Dealmaking with Family Offices

By Marcia Nelson

More and more family offices are getting into the deal space, either alongside traditional PE or competing with funds for direct investments. But family offices are quirky. It’s often said that “If you’ve seen one family office you’ve seen one family office.” So how can middle-market dealmakers set themselves up for success when working with private investors? Here are five tips for working with family offices to increase your chances of get deals done together.

  1. First, find out if the family office has professional advisors. Wealthy families don’t have to deploy capital. Period. There is no urgency to get a deal done, but if they have professionals on staff the likelihood of completing a deal increases because there is someone driving to get it done – even if the family member is off on vacation.
  2. Re-evaluate your fee structure. One common complaint of family offices is that they’re tired of paying 2 and 20 for traditional funds. Some funds are shifting their fee structures to attract private investments, or offering discounts for larger investments. Reducing or eliminating co-investment fees is another way to engage family offices without jeopardizing profits.
  3. It’s all about relationships. Family Offices are skeptical of investment bankers – they think bankers only want to dump their deals on them and walk away. What many family offices want is a handful of trusted advisors – people who won’t treat them like “dumb money” and who will be with them for the long-term. So it’s important to spend time getting to know the family members (husband, wife, children) and their advisors (CIO, attorney, accountant, etc.). It may take years to forge a trusted relationship, but it will pay off down the road. And the added bonus is that you’ll get introduced other family offices in the network.
  4. People like to buy, they don’t like to be sold. That’s true for family offices, too. Find out what the family wants, and then bring them appropriate solutions. As more and more women and millennials are inheriting wealth and taking control of the investments, there is an increasing demand for socially responsible and sustainable investments. Does the family office want to have an impact in emerging markets? Food and agriculture? Clean Energy? Spending quality time with private families will enable advisors and dealmakers to better understand what the investors are looking for and
  5. Be thoughtful and strategic. Family offices are inundated every day by cold emails, LinkedIn requests, and cold calls by anyone trying to sell them the “best deal/fund/opportunity ever.” Do your homework and read up on how the family made their wealth, as that’s probably an area they know well and would invest in. If you’re targeted in your approach and only when you have something that is a likely fit, you’ll gain the family’s trust and increase the chance of doing business together.


Marcia Nelson is Managing Director of Alberleen Family Office Solutions and is responsible for client marketing and development of Alberleen’s network of family offices and private investors.  Marcia is on the Board of Directors of ACG NY and chairs the Programming Committee.


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