Interview with Lea Boyce, Director, Boyce Family Office, Australia

Nobody understands a family office like another family office. Husband and wife team Richard and Lea Boyce are living proof: Through their multi-family office Boyce Family Office based out of Melbourne, Australia they offer uniquely tailored solutions for like-minded families of wealth. Representing the 5th generation of their own family legacies, Lea and Richard have spent the last 18 years providing these services across generations.

Lea Boyce’s involvement in the family office sector was a natural extension of her experience working in leadership development with large family businesses. Her areas of speciality include business investments, family office, succession, governance, and philanthropy. She is also active in the anthropological studies of generational family relationships.

Tharawat Magazine sat down with Lea Boyce to discuss the challenges and opportunities involved in long-term strategic planning for family wealth in Australia and around the world.

Tell us more about the history of the Boyce Family Office.

We set up the business in 2000 to manage our own portfolio of assets that were sitting outside of our core trading business that employed around 150 staff and was a 2nd generation family business in the financial services sector. Part of that core business was looking after large multi-generational family businesses. This enabled us to do a lot of research and see what was happening first hand in generational families. We went on to conduct further research, not only in Australia, but across what was happening in the US, in Europe, and across Asia Pacific. What we learned is that we wanted to have a more coordinated approach to managing our own portfolio of assets across property, listed equities, and direct investments.

At that stage, the family office was a new concept in Australia, very much in its infancy. Australian and New Zealand generational wealth has really occurred over the last 40 to 50 years as a result of European migration and is now moving into through the second, third and fourth generations. The centenary families that you have in Europe, are a wonderful example to learn from and we are starting to create our generational dynasties.

Through our staff and network of advisors, we set about creating an environment for growing investment opportunities both within our own family and with other families. We also operate a specialist consulting division of Boyce Family Office as Family Capital 100. Family Capital 100 provides consulting services across governance, succession, planning, and infrastructure for multi-generational families across the globe.

One would imagine there was a lack of opportunity for getting advice and expert consultation on those types of issues which are specific to family-owned businesses. 

Precisely! Our approach is to manage our portfolio of assets for multiple generations according to what we call the ‘F.I.S.H principles’. FISH stands for Financial, Infrastructure, Social, and Human Capital. It’s easy to have your main focus on financial capital and sometimes forget about the other factors. Family offices are now covering those areas that are not covered by traditional wealth advisors.

STRATEGY: Boyce Family Office – Preserving and Growing Family Wealth in Australia
Image courtesy of Boyce Family Office

You and Richard both come from long lines of entrepreneurial families. Do you feel like you are different from other boutique multi-family offices in your approach?

The one thing that Richard and I always talk about is the unique nature of the family office. A family can be very nimble, entrepreneurial, and can turn on a dime very quickly. Whereas, when you’re dealing with a large organisation or an institution, they don’t have that flexibility. I think that naturally, the family office lends itself to those of a more entrepreneurial spirit. Both Richard and I have come from families that have very much embraced and encouraged that. They have allowed for each generation to go out and seek opportunities and provide the appropriate support. I don’t think there’s a one size fits all approach to the family office.

What is your favourite part of what you do today with Boyce Family Office?

Richard and I are very much about enabling people. It’s a big part of what we do. When people come to us and ask us how to take their business to the next level, or how to fund another startup, that is the part of the work we enjoy the most. It’s really about working with our clients’ unique needs. Bringing in the right team to help them achieve their goals. Finding the resources that they need and being an enabler and an accelerator.

Why do you believe the family offices conversation has gained such momentum over, the past ten years?

I think that with the increased number of family offices, globally, we are experiencing increased awareness of the topic. But, it’s also the fact that borders are less important. The world is becoming smaller. We’re more readily able to see what others are doing and work closely with them. I also think that the nature of investing has changed. Investors are looking for more than transactions from corporate and institutional investing and are moving more into the private equity transactions. They’re looking for particular returns, and they’re not necessarily getting those returns from an institutional investment.

We’ve seen an increase in multi-generational family wealth, especially throughout Asia Pacific over the last 25 years. With the increase in wealth, there’s a natural progression families go through. They diversify and invest more broadly. The global trend is that families are looking for sustainable management for their generational wealth. And it’s really going from the idea of business management to investment management, as they move from the day to day running of their core businesses to the management of generational wealth. I think these are some of the key reasons for the increase in attention to family offices.

How much of the family office creation do you think has been spurred on by the family seeing the need to be an investment partner for new ventures of the next generation? Do you see that happening in Australia?  

Absolutely. But some families don’t necessarily see that as a catalyst for setting up their family office. The starting point is so unique and so dynamic that there is no set of rules that dictate a uniform approach. It’s different for every family, and a true family office is very customised to the family. The succession of wealth is a process, not an endpoint so one needs to be constantly working on outcomes in a changing environment.

Very often it might be the sale of a core business that motivates families to look into setting up a family office other times it might be just to invest the returns across a portfolio that the core business generates. No matter the incentive, every family needs to ask itself what’s the purpose of their capital. When you are running a family office, you’re planning generations ahead. You’re not planning for next week, next year or your retirement. You’re planning for the retirement of your great-grandchildren and beyond. It’s a different mindset when you are working in a family office than in a family business.

STRATEGY: Boyce Family Office – Preserving and Growing Family Wealth in Australia
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So, when a family faces the daunting task of either restructuring or starting out a family office structure, what are the things that you and Richard would identify as the typical pitfalls in creating a first structure?

It is advisable to have a third-party involved that can help the family set up a clear structure. I think that setting the guidelines around roles and responsibilities is also crucially important. If the family is involved in making those decisions, then they are more likely to be on board with them and be engaged and committed.

I think the family needs to be on top of the governance. Even if you then have a non-family member who needs to make a decision, the framework is set by the family.

What are the technologies that are coming forward today that will impact the family office and the running of the family office?

We have so many digital platforms now that we are reducing overheads. We’ve obviously had access to artificial intelligence and more. I think we have to be nimble in a changing market. Technology is a benefit, but what worries me would be around family’s exposure to cyber-security issues. This is something that family offices need to be thinking about as we enter this digital age.

What do you think is the future for family offices in Australia and New Zealand? 

We’ll continue to see growth in family businesses and consequently their wealth. They really make up the bulk of our economy. The general public doesn’t have as much trust in governments and corporate businesses as they do in family businesses. As long as families are creating wealth, they are going to have points where they are going to need to look at family office structures.

And, I think you’ll see more boutique multi-family offices, perhaps like Boyce Family Office, who are looking after a small number of like-minded, private families, that are co-investing together.