4 min read

15 Years of GPFO

In discussion with Dr. Michael J. Oliver, Co-Founder of GPFO.
GPFO Global Partnership Family Offices - Family Office Network - 15 years
Written by
Hugo King-Oakley
Published on
21 February 2024


2024 marks 15 years of GPFO. I took the opportunity to sit down with Dr Michael J. Oliver, Co-Founder of GPFO to discuss some of the prouder moments of the past decade and a half at the epicentre of the family office ecosystem.

What inspired you to start GPFO in 2009 and what was your vision for the network?

The genesis of GPFO was driven by understanding that as a principal or executive managing a family office is a unique responsibility that extends far beyond pure financial considerations. We recognized and increasing professionalisation of the family offices we worked with and a gap in the market for a dedicated and exclusive network of family offices that was truly independent and not affiliated with any media business of financial institution. We wanted to create a platform that would enable family offices to connect, collaborate, and co-invest with each other, across geographies and sectors.

Our vision was be the champions of the family office. A bold ambition and one that needed to be supported by nuanced understanding of family offices and the emerging trends impacting them. We aimed to address the pain points and aspirations of family offices recognising and respecting the diversity and uniqueness of each family.

The way we approached this was very simple and followed JP Morgan's maxim “put your clients interests first and everything else will follow” – an approach that has led to deep long lasting relationships and trust within the community. In our early days, Anthony Brewis, an ex-JP Morgan private banker, was wonderful at helping guide us through the complexities of the family office world and his values became very much part of GPFO from day one (hence the JP Morgan maxim!).We are also forever grateful to our advisory board members over the years for continued guidance, as we strive to stay ahead in an ever evolving world.

How has GPFO evolved over the past 15 years in terms of its membership, activities, events, and partnerships?

GPFO has grown and diversified over the past decade and a half, with members in 20+ jurisdictions, while staying true to our core mission of championing the interests of our members. We started in 2009 with our quarterly investment clubs and magazine, FOG (Family Office Global), which I am pleased to say are still going from strength to strength and a core part of our offering.

Over the years we have kept ahead with our offering, across our platform, from our intimate forums, publications and research initiatives. Our ever-evolving events program, balances best practice and thought leadership with investment themes and social forums. It’s a pleasure to say that our agendas drives discussion each year, with ripples seen well beyond GPFO boundaries and across the industry.

Over the years there have been a number of wonderful milestones, including delivering the first educational course in partnership with STEP on ‘understanding the modern family office’, hosting events in some of the finest venues across the globe to establishing the industry leading newsletter as a key element of our publications suite.

More recently our digital push in response to an increasingly active international membership base. The hub of our community is our best-in-class members portal, it is a user-friendly and comprehensive platform that means our members can access essential information and tools wherever and whenever they need.

Although we will continue to evolve over the next decade and a half, we will continue to hold true to our core principals or Independence, Knowledge and Curation. I am delighted to say, the past decade and a half we have worked with near all brand name financial institutions. We have many members and partners today who we worked with from day one.

What are some of the key challenges and opportunities that family offices face today in terms of governance, succession, investment, philanthropy, and technology and which industry themes do you expect to be prevalent over the next decade and a half?

Since the formation of GPFO – which occurred just after the 2007-8 Global Financial Crisis – we have seen increasing attempts made to increase global regulation. For wealthy individuals and families, who are concerned about  privacy, this has proved to be an increasing challenge.

Technology is being used more by families as they have become more global in nature. 15years ago, the back office platforms/systems were clunky and these have made enormous strides.

When we formed GPFO, private banks could still claim to play a vital role in wealth management and help address concerns of family offices, but over the last fifteen years, I feel they have lost their way. In their place, there have been a myriad of other service providers who want to fill this space, including multi-family offices.

I find it hard to predict the next ‘fad’ in wealth management and would answer this by simply stating that many people try and overcomplicate the family office community and the wealth management industry. In essence, on one side of the coin you have beneficial owners who wish to preserve their wealth and create new wealth inline with their values. There are a numerous issues which flow from this: structuring the wealth, managing the wealth, investments, succession, education, and so on. This feeds service providers to the wealth management industry: bankers, asset managers, accountants, lawyers, lifestyle experts and so on.  On the other side of the coin you have governments who need to raise tax revenue from the taxpayer as their debt levels continue to rise, wealthy people are a regular target.

How do you balance your roles as a co-founder, advisor, speaker, author, and researcher for GPFO?

Good question! Thankfully we have a wonderful team at GPFO who work tirelessly.

I have had a career multi-tasking as an academic, consultant, and a co-founder of GPFO. I became professionally involved in the family office world in the first place as I was meeting family offices whilst delivering courses on liquidity via Russell Napier’s Practical History of Financial Markets course 20+ years ago. I am pleased some people have found my perspectives as economic historian of value and applicable to the family office world.

What are some of the most memorable or impactful experiences or achievements that you have had as part of GPFO?

With my ‘educator’ hat on, I have thoroughly enjoyed our activities where we have brought together world class thinkers in formats such as ‘coffee with the economists’ and our geopolitics panel at our annual European Conference. I believe that these have really provided family offices a broader context for many of their investment decisions.

I have been amazed at the size and complexity of family office structures when we have undertaken consultancy work and marvelled at how our consultants have managed to provide solutions to family disputes,  

We have watched the family office space become increasingly  professionalized over the last 15 years, and I would like to think that GPFO has played a part in that.

How do you measure the success and value of GPFO for its members and stakeholders?

One clear measure of success is the number of recommendations and referrals that we get between family offices.. I said many years ago that it has never been our intention to have every family office in the world as a member of our organization because as a relationship business you would probably begin to water down some of the valuable connections. Its becoming increasingly clear that what we do has value around the globe, as evidenced by us having active members in 20+ jurisdictions.

It is humbling and wonderful to hear anecdotes from happy members where their lives, operations or investments have been markedly improved as a result of the GPFO community.

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