Edward Marshall, Dentons
Edward Marshall is the global head of the family office and high-net-worth sector at Dentons, a multinational law firm with locations in more than 80 countries. Before that, he served family offices at Credit Suisse, Citibank and Boston Private. Marshall is also a senior adviser to the Ultra High Net Worth Institute, a think tank that promotes best practices and professional development in family wealth.
Dentons recently did a survey of 188 family offices from 32 countries that focused on direct investing. What findings stood out to you the most?
There are a lot of hypotheses [about family offices] and information that seems intuitive, but until you see the data, it’s very hard to prove. For example, in the U.S. there’s this notion that family offices want to work together on direct deals and deal flow. Well, in the Middle East, it’s very different. We asked them how often do you work with other family offices, and the answer was very low. It could be for a lot of different reasons. Maybe the family office is an extension of the family business, and there are fewer external people working with them. It could be the types of deal flow that they’re looking at compared to Europe or North America.
Obviously, the post-pandemic American workplace is very different, with a focus on remote work, new technologies, even changing norms on governance. When it comes to working at a family office, what changes do you foresee in the next few years?
On the human-capital side, the demand for people to get into the family-office side is huge. But there is a big shortage of talent. It’s not keeping up with the demand, and it’s kind of changing how some of these family-office talent searches are going. I think some families are surprised by what the compensation is now for a lot of these roles as compared to just a year or two ago.
What kind of roles are most in demand?
It’s hard to say because every family office is a reflection of the individual office. So maybe one family values the CIO role, one family values the CFO role, and one values the kind of integrator role of the COO.
Are there lessons you could share for other professionals dealing with family offices in terms of how they operate, succession issues, philanthropy?
This notion that if you’ve seen one family office, you’ve seen one family office — I don’t believe it, because otherwise, you couldn’t study or learn anything about them. When you work with families — family businesses, family offices — you start to see patterns of what successful families do. They focus on strategies and how things get done instead of constant firefighting. That’s challenging. But at the end of the day, people have to realize that family offices are a reflection of the principal, a reflection of the wealth holders and the family. And that can be a challenge for people who come out of a very large company or investment firm and have different experiences there.
Do you see any major regulatory changes coming over the next year?
Less on the single-family-office side. The regulators are looking at a number of issues. One of them is off-channel communications [business-related texts on personal devices and numbers]. But I can’t think of something else right now that would be similar to the concerns [over new rules and regulations] that people had a year and a half ago.
Interview conducted by Marcus Baram