60-second interview with Mark McMullen

Mark McMullen, 16/3/2017

Mark McMullen is CEO, Family Office, at Stonehage Fleming in Geneva. 

What is your role within your firm?

I am CEO of our family office division, and also serve as a key advisor to a number of high net worth international families.

How did it feel to win a STEP Private Client Award?

It is a real honour to be awarded the Multi-Family Office of the Year Award by STEP for the second consecutive year. We strive to set new standards of excellence for the wealth management industry, putting the family at the heart of everything we do, and are proud of this continued recognition as we work toward our goal of becoming one of the world’s leading family offices.

Why is winning a STEP PCA important to your firm?

The STEP PCA is a clear mark of quality, and winning it is a further endorsement of our reputation, our commitment to the international private wealth sector and of the high standards our team consistently delivers. The award is recognised by peers and clients and is a huge motivator for our staff.

What are the main challenges facing your organisation/practitioners at the moment?

I see two main issues – one facing our business and one facing our clients. The strength of our defences around client data is top of our minds for us as an organisation. Storing valuable information that is often regulated, potentially sensitive and private, makes it essential we remain diligent in protecting our clients’ data.

For our clients, a sensitive and well-constructed approach to governance and succession planning should be a priority. Our recent thought piece, Four Pillars of Capital for the Twenty-First Century, highlighted quite stark differences between the generations’ views on succession planning.

How will you deal with these challenges?

We are constantly investing in technology and ways to further strengthen our security across the group, offering clients the peace of mind that their data is protected. Firstly it is all about employing the right people, who really understand security and follow best practice, and educating them on changing trends and technology. Outside the technology team we also implement rigorous staff training across the group through our risk and compliance departments. Secondly, we are continually evaluating our security, running daily automated testing on internet points and regular independent penetrating testing through world specialists.

Intergenerational transfer is a crucial part of what we do, and we believe passionately that helping families identify and articulate the purpose of their wealth is as important as its management. We have extensive experience in this area, which the judges were kind enough to highlight, as well as promoting education and engagement with the next generation, through running two courses annually in the UK.

What do you like best about your job?

I have the opportunity to work with dynamic and stimulating people – both clients and colleagues.

.. and what do you feel is most worthwhile?

As trusted advisors, we are in the business of helping families preserve and grow their wealth. Building relationships to enable us to help them in this way, is demanding but very rewarding.

What would you say to a young person thinking of a career in this industry?

Experience will only be acquired over time, so technical competence (validated where possible through appropriate qualifications) is a vital starting point. And take technology very seriously.

Where do you see future growth, both in terms of sectors and jurisdictions?

We are the leading family office in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, looking after a core group of some 250 families. We have an abundance of opportunity to further increase our client base within the region, including in the UK.

In addition, we have always believed that you cannot serve families properly without the experience of dealing with their US based interests and family members, and have had a presence in the US for a number of years – we see significant growth potential here too.

Which social media channels do you use and why?

Social media is an increasingly important, particularly when it comes to engaging with the next generation. We are just starting to use Twitter (@SF_FamilyOffice) and Linked In to raise brand awareness for the Stonehage Fleming Group and strengthen our professional networks. We also recognise the contribution our employees could make in shaping industry conversation, and will start to explore this via social media in the future.

Mark McMullen joined the Stonehage Fleming Group in 2001 and was based in its Neuchatel office before moving to Geneva in 2009. Prior to this he worked for four years in London with DLJ and CSFB. Mark completed his professional training with Deloitte and Touche in South Africa and the USA. He is a chartered accountant and has a Bachelor of Commerce degree and postgraduate diploma in accountancy from the University of Cape Town. He is a member of SAICA and affiliate member of STEP.