Date: Jan 13 2014
One of the most frequently asked questions I get from reporters who call FOX is “How many single family offices are there?” I wish I had a good answer for them. There is a frequently quoted estimate of between 3000 and 5000 single family offices (SFO) in the United States, but no one knows where that estimate comes from. Since the real number will not come from a survey, can an estimate be gained from some other reliable data?
Organizations like Wealth-X provide reputable data on the number of ultra-high-net-worth families in countries around the world. They start counting ultra-high net worth families at $30 million in assets, a level of wealth that certainly could use the services of a family office, but it's unlikely these families would be able to afford their own single family office. The threshold of affordability of an SFO is considered to be $100 million. There are approximately 10,495 families in the United States with more than $100 million in assets.
Obviously, all these families do not have family offices. Some have their family wealth management activities managed within their family business. Others use the services of a multi-family office or other wealth advisor.
To get a ballpark estimate of independent single family offices, let’s assume that half of those with $100-250 million in assets have some form of family office. The percentage is probably higher for those over $250 million, because they have greater need, can afford it, and probably demand the privacy and control that an SFO brings. Assume 75% of them have family offices. That simple calculus results in 6000 single family offices in the United States (see the calculation below).
This may not be exact, but it gets you in the ballpark. Any other suggestions on looking at this issue are welcome.