June 19, 2023: Gold appealing to younger family office investors amid market volatility

Jun 15, 2023
10 months ago


On this Juneteenth, we bring you a story about how next-gen family office investors are rethinking their gold exposure. There was a time, not so long ago, that owning physical precious metals seemed to be out of vogue. Not anymore, as Marcus Baram reports in this issue. Interestingly, it’s the rising generation who are gravitating toward this commodity, as opposed to their parents, and they’re finding the new ways to access gold. Some may still be interested in physical coins, gold bars or jewelry, while others have eyed things like precious-metal subscription boxes as a way to get exposure.

And speaking of next-gen, we also highlight how young philanthropists in the Detroit area are sick of being relegated to the “kids’ table.” The next-gen philanthropist is all about getting his or her hands dirty and making a social impact from day one. Unlike generations before them, these philanthropists aren’t interested in writing checks and having no true connection to the cause. Nor are they waiting for their parents to pass the proverbial philanthropic baton. They’re all about taking action — which is truly inspiring, in my humble opinion.

As always, we appreciate any comments, ideas and insights that would make this newsletter more useful. I look forward to growing this family office community with your help. Please email me at [email protected].


HANDPICKED: Gold appealing to younger family office investors amid market volatility


For centuries, gold has retained an allure as a safe-haven asset, especially during times of turbulence and market volatility. 

Family offices and ultra-high-net-worth investors — using gold as part of their asset diversification strategy — have recently helped boost its price, which has increased 35% in the past five years. Traditionally favored by older investors, this time it’s attracting next-gen family office members, gold market analysts say.

“Since late 2022, investors appear to have gravitated toward the precious metal as a way to preserve their wealth and hedge against the risk of a recession later this year,” said Han Tan, chief market analyst at Exinity Group in Abu Dhabi.

Gold is often favored during times of crisis for several reasons. Despite its high price volatility, it is a relatively secure investment and extremely stable in value. Because it often goes against market and interest-rate changes, gold can serve as insurance against economic downturns. That’s partly due to its rarity and limited supply. 

As a tangible asset, the precious metal — in the form of gold coins, gold bars or jewelry  —  protects investors against inflation, said Joseph Cavatoni, North American market strategist for the World Gold Council.

That protection appeals to family offices, which use gold to diversity their assets and as a “shock absorber in their portfolio” during these times of inflation and high interest rates, Cavatoni said. He’s seeing more interest from European family offices versus the U.S. market, though retail sales to consumers have slowed in India and China due to pandemic-related lockdowns. 

“We’re seeing ultra-high-net-worth individuals come on the scene and make big purchases,” said Bill Voss, founder of Bullion Box, a subscription service that sends a curated box of precious metals every month. One favored strategy for investors, he said, involves building a portfolio that is one-third bullion, one-third semirare numismatic coins and one-third rare coins. 

“Secondarily,” Voss said, “we’re being approached by family offices and other groups about acquisition opportunities in the sector.” 

A major reason for gold’s recent price increase is that it’s being snapped up by more central banks around the world as part of their reserves portfolio, and it’s being used to manufacture electronics and many consumer products like cellphones, Cavatoni said.

Younger wealthy investors who may have been burned by the collapse of the crypto market also are increasingly turning to precious metals — including gold, silver and platinum. 

“We’re getting so many requests from younger generations for precious metals,” Voss said. “It used to always be 50-something-and-older customers, but now it’s skewing much lower.”

Part of gold’s appeal is its tangible quality as a beautiful physical asset, Cavatoni said. For many people, it’s about “I can get a little bling and have it earn at the same time,” he said.

People who don’t necessarily trust the banks right now “want to hold something in their hands,” Voss said. “If more banks crash, they know they have something to go to and put their hands on.”

So far, the outlook for gold looks positive. Spot gold has advanced by more than 7% so far this year, said Exinity Group’s Tan, “on hopes that the Fed is approaching the end of the current rate-hike cycle.” 

All that glitters for now just may be gold. 


President Danielle DePriest speaks to a room of young professionals during the NEXTGen Detroit Board of Directors. | Nick Antaya for Crain's Detroit Business

The next generation of philanthropists could be the most impactful yet


Danielle DePriest is busy.

She wakes up early each day to spend time with her 16-month-old son, Max, before heading to work after the nanny arrives.

A shareholder and litigation attorney at Farmington Hills law firm Zausmer PC, she typically works 40-50 hours each week. In between, she serves as president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit's NextGen Detroit engagement effort. That means hours of phone calls and planning and attending multiple events, board meetings or engagements each week.

It's a lot to juggle, but it's important, said DePriest.

"I want to ensure that young adults in the metro Detroit area have opportunities for engagement and leadership and involvement. I want to see a strong community here for myself and my family here in the future."

Like generations before her, she's juggling parenthood and a career.

