IQ-EQ Says US Wealth, Family Offices Sector Holds Big Opportunities

Tom Burroughes Group Editor 19 February 2024

IQ-EQ Says US Wealth, Family Offices Sector Holds Big Opportunities

We talk to the group about its views on the potential, and the needs, of sectors such as US family offices. The firm has been in expansion mode worldwide, including North America.

(An earlier version of this article appeared on Family Wealth Report, a sister news service to this one. The topics addressed resonate beyond the US, so we hope readers find this article valuable.)

IQ-EQ, the global investor services group, is intent on making itself known in the wealth management sector – with hires and business openings in the Middle East, North America and elsewhere. And in the US, this large market is one that IQ-EQ is determined to succeed in.

Turbulence in the US banking sector last year, as seen in the demise of Credit Suisse, Signature Bank, First Republic, and Silicon Valley Bank, coupled with a chillier climate for private equity amid US rate hikes, meant that the ultra-high net worth and HNW clientele of groups such as IQ-EQ have had a lot to think about. 

But whatever the specific difficulties with parts of the markets, IQ-EQ sees continued demand from clients, such as those with family offices, to diversify their investments after selling a business, for example. They need to work with firms such as IQ-EQ to provide the necessary help, it told Family Wealth Report in a recent call.

Growth areas for IQ-EQ are the US, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and India.

“Families are looking to PE and other private investments to diversify their portfolios and get access to higher returns/less correlation with public markets. Just like higher education, foundations and pension funds, sophisticated families are moving to a more `institutional’ approach to long-term investing,” Chip Martin, president, private wealth, US, said. Martin was a founder of Concord Trust Company prior to its acquisition by IQ-EQ in 2021.

There is increased appetite among HNW people for alternative investments, sometimes coming after a liquidity event where they need to diversify. Alternative investments have not historically been held in multi-generational trust structures. “We have seen that is driving an increased focus on more agnostic platform approaches,” Martin said. 

IQ-EQ has been busy. In April 2023, it appointed Matt Okolita as regional chief executive for the Americas. He reports to Mark Pesco, group CEO. In March 2023, it appointed Ilias Georgopoulos to take a key position in the group’s commercial leadership team as global head of private and institutional asset owners. In August 2022 it named Cory Thackeray as its head of Caribbean, a newly-created regional leadership position. Meanwhile, this news service recently visited the firm’s offices in Miami, to find out about its strategy for the Caribbean, Latin American and cross-border sector, and will report in due course. 

Internationally, IQ-EQ has been ramping up operations in regions such as the Gulf – another place where family offices are growing rapidly –where intergenerational wealth transfer is a big topic. It set up in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) in 2023 and in November said it was establishing operations in Abu Dhabi.

The move included acquiring a licence to offer fund administration services. (See an interview here.)

The sky's the limit
In the US, with its large family offices market, for example, there’s a great deal of work potentially within IQ-EQ’s grasp. According to Family Office Exchange, there were about 6,000 to 7,300 family offices in the US in 2019, although exact numbers are difficult to pin down. According to FOX, for the purpose of its report, it assumed that half of those individuals with $100 to $500 million in assets have some form of a family office. Highworth Research, with which this news service is an exclusive media partner, tracks the sector. To obtain access to its data and register, click here.

Family offices will often use a firm such as IQ-EQ, and its peers, to handle the administrative, structuring, and other necessary architecture of their business lives. Growth of wealth, and the resultant intergenerational contingencies this throws up, drives business.

Martin said an important work area for IQ-EQ is examining and compiling inventories of the assets and structures families have and have accumulated over the years – often in a haphazard manner. “Through size and numbers…things are becoming more complex and divergent,” he said.

IQ-EQ can act as a “quarterback” to help families co-ordinate what they own and impose a coherent framework on it. For example, Martin gave the example of “retained powers” in the US – referring to steps taken to ensure that the right people are taking actions and that the patriarchs/matriarchs aren’t taking steps that they should not be. 

Areas to watch, he said, are instances where a single-family office takes non-family, third-party money because this puts them under the orbit of the SEC.

Martin’s colleague, Ilias Georgopoulos (mentioned above), said families continue to evolve in terms of how they hold wealth.

“We see a continuation in the maturity of families…we are moving away from those in families who constructed wealth to those who manage the wealth,” he said. 

There are varied approaches in families – including those with family offices – to the structures of governance. “It is becoming more inclusive and more international,” Georgopoulos said. Another shift is away from a desire to pay little or no tax to paying the “right” amount of tax. 

“The new generation is typically multiple individuals or families living in different parts of the word. This combination requires a more institutional type setup which is not for tax avoidance and allows protection of shareholders and investments. These institutional structures typically pay taxes,” Georgopoulos said. 

Another trend, he said, is that family offices are becoming more professional. “Private asset owners can have a well-organised setup. There’s no going back,” he said. 

Asked about family offices’ bank relationships, both Martin and Georgopoulos agreed that the failure of certain banks such as SVB and Credit Suisse had encouraged families to expand the number of banks they interact with to reduce overall exposures. IQ-EQ can give guidance on this.

On other matters, Georgopoulos said that from a geographic perspective, Latin America has “tremendous potential.” “We are looking at African countries…maybe not right now but we would need a certain level of governance and ethics,” he said.

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