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As the number of ultra-high-net-worth people swells, so too does the pay for those who oversee their assets.

C-suite pay at family offices is surging, according to a report by UBS and researcher Campden Wealth. The average base salary for a chief executive officer jumped almost 10% to $367,000 this year from 2016, while chief investment officers got an increase of 8% to $314,000.

Family office investment returns saw a rebound last year. Returns averaged 7% in 2016, compared with 0.3% the year before, according to the report, issued Tuesday. The gains were strongest among North American firms, which had less money invested in real-estate than their international counterparts.

“The rebound can largely be attributed to two factors, better performance in equity markets and improved returns due to allocation shifts,” head of global family office for the Americas at UBS Stewart Kesmodel said. With investors moving out of fixed income and hedge funds, “those dollars have flowed into private equity, operating companies and cash flow producing assets such real estate,” he continued.

With bonuses, which can account for half of total pay, the average pay for a North American family office CEO totaled $631,000, the highest among geographic regions. European family office CEOs made $497,000.

As with much of the investment world, the best-paid executives are predominately male. Women accounted for only 7.7% of family office CEOs and 13.2% of CIOs. Women appeared more frequently as chief operations officers and chief financial officers.

Traditionally set up to manage the accounting and tax planning affairs of a wealthy clan, family offices are growing in size and complexity, in some cases even beginning to resemble small hedge funds or investment banks. They’ve been poaching talent from Wall Street, taking advantage of challenges elsewhere in the investment management world to build in-house staff.

Overall, the nation's wealthy are expected to add to their growing fortunes in the years ahead.
June 15

“Those family offices which are looking beyond preservation of capital have become more aggressive in their thesis, as well as, the talent they hire for execution,” Kesmodel said.

Returns have risen as families embraced risk by pushing cash toward public and private equity investments. Public stock investments comprise 27.1% of families’ allocations this year, while private equity investments are 20.3% of portfolios, the report said.

Family offices also continued their steady march away from hedge funds, echoing other institutional investors’ concerns about high fees and poor performance. Hedge fund allocations have declined to an average of 7.1% in 2017 from 8% in 2016, despite improved performance.

Equities will remain a strong component of portfolios, according to the report, as most family offices plan to maintain their allocations. Family offices are looking to emerging markets for opportunities: 44% of those surveyed said they plan to allocate more money to developing market stocks, while just 21% said they intended to boost developed market stock exposure.

UBS, the world’s largest wealth manager, is competing with banks including rival Credit Suisse to lure the very wealthy to manage part of their riches. In the first half of 2017, UBS managed 831 billion francs ($870 billion) of ultra-high-net worth money, an increase of 12%. However, private banks remain under relentless pressure as negative or low interest rates, the reluctance of wealthy clients to put their cash to work and competition from lower-fee passive strategies weigh on margins.

Bloomberg News