Meet 6 top recruiters finding talent for family offices as the secretive wealth managers to the world's richest look to grow their teams

  • After placing some searches on hold earlier this year as the pandemic introduced layers of uncertainty, many family offices are again looking to hire fresh talent, executive recruiters said in interviews. 
  • Family offices have evolved as more wealth has concentrated among the very richest individuals and families, and many are poaching talent from private equity firms and private banks. 
  • Business Insider is rounding up some of the must-know executive recruiters in the space. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

You've heard of the war for talent in different corners of financial services, especially between high-flying startups and Wall Street institutions.

A similar battle is unfolding between traditional firms and family offices, the privately held, loosely regulated wealth managers for the world's richest individuals and their families.

After placing some searches on hold earlier this year as the pandemic introduced layers of uncertainty, many family offices are again looking to hire fresh talent or reassess their staff, executive recruiters said in interviews.

They are looking to grow their direct-investing and private markets capabilities, poaching investors, and wealth advisors from private equity firms and private banks. 

Read moreWe built the first-ever searchable database of the top Wall Street recruiters for banking, hedge funds, and private equity

And US-based family offices are seeking out fresh legal talent, in part due to the likelihood of a higher tax rate for the wealthy and a shifting regulatory environment under President-elect Joe Biden.

"Family offices have always been fairly lean with their team structures and we haven't seen any drives to cut costs by trimming their recruitment," said Paul Westall, director of the London- and New York-based search firm Agreus Group, in an interview last month with the family office organization and research provider Campden Wealth.

"On the contrary, we have seen family offices reacting to new opportunities and having to bring in additional expertise in order to have knowledge and talent in-house," Westall said, adding family offices are increasingly relying less on "external advisors such as banks." 

Business Insider rounded up six must-know executive recruiters in the space. 

Read more: Here's how family offices are snapping up talent from private-equity firms and elite wealth managers, according to 6 top recruiters

Jeff Warren, Russell Reynolds Associates

Jeff Warren co-heads the private equity practice in the Americas for Russell Reynolds Associates, the executive search and advisory firm, conducting searches for alternative investment institutions, family offices, and other financial services firms.

Family offices are "being run more like traditional investment firms," said Warren, who is based out of Los Angeles and New York. The industry's growth has come as equity markets have soared higher, creating vast amounts of wealth for the affluent. 

Some of Warren's searches this year within the space have included chief executive searches for two family offices based in the upper midwest, the finance chief of a mid-Atlantic real estate business and its associated family office, and the head of investments, tax, and trust planning for a northeastern US-based family office.

"It will only continue on the private market side," said Warren, adding that there is also a sense among family offices that they've got capital to deploy and would rather allocate that capital directly than to vehicles like hedge funds.

Warren is also a member of the firm's chief executive and board services practice. Before he joined Russell Reynolds Associates in 1999, he was the director of business development for KSL Fairways, a private equity affiliate of KKR. 

 

Sarah Burley Reid, Spencer Stuart

Sarah Burley Reid is a partner at Spencer Stuart who co-leads the firm's global private wealth management practice, focusing on recruiting senior executives and leaders across investments, sales, marketing, and client services. 

Burley Reid has seen a rise in family office-focused recruitment over the last five or so years, but more recently, she has observed "even more curiosity from families about talent who can join them in-house," she said in a recent interview. 

Burley Reid, who is based in New York, has also observed an uptick in family offices seeking out talent to handle private equity and private credit investments, and those looking for opportunities in uncorrelated areas of the market.

She added that also means seeking out talent who can seek out direct investments, not only act as allocators. 

"Another trend we are seeing — and this is also in the corporate world, not just in family offices — is that, this is a really stressful period in general, and people are looking to retire early. They're exhausted," she said. 

Before joining Spencer Stuart nearly two decades ago, she was a management consultant with the consulting firm Booz Allen & Hamilton. 

 

Derek Braddock, BraddockMatthews

Derek Braddock co-founded New York- and Boston-based executive search firm BraddockMatthews, which launched seven years ago, with Bill Matthews. BraddockMatthews focuses on asset management searches within financial services. 

