Feature Stories

24.03.2020

Defining the Family Office Landscape

A family office is a powerful arrangement for the preservation of family wealth (through trusts and investments), harmony (through governance and education), as well as legacy and values (through philanthropy and family-run foundations).

As the demand for family offices continues to grow, there is a need to learn more about how they are organized, and how effective they are. However, studies on the subject are few and far between in academia, partly due to the fact that privacy and confidentiality are important in running family offices.

In this edition of Biz@HKUST, we will take an insider’s look at some of the best-known family business leaders to see how their family offices were first set up, and are managed today. We will also explore the many different roles that a family office can play.  

Every family is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution in setting up a family office. Each founder has a unique story to tell. Three of these stories come from members of our School Advisory Council. Michael JEBSEN, our Council Chairman and Chairman of Jebsen Group, believes that hiring outside parties to manage the family office is the key to its success. Vincent LO, Chairman of Shui On Group, is a strong believer in developing a viable family constitution early in the process. Sukanto TANOTO, Chairman of RGE Group, believes that a family office will play a crucial role in building his legacy and delivering a plan for his family and business.

The other two stories come from members of two families well-known for their long-standing commitment to giving back to society. Ronnie CHAN, Chairman of Hang Lung Group, believes that families should give away their wealth, and thus looks at the roles of family offices in a different way. Lawrence CHAN, former CEO of Park Lane Hotels International and Founder of the Seal of Love Charitable Foundation, uses a family office to propagate his personal values and to do good for society.

These five family office founders represent the unbroken spirit of their families originated from Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia and Denmark. Rooted in Asia today, they take their own or their family businesses to new heights, and at the same time define the concept of family offices in Asia.

The idea of a family office is quite new, and this is where our faculty hopes to fill a gap. In addition to the interviews, the magazine includes a series of articles written by them. Professor Winnie PENG, Director of the Tanoto Center for Asian Family Business and Entrepreneurship Studies, outlines the trends of family offices in Asia, and Professor Roger KING, Founder of the Center, talks about what Chinese family offices can learn from their Jewish counterparts.

Our Head of Finance Department Professor Chu ZHANG explains why the topic of the family office is an important new area for academic research. Two other articles from the same department shed light on different aspects. Professor Veronique LAFON-VINAIS welcomes the opportunity to partner with family businesses and family offices to address their needs in terms of skills, networking, and more. Professor Entela BENZ-SALIASI encourages family offices to play a more active role in addressing climate risks.

Through all their endeavors, we hope that our School can help further and broaden family office research, enrich the knowledge of family office professionals, and contribute to the positive socio-economic development of the region.

Professor TAM Kar Yan
Dean
HKUST Business School