As explained by Maria Elena Lagomasino, CEO and a founder of WE Family Offices, during an interview with Funds Society, high net worth individuals prefer to direct their investment efforts to real assets rather than to other investment instruments. Companies and real estate capture the attention of such clients, a trend which occurs in the pursuit of a longer time horizon and the need to feel a real commitment to the Project.
“They want to enter into projects, which they don’t wish to manage themselves, but in which they would like to be involved,” she said.
Michael Zeuner, managing partner of WE, also agrees with Lagomasino in that this is the tendency which they see among their customers on a day to day basis. Both managers are clear that the client prefers to invest in companies and properties rather than in other investment vehicles, for example, funds, because they also feel that these were overloaded in the past.
"There is interest in entering companies, in becoming involved in businesses, in which they also come to agreements with other families." Regarding the price and agreements of transactions of this nature, Lagomasino believes that when alignment is achieved, "the price automatically follows. That's the key. "
Aside from its clients’ investment profiles, and on reviewing these first few months since the launching of WE family Offices, the executive explained that the U.S. business has performed better than expected in relation to business in Latin America, which is the company’s stronghold. This growth in the U.S. has even led them to meet many of the forecasts indicated on their business plan to five years.
In this regard, Zeuner explained that they already have a compliance service, which has been centralized through an external service which offers the clients complete support for their protection. "This is a tough business with complex rules," so it is necessary to pay particular attention. "
Zeuner said they have also accomplished all their statutory and structural objectives, placing the client families within the context in order to be able to make any necessary changes and comply with new regulations.
A team for Family Governance and Education, headed by Elaine King, has also been created, and the WE office in New York opened in the Rockefeller Center a few weeks ago, with Zeuner himself at the helm of a team which has been completed with the addition of two new professionals.
Another project which is already underway and which will be released shortly is a web portal for clients, "with very horizontal porpietary technology."
"We act as coordinators for our clients. The typical We Family Offices client deals with three financial institutions, three or four advisors, several insurance companies and more than a broker." Lagomasino emphasized explaining their clients’ characteristics. The average WE client family generally has to deal with about 20 different people, hence the importance of a coordinating role.
According to Lagomasino, once all service providers have been reviewed and evaluated, the problem persists until everything is harmonized. The matter may not end there, because in many cases they face family dispersion, to mention just another issue which must be resolved in estate planning, particularly in terms of taxation.
For example, in the same family there may be members who reside in Latin America and other members living in the United States. In this respect, the executive highlights the importance of complying with regulations and harmonizing everything before changing the structure, which is the main problem which they usually find.
As for the forecasts and estimates for WE’s growth during the coming months, Lagomasino believes they are fine as they are and at the pace at which things are being achieved. "We prefer to continue along this line in managing a business in which customer support is top priority".
This past July, just six months after its launch, WE Family Offices exceeded 2 billion dollars in assets under advisory, that figure is currently around $2.2 billion. The company, based in Miami, serves over 60 high net worth clients in the U.S. and other countries, mainly in Latin America.