But unlike earlier generations, DePriest, 33, and many of her peers aren't waiting to engage in philanthropy and board service. And they aren't interested in just writing checks and stepping aside. Their desire to get involved in social impact now, at a much younger age, through volunteerism, board service and philanthropy is one of the key traits experts say will make them the most significant philanthropists in U.S. history.

Following wealth concentration in recent years, an unprecedented level of funds is transferring to the "next gens," including the youngest Gen Xers, in their 40s, and millennials, who are in their late 20s, 30s and early 40s, said Michael Moody, Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University.

Add to that the fact that next gens are very passionate about making change and connecting with the people receiving services, not just the groups providing them. And they're coming into their identity as donors or board members at a time of tremendous change in the field, said Moody, co-author of "Generation Impact: How Next Gen Donors Are Revolutionizing Giving," which was published in 2017 and updated in October 2020.

And these days there many more ways to support philanthropic causes that are of interest to the younger generations. Philanthropic "tools" include giving circles, charitable LLCs, donor-advised funds and impact investing of personal assets in socially responsible and beneficial ways.

All of this adds up to significant impact in the wings from the next generations of philanthropists, Moody said.


In the past, people worked to build their careers and make as much money as they could before retiring into "a life of philanthropic leisure, serving on boards, writing checks and being feted at galas," Moody said.

Power brokers like Max Fisher and Al Taubman held commanding roles in philanthropy until they physically no longer could. It was only then that their children got seats at the table.

The next generation in those traditions of giving, however, isn't waiting for their parents to pass the proverbial baton, Moody said. They are looking to be active with their engagement throughout their career.

They are also asking a whole lot more questions.

"They're just more curious, and I think the information is there more than it was before," said Doug Bitonti Stewart, executive director of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation and a member of the CEO Advisory Board and inaugural fellow of the nonprofit National Center for Family Philanthropy.

They aren't looking to bring corporate mentality to fix nonprofits but instead are taking a more holistic view with the belief that people inside the issues can contribute to the solutions, he said.

There's a shift from the older generations which often engaged and gave because it was what was expected, leaders said. Next gens came of age at a time when volunteerism and giving back in their communities was a requirement for high school graduation.

"Their eyes got opened much earlier on to the impact they can make and the needs that are out there in the community," said Julie Tepperman, senior director of community development for the Jewish Federation, overseeing its decade-old NextGen Detroit division.

DePriest said she came into adulthood at the precipice of the 2008 financial crisis. With financial disruption has come societal disruption and questions about the job market. For her parents and others in earlier generations, it was never a question: you go to college to get a good job and that job affords you the opportunity to live a comfortable lifestyle, she said.

"I think our generation is one of the first generations to come up in a time where that wasn't guaranteed in the same way. Previous generations may have taken for granted that they would always have these institutions and always have the resources to give," DePriest said. "Our generation doesn't take anything for granted in that way."

Next gens feel compelled to engage in social impact, she said. "We have to do it...no one's going to build the community that we want to live in for us."


One of the biggest challenges facing nonprofits now is that next gens want to be engaged in different ways than earlier generations, Moody said.

Donors have traditionally written checks to nonprofits and been celebrated for their support for being the donor, but then let nonprofits do the work, Moody said.

Next gens are less interested in seeing their names on a building or having their giving recognized. Instead, they want to get involved, to know what impact their support is having — regardless of the amount — and to engage with the people helped by that support, not just the nonprofits providing services.

"Beyond knowing their gift makes a difference, next gens want to feel part of our process," Tepperman said. "It's about connection. It's not just about 'here's my money, do what you want with it.' They want to be connected, not to just know their donation is making an impact."

Many next gens are more interested in the engineering side of things and have all sorts of questions for the professional partners, Stewart said. Others are interested an approach that creates trust and justice, not just a program that works on people inside problems.

There's a new view that there are systemic issues that placed folks in certain positions and next gens are looking to see if we are all contributing toward the solution: "They are asking, 'If that worked, would we still be in this spot?'" Stewart said.

To that end, they want to be taken seriously and don't want token roles.

Foundations, large museums and other nonprofits often will have a next-gen or junior board in addition to their senior board, Moody said. Those are good if they provide an opportunity for the next gen to do the things they want to do. But if they're stuck there and not offered roles on the main board to help make the big decisions, or they are given token positions on other nonprofit boards because of their age or famous last name, "then they're saying 'I'm out,'" he said.

"One of the things we say to families and... to nonprofits, is (to) be careful when you create, essentially, a kids' table, which is very common in our field," Moody said.

He advises ensuring there is more than one next gen engaged on a board and signaling to them very clearly that they are meaningful members of that board team, not just tokens. "That's really key for them, because they sniff (token roles) out very quickly," Moody said.


When it comes to giving, next gens like to be in good company.

