that investment decisions align with the long-term goals of the family.

  • Assessing risk tolerance helps in determining an appropriate asset allocation strategy and investment approach.

It is advisable to document these objectives and risk tolerance in an Investment Policy Statement (IPS). The IPS serves as a guide for making informed investment decisions.

Identify Qualified Professionals

Setting up a family office requires assembling a team of qualified professionals who can provide expert advice on various aspects such as wealth management, tax planning, legal affairs, succession planning, and more.

Some key professionals to consider include:

  1. Wealth Managers: These professionals help manage the family's investment portfolio, provide financial planning advice, and ensure the alignment of investments with the family's goals.

  2. Tax Advisors: Tax planning is a crucial aspect of managing wealth. Tax advisors can assist in optimizing tax strategies and ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

  3. Lawyers: Legal expertise is essential for estate planning, asset protection, contract negotiations, and other legal matters that may arise.

  4. Workspace professionals: The location, amenities and reputation of the workspace play a pivotal role. Workspace professionals such as Servcorp provide the perfect environment for families to efficiently manage their wealth and investments while enjoying the benefits of a prestigious and fully equipped workspace.

Do your due diligence and don’t rush into a lease that doesn’t suit your checklist.

Develop a Robust Governance Framework

A governance framework is a must to ensure effective decision-making in the operation of a family office. It should outline how decisions will be made, who will be involved, and how conflicts will be resolved.

Some key considerations for developing a governance framework include:

  • Clearly defining roles and responsibilities of family members involved in decision-making processes.

  • Establishing regular communication channels to keep all stakeholders informed about important matters relating to the family office.

  • Setting up mechanisms for resolving conflicts or disagreements among family members or between family members and professionals.

It’s best to get these steps out of the way for a smooth journey.

Benefits of Establishing a Family Office in Asia

Setting up a family office in Asia can offer numerous advantages for affluent families looking to manage their wealth effectively and capitalize on the region's growth potential. If you’re still unsure, have a look at these benefits you may be missing out on.

Access to High-Growth Markets in Asia with Abundant Investment Opportunities

Asia is home to some of the world's fastest-growing economies, presenting attractive investment prospects across various sectors. Having a family office in Asia gives proximity and direct access to these high-growth markets, allowing you to tap into emerging trends and capitalize on lucrative investment opportunities.

Whether it's the booming technology sector in China or the rapid urbanization in Southeast Asian countries, being present in the region provides you with a front-row seat to witness and participate in its economic expansion.

Favorable Regulatory Environment Supporting the Establishment of Family Offices

Many Asian countries have recognized the importance of attracting foreign investment and have implemented favorable regulations for setting up family offices.

These regulations often provide tax incentives, streamlined procedures, and relaxed restrictions, making it easier for families to establish and operate their offices. For example, Singapore offers attractive tax incentives through its Global Investor Program (GIP).

At the same time, Hong Kong has introduced measures such as the Enhanced Tax Deduction for Qualifying Expenses incurred by Family Offices. These regulatory frameworks enable families to navigate legal complexities more efficiently and focus on managing their wealth.

Growing Network of Experienced Professionals Well-Acquainted with Asian Business Landscapes

Asia boasts a growing network of experienced professionals with deep knowledge and expertise in navigating the complexities of Asian business landscapes.

Families can gain access to this pool of talent that understands local customs, cultures, regulatory frameworks, and market dynamics. These professionals can provide valuable insights into investment strategies tailored specifically for Asian markets while ensuring compliance with local laws and regulations.

Leveraging their expertise can help optimize your investment decisions.

Potential for Intergenerational Wealth Transfer While Preserving Cultural Legacies

Many Asian families place great importance on passing down their wealth, values, and traditions to future generations. By having a dedicated family office in the region, you can ensure seamless succession planning and continuity of your family's legacy.

The office can act as a central hub for coordinating family governance, education, philanthropy, and other activities that foster unity and preserve the unique cultural heritage of your family.

Looking for a family office?

Family offices are a major investment and a crucial component for high-net-worth individuals or families, so every decision counts.

To fully capitalise on the advantages offered by family offices, carefully assess your needs by browsing locations that present a desirable impression. Whether you opt for a single-family office or pool resources in a multi-family office structure, you can select between various premium serviced office locations in Singapore to make this possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Setting up a family office can involve various costs depending on location, size, scope of services provided, and staffing requirements.

These expenses may include legal fees for entity formation, operational costs (such as salaries and technology infrastructure), ongoing administrative expenses (office space rent/utilities), investment management fees if outsourced to external providers, compliance costs related to regulatory requirements, and professional fees for specialized services like tax planning or estate administration.

Selecting the right professionals for your family office is crucial to its success. Consider factors such as their experience in wealth management, knowledge of relevant legal and tax regulations, track record in delivering results, and ability to understand and align with your family's values and goals.

Consider exploring workspace providers for your family office.

Establishing a multi-family office allows multiple affluent families to pool resources and share costs while still benefiting from personalized wealth management services.

By joining forces, families can access economies of scale that might not be feasible for individual single-family offices.

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