Within its family office practice, BraddockMatthews has worked with a wide range of firms, from those with roughly $300 million in accumulated wealth to $8 billion.

About 90% of that work has been for US-based family offices, and has largely been within single-family as opposed to multi-family offices.

While some areas within asset management are shrinking, the family office space continues growing at a rapid clip, Braddock said in a recent interview with Business Insider. 

As a growing number of family offices look to bring investment talent in-house, Braddock has found that a notable share of chief investment officer searches he's conducted have been the first one a family office is bringing in. 

In years past, a logical pool of talent family offices used to look for top-tier investment chief talent came from within the endowment and foundation community, since the two worlds share some similar investment styles.

"But one, those people don't always resonate with family offices, and two, as importantly, the family office world has matured in and of itself," he said. 

That type of talent pipeline hasn't entirely faded. But now many tend to come from the world of private equity, Braddock said, where executives or investors have experience executing direct investment and underwriting capabilities.  

Read more: Family offices oversee trillions in wealth and are highly secretive. But that's changing as they chase direct deals — and company execs want to know who's behind the money.

Julie Zorn, StevenDouglas

Julie Zorn runs the national family office search practice at StevenDouglas, the Sunrise, Florida-based recruitment firm.

Families' younger generations becoming more involved with a family's financial decisions, particularly when it comes to socially responsible investment decisions, is one prominent theme Zorn has noticed recently across her base. 

"They will pick a cause and invest in companies accordingly," she said in a recent interview.

As her peers across the industry have noted, another focus for family offices continues to be building out their direct-investing capabilities and seeking out talent who can source new deals rather than just allocating assets.

An investor or leader who intimately understands the companies' families want to invest in directly is a sought-after quality, said Zorn, who is based in Southern California. 

Her team works with family offices of all sizes in the US and internationally, and works with them at different stages, from families who are just setting one up to those that have been around for years. 

Zorn has also been on the other side of the table, working within the industry catering to ultra-high-net-worth clients. Before joining StevenDouglas four years ago, Zorn was in private banking and wealth management at BMO Harris and Citi Private Bank.

Brian Davis, Major, Lindsey & Africa

Brian Davis is a New York-based managing partner with the legal industry-focused executive search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, focused on search areas including capital markets, private equity, tax, and compliance searches for institutions including family offices, hedge funds, and law firms. 

Davis said in a recent phone interview that he's witnessed a rise in the number of general counsel searches family offices are conducting. 

"It's not a sleepy back office, the way they used to be run," he said. "They're being more proactive."

In many cases, family offices are competing with private equity and hedge funds for the same legal talent who can help handle more sophisticated transactions that may require a greater level of compliance, he said. 

Family offices are engaging in executing their own investments directly in more instances, Davis said: "Maybe they just aren't happy with the returns they are getting," and are hiring in-house talent like chief investment officers to help execute their own investments, he said. 

Geographically, he has seen a rise in requests from Asia-based family offices over the last decade. 

Davis joined Major, Lindsey & Africa nearly two decades ago. 

Fira Yagyaev, Selby Jennings

Fira Yagyaev is a principal consultant focused on private banking and wealth management within Selby Jennings, the banking and financial services-focused recruitment firm. 

Yagyaev, who is based in New York, said one of the most in-demand positions for family offices are searching for is wealth advisors from the likes of private banks and other specialty wealth managers.

"Nine times out of 10," when she asks an individual candidate what they are interested in, they say the family office space. 

For people looking to move into that industry, Yagyaev thinks that's due to the prestige that comes with working for a family office, and the human element of working with a single client in a more intimate fashion than a larger firm. 

Another role in relatively high demand is heads of portfolio management, she said, a sign more family offices are looking to bring investment talent in-house rather than outsourcing those capabilities. 

Yagyaev has also seen an uptick in searches for trust and estate specialists as family offices seek out help navigating changes in tax policy under President-elect Joe Biden.

Yagyaev joined the firm in 2018, and was previously a senior recruitment consultant with Selby Jennings before being named a principal consultant. 

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