In research for the book he co-authored, Moody found that next gens enjoy giving and learning with their peers, especially through peer networks and giving circles.

A decade into its focus on engaging next gens, the Jewish Federation is capitalizing on that.

In any given week, its NextGen initiative is hosting a night out to check out a local bar, a gathering at a local gallery to see an Israeli artist, and volunteerism opportunities mixed in—packing bagged lunches for seniors living in Jewish senior life homes or a Detroit River kayaking cleanup this summer, DePriest said.

Last year, the events drew 4,000 next gens from the Jewish community and other communities.

Next gens are also drawn by innovation and interested in new approaches to social impact that go beyond the grant or donation, such as loan guarantees, program-related investments and impact investing.

Impact investing in causes that help society, the environment or other socially beneficial causes is something Alissandra Aronow, secretary of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, and the granddaughter of its namesakes, is focused on.

"It shows people around you that you can do well and do good at the same time," she said.

Aronow, the daughter of foundation chair Marjorie "Marjy" M. Fisher, just stepped down from the board of The ImPact, a global impact investing nonprofit.

She serves on the boards of the Lovelight Foundation started by her aunt Julie Fisher Cummings, GoodWeave International, Figure Skating in Detroit — an organization the former, competitive international ice dancer helped co-found — and on the national advisory council for New York-based Children's Rights.

There's a misconception that there's a trade-off between doing good and decent returns, said Aronow, 31, who chairs the Fisher Foundation's impact investing committee. "But there doesn't need to be, and there most often isn't...a lot of families have been investing their assets in social and environmental causes for the past decade, and their performance is better than traditional investing."

Young leaders like Aronow are looking at what philanthropic investments are invested in, Stewart said.

They look at the trillions in the market and think "let's make sure that our assets aren't causing the problems or contributing to the problems that we're trying to undo with philanthropy. That's a big shift," he said.

"It's happening in business schools. It's happening in families that have high net wealth, because...the information is easier to see...that old firewall between investments and philanthropy is down," he said.


When it comes to what they giving their time and treasure to, next gens favor certain causes like human-and-LGBTQ rights issues and climate change, Moody said. But they aren't completely departing from the causes their parents and grandparents supported.

Like the generations before them, they're interested in basic needs and helping people living in poverty, education, health and the arts. They'll continue some legacy giving to the museum that has a wing with the family's name. But that doesn't mean that they want to give in the same ways to the same organizations within the causes that were important to previous generations.

"They want to give to smaller organizations that are doing more in communities of color or... trying to experiment with new ways of using art to address social justice in the schools," Moody said.

Next gens don't want to just give to the bottom line, said Ryan Polk, 28, an independent consultant working with early-stage companies in the region. They'd rather give to very targeted efforts and programs.

Polk is the youngest of four children of Bobbi and Stephen Polk, who sold his Southfield-based R.L. Polk & Co. to IHS Automotive in 2013 for $1.4 billion.

He serves on the Cranbrook Schools Board of Governors and Community House in Birmingham and is a past member of the board of advisers for his alma mater, Denison University in Granville, Ohio.

"This generation now wants to see more of an impact," said Polk.


For its part, Gen X is playing a really important role in bringing in the next gens, Stewart said.

"Because we don't have to take the lead, and the generations behind us feel like they want to...we're the diplomats kind of ...pushing it together," he said.

Baby Boomers in families and on boards are also working to bring next gens in now, rather than waiting until they depart.

DePriest said she and others are benefiting from being given seats alongside the generations before them, as anxious as they are to move into commanding roles in support of social impact work in the region.

"As a leader, I wouldn't have so many of the skills and so many other things that I've learned if I hadn't had the chance to sit in the room with those people who are so experienced in their philanthropic journeys," she said.

"It's not about throwing the baby out with the bathwater, really. It's about learning the history of what has worked in the past and where maybe small changes can be made to make things work for the next generation."


How much money do you need to be rich? To be wealthy in America, you need at least $2.2 million. That’s according to Charles Schwab’s 2023 Modern Wealth Survey, released June 14, which asked a representative sample to estimate the average net worth required to reach the ranks of the rich.

Family offices putting money into oil and gas: Despite a decade of dismal returns and anti-fossil-fuel sentiment, family offices are considering large oil and gas companies that are flush with free cash flow and returning money to investors, Hart Energy reports

A rare 72-year-old Scotch is (bottoms) up for sale: It’s your chance to own a piece of distilling history. Luxury auction house Bonhams Skinner is offering a bottle of Glen Grant this month. The 1948 spirit is expected to fetch up to $100,000 at the upcoming online Rare Spirits auction June 19-29. 

Help us with a story: We’re working on a story about the intersection of hospitality and wealth management and what insights family offices can glean from top hospitality brands. If you have any comments on the topic, reach out to [email protected]