Learning on the fly? Continuing Executive Education and Business Schools for Family Offices


Family offices are undeniably in a category of their own and the industry is relatively contemporary. An industry where traditionally family office professionals and executives cut their teeth in related sectors, such as banking, legal or corporate finance and had to learn the ins and outs of wealth management family on the fly. Any “education” has mostly happened through their peers or through membership events and forums with rich knowledge sharing.

However, as the industry has evolved, so have family offices themselves, and many now realize the importance of standardized learning for their executives. Family offices have begun to embrace new tools for gleaning data and promote targeted continuing executive education courses through leading institutions to further train their executives. In turn, many of these institutions are responding to this demand by developing new executive education courses tailored to a number of different needs, including future generations wishing to enter the family business, family office management, wealth management and planning, to name a few. .

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but with a growing number of family office-oriented education programs, it seems like you can send an old dog back to school. Here is an overview of some of the most interesting courses available for family office professionals.

Leading the Family Office by IMD Business School

IMD Business School’s Global Family Business Center (GFBC) offers a highly specialized three-day course in single-family office management through its “Leading Family Office” program. The program is offered once a year at IMD campuses in Switzerland (June) and Singapore (October). The program is exclusively open to family members of existing Single Family Offices or families considering or in the process of establishing one for their personal wealth management needs.

“The field of family offices is an emerging field and there are few or no structures in place providing guidelines on ‘what is a family office or what it is not,'” says Peter Vogel, Director of the Global Family Business Center and Professor of Family Business at IMD. “Families struggle to identify their own family office aspirations and there is no one-size-fits-all approach here, but there are attempts to create a certification program dedicated to family offices, trying to bring some structure to the field.”

IMD’s three-day course content includes introduction to the family office landscape, identifying trends and prospects, asset allocation, wealth management, impact investing and governance performance of an SFO. The course differs significantly from another popular GFBC framework, “Leading The Family Business”, which is structured towards running a family business/business rather than its wealth management.

“There are many reasons for this increased interest in the subject of family offices around the world (both from families and, therefore, service providers), whether it is the growing number of wealthy owners in the world who are actively looking for solutions, the increased complexity of family business systems requiring a better and more personalized approach or an increased complexity of the investment space,” adds Vogel. “It’s only natural for institutions to step up their activities in this space and try to position themselves.”

Family Office Wealth Management—By Harvard Business School

This three-day program is created to help family office professionals make their investment decisions in an ever-changing financial landscape without compromising the needs of the family they represent. Its main educational objectives of the program include:

  • In-depth knowledge of office governance and family wealth management.
  • Intergenerational Wealth Transfer Solutions and Bridging Skills Gaps.
  • Get an idea about the full range of investment opportunities that are available at the disposal of a family office business.
  • Explore philanthropic investment.
  • Develop and execute appropriate networking and relationship management strategies.

While best suited for individuals who are directly involved in the planning and execution of a PO’s portfolio, HBS encourages all members who may be involved in generating family wealth to participate in the program. The program is offered as an in-person course at the HBS campus and carries a price of USD 10,500 which includes tuition, accommodation, books, case materials, and most meals.

Financial Management for Family Office – By Pepperdine Graziadio Business School

Many family offices fail to develop a profitable portfolio due to poor investment and/or budgeting decisions. This two and a half day program by Graziadio Business School is designed to help family office leaders develop key skills in corporate governance, financial management and valuation and make informed investment decisions.

The program explores key wealth management topics such as philanthropic investing, FO governance, tax and accounting, risk management, asset allocation, real estate investing and multi-generational wealth management . It is offered as an executive education course at the Drescher Graduate Campus in Malibu and is suitable for executives in single and multi-family offices and all affluent family members who want to learn key skills in long-term wealth management. .

The Family Office Leadership Program—By Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

This unique, highly specialized family office program offered by the Kellogg School of Management focuses on training industry executives in the leadership skills to manage the complex, high-stakes environment of a family office. The program is structured as a virtual executive education course and admissions are limited to senior executives of single family offices. The main objectives of this program include:

  • Understand and align FO operations with family dynamics.
  • Promote trust between stakeholders.
  • Gain key networking skills with other family offices and industry leaders.
  • Develop strategies for succession planning, outsourcing, continuity and other areas.

The program is also registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and offers 12.0 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits to learners who complete it.

The Wharton Global Family Alliance—By the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

The Global Family Alliance was established at the Wharton School in 2004 in partnership with the CCC Alliance Multi-Family office. Since then, it has grown into a one-of-a-kind global institution whose mission is to spread knowledge to help wealthy families and family businesses grow on the global stage. As a family business-university partnership, it offers a diverse selection of full-time degree and non-degree programs as well as the regular publication of industry reports in the form of research publications. The GFA also organizes an annual roundtable on Family Offices as a forum for knowledge transfer between families.

The GFA distinguishes itself from other institutions by its high-impact production of publications based on real-time collaborative research based on peers and based on real world family experiences. It operates under the leadership of Dr Raphael Amit and Laird Pendleton, who serve as the Alliance’s Chairman and Advisory Board respectively.

Family Office Initiative—By Stanford University

Despite the growing importance of family offices around the world, knowledge about their impact in society is still limited. Family offices manage the wealth of wealthy families who control a disproportionate amount of wealth globally and how this wealth is managed and used can have serious socio-economic implications. Stanford University’s Global Projects Center is developing a robust program to analyze the importance and impact of family offices on the global stage. The purpose of the Family Office Initiative Program is to identify the main areas for improving the wealth management services provided by family offices. Research topics include the impact of POs in funding start-up technologies, philanthropic ventures, and wealth preservation.

Family Businesses Governance and Management—By HEC Business School

HEC Business School offers a 2-week program in family business governance and management to train senior executives in dynamic entrepreneurship and asset management. It is offered as an in-person continuing education certificate program at the HEC Business School campus in Paris. The program is aimed at current or future directors, stakeholders, board members and non-family CEOs of family businesses. The course is in French and the entire program is priced at €17,900. The objectives of the program include:

  • Train managers in their role as administrators.
  • Achieve a deeper understanding of the complex nature of a family business to better understand its unique dynamics and psychology.
  • Train learners in industry standard skills in family governance and business management.

Still a lot of room for improvement

As family offices continue to grow globally, new industry standards will emerge and old industry standards will be superseded. Higher education institutions will therefore play a central role not only in keeping FO leaders informed of the latest industry events, but also in helping them develop key skills to better manage their business without compromising the needs of families who ‘they represent.


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