Discover Advanced Certificate in Family Business Advising

Tuesday, 01 May 2012
Advanced Certificate in Family Business Advising aimed at anyone working or wishing to work with family businesses.

Last year, STEP and CLT International launched a certificate aimed at anyone working or wishing to work with family businesses. Family organisations represent a vast market for advisors from various professions, including law, accounting, wealth advising, banking and management consulting. The clients include family businesses, ranging from some of the largest and best-known corporate names to the vast majority of small and medium-sized firms. They also represent families of wealth who may or may not own an operating business but who remain connected through the collective ownership and enjoyment of their accumulated or inherited wealth, such as property, financial investments and collections.

It is now accepted that advising these clients entails helping them to balance the needs of the family and their professional activities. This becomes increasingly challenging because the family business tends to become more complex over time.

Ownership of assets in the family business often fragments as it passes down the generations or changes form through the introduction of structures to consolidate ownership, such as trusts. The family demographic usually expands and the family business assets grow, diversify and perhaps contract.

To deal with these challenges it is obviously important for the client to receive the best technical advice available, but business families do not identify their lives and relationships as just a series of technical problems to which there are proficient technical answers. The client may, in fact, think ‘if only life was that simple’.

The challenge facing the client is how to make crucial decisions about the transfer of wealth, power, roles and titles while being fair and considerate with the family and their legacy. Advisors who seek to provide a superior service to these clients should combine their technical specialisms with new ideas from the family business body of knowledge, such as:

  • Understanding the family business client as a complex system of interacting and often competing self-interests.
  • How these interests develop and change in predictable ways.
  • How to use this knowledge to articulate the choices facing a family at crucial times, such as during succession planning.
  • Understanding that family governance is a critical part of any strategy that seeks to optimise all forms of a family’s wealth.
  • Why conflict in a family business is natural, rather than unusual, and how to advise effectively in this context.
  • How to navigate clients through the essential stages of succession planning so that the plan is implemented.

Accessing the family business body of knowledge will enable advisors from different professions, ranging across many specialisms, to push the boundaries of their respective professions and come up with innovative strategies for developing, managing and preserving the family business.

Advisors should combine technical specialisms with new ideas from the family business body of knowledge

Family business clients increasingly expect their advisors to be able to demonstrate a strong interest in and commitment to the family business field in addition to being up to date in their own specialism. Advisors therefore need to decide how to respond to the changing demands in this new market.

There is always a temptation to offer existing specialisms in a new ‘family business’ wrapper. While this process of repackaging and marketing existing services is understandable, it cannot disguise the fact that there is now an opportunity for advisors to establish new benchmarks for advising family businesses.

The STEP Advanced Certificate in Family Business Advising provides advisors with a comprehensive and practical introduction to the key models and frameworks from the family business field that all advisors can use to help their clients. It is hoped that this will help advisors who want to specialise in advising family businesses from within their own professions to distinguish their offering from others who do not want to invest in developing new skills for this market.

Co-author of the Certificate Ha˚kan Hillerström TEP said: ‘Most professional advisors don’t really know their client. They may have met one or two family members but that doesn’t mean they know their client. They need a broader sense of who the family is.

‘One thing the new Certificate teaches is how to create a family tree or genogram. I predict that in ten years, every bank, trust company and law firm will be obliged to have one of these as part of their legal framework.’

Find out about the STEP Advanced Certificate in Family Business Advising

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Nigel Race

Nigel Race is Director of Professional Development at STEP.

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