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Highworth Research launches single family offices database


Highworth Research has just launched a new online database of single family offices located outside the USA. 

The Highworth Single Family Offices Database  provides those who wish to engage professionally with SFOS – such as asset managers, wealth managers and associated professions  – with detailed profiles of  1,100 single family offices, 800 of them in EMEA.

The SFO profiles are presented in a standard data structure, and include the identity of the SFO and the family behind it, the value range of assets under management, an analytical description of how the family gained its wealth, the investment strategies, indicative asset allocations, sample holdings, contact details for the SFO’s staff, including bios for many, and details of the family’s private philanthropic foundation.

Highworth estimates there may be about 5,000 SFOs globally but nobody knows the true quantity. However Highworth has found that the numbers divide roughly equally between the USA and the rest of the world. Outside the US, Highworth’s database shows the UK has the highest number of SFOs, followed by Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain and Canada in that order.  

Strong acceleration in wealth formation in Asia Pacific has not yet translated into large numbers of single family offices, except in Australia which has about the same number as Canada. Among small population countries, Norway and Chile stand out for their disproportionately high number of SFOs. 

The SFOs on Highworth’s database are classified into 10 ranges of assets under management. Almost 70 per cent of the SFOs fall into the ranges from USD100m to USD5 billion, with 22 per cent falling into the USD100m to USD500m range, 18 per cent into the USD500m to USD1 billion, 19 per cent into the USD1 billion to USD2,5 billion and 10 per cent into the USD2.5 billion to USD5 billion range. Curiously the smallest range, USD10m to USD50m holds the same proportion of SFOs, 5 per cent, as the largest range, over £15 billion. 

Highworth’s SFO Database also reveals the major appeal of alternatives when it comes to SFOs’ asset allocation choices. An extraordinary 82 per cent of single family offices invest in private equity either directly or through funds or both; the next most popular asset class is commercial property, favoured by 63 per cent; residential property by 51 per cent; real estate funds by 45 per cent; venture capital by 37 per cent; and hedge funds by 25 per cent. 

By comparison, for example, European equities attract 41 per cent, corporate bonds 15 per cent, and impact investments 11 per cent.

If most SFOs stay out of the limelight, how does Highworth obtain its information? Highworth’s Director of Research, Alastair Graham, whose career background includes the Financial Times and Thomson Reuters, says that over the course of the 10 years that Highworth has been researching the sector, the firm has developed a multitude of sources, many in foreign languages. 

“There are no standard sources, the research process is complex and varies from country to country. Respecting data privacy laws is also an important consideration – we don’t publish any data that has not come from a public source, however obscure and difficult that source may have been to track down.” 

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