Lex van Dam, SFO Alliance
Lex van Dam has established a storied career in family offices. Beginning his finance journey at Goldman Sachs as a prop trader, he eventually found his way to Rinkelberg Capital, a Dutch single-family office based in London. His expertise within the deal space led him to his latest venture—the SFO Alliance. This membership club for the world’s wealthiest families brings together like-minded investors to brainstorm and share deal flow. Below, van Dam shares his story with Crain Currency.
You’re a seasoned single-family office professional who decided to launch a networking group for like-minded families. As we know, it’s been done before. How is the SFO Alliance different?
The big difference to other networks is that we are a peer-to-peer community of investment professionals and principals focused only on larger single-family offices, where most others let anyone in who calls themselves a single-family office. And we connect people all over the world, with a focus on the USA and Europe, where most other networks have a more local focus.
Let’s talk deals. How does the SFO Alliance help families source deals in a crowded market?
Our members suffer from a lack of bandwidth, with relatively small teams that cannot be experts in everything at all times. However, as a group, our members have a fantastic ability to source and invest in the best deals. What we aim to do is connect like-minded families that are investing in the same area at any point in time.
How is the membership constructed, and what types of benefits do members receive?
As I mentioned, we focus on large SFOs mainly in Europe and the USA. We have over 700 principals and executives from about 500 families in the network at the moment. We are very focused on only the largest, noncommercial single-family offices with assets over $400 million. We don’t charge membership fees, there is no brokerage or commission, and personal details are not shared with other members or outside parties. A lot of our members are very private and don’t want any information shared unless they choose to.
From where you sit, what’s trending now in the direct-deal space?
Some of our members only invest in funds, some only direct, and many do both. There is a recent trend toward more funds, as people have been burned in directs, especially in the tech space. There is a renewed interest in private credit, with equity-type returns and fixed-income-type risk. Sustainability is, of course, huge as well. But the other side of the coin is also trending — where people invest in opportunities that the big companies need to divest because they are not “green” enough. Space and AI remain popular, and what people like is that the pricing of deals has come down a lot — anyone with cash and an ability to write tickets is able to benefit from great valuations.
You’ve launched an annual conference to coincide with the alliance. Tell us about that.
Our big conference is called SFO Week, which is June 14-15 this year in London, and we expect about 200 large families to attend. We are no fans of fireside chats, and that is why we focus on topical, hollow-square, roundtable dialogues led by family office moderators with input from many of those present.
Some of this year’s most popular sessions are co-investing with other families, food technology, energy transition, private credit opportunities, how to position your tech portfolio for 2024, structuring the family office for success, as well as family office compensation. We, of course, have some amazing, very high-profile keynotes, but the dialogues are where the real action is. If anyone is interested, we are happy to provide complimentary tickets to qualifying readers of Crain Currency.
What is your future vision, and how do you plan to grow the SFO Alliance?
The vision is that we need 1,000 families for people to find the 10 to 20 families that they would like to talk to right now. The way we grow is by recommendation. We are a network of investment professionals, and for us, they are not a product to be sold, which is what most other networks do. We aim to be a safe place where the members have huge input in how we do things and help us improve continuously.