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Our Board and CEO Services team partners with CEOs and boards to understand issues, assess opportunities, and strategically advise to ensure sustainable growth strategies are optimized.
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Insider’s Perspective: Selecting Your Next Chief Investment Officer

Finding the right Chief Investment Officer (CIO) for a family office has become more complex over the past several years. From our experience working with a wide range of well-established to newly developed family offices, we have found an interesting trend emerging among the most effective CIOs in the marketplace. While undoubtably investment acumen and intelligence are paramount, there are three leadership behaviors and characteristics we have found that ultimately determine the fit and success of a CIO within a family office.

  • Ability to Connect and Engage: Family offices are unique in that they serve the specific needs and objectives of a highly successful and prominent family. A CIO must understand and align with the values and goals of the family to ensure that investment strategies and activities are tailored appropriately. This alignment helps in making decisions that not only generate returns but also resonate with the family’s long-term vision and ethical preferences. A CIO who understands and shares the family’s mission can more effectively lead, build, and motivate their team. This shared sense of purpose helps in creating a cohesive work environment where the team is committed to the family’s objectives.
  • Ability to Learn and Adapt: For the CIO, continuous learning is fundamental to remaining effective, compliant, and competitive in a fast-paced and ever-changing marketplace. In our evaluation process, we have found it is imperative for the family to understand what information sources CIOs utilize and how they process and absorb information to develop knowledge and make decisions. We always seek to understand how a CIO responds and adapts to the environment and circumstances surrounding them and how they can realign their actions based upon new information.  
  • Having Trust and Discretion: Competence is insufficient without character. As trust is the critical component in family offices, one’s moral quotient (MQ) is fundamental. The family needs to understand what values the CIO stands for and how they will lead and manage so that everyone is aligned. This is especially important in a context where decisions are deeply personal and can impact multiple generations. For many families, the family office is far more than a financial management entity; it is a custodian of the family’s reputation and legacy. Trust and discretion are essential in ensuring that this legacy is preserved and passed on to future generations in line with the family’s values and desired impact. 

Selecting the right CIO for a family office requires a careful balance of technical ability and personal qualities. The ideal candidate will align with the family’s vision and values, fit well within the unique culture of the family office, possess a mix of broad business skills and specialized expertise, and demonstrate strong leadership, strategic vision, and empathy. These characteristics will help ensure that the new CIO can successfully manage the family’s wealth and contribute positively to the family office’s long-term financial and non-financial goals.

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Brett Stephens is the CEO of RSR Partners and helps lead the firm’s Board & CEO Services and Jane Bierwirth is the Head of the firm’s Family Office Practice.  

RSR Partners is a boutique professional services firm headquartered in Greenwich, CT, that specializes in helping Boards and CEOs with their most critical recruiting, selection, and succession needs. The firm was founded in 1993 by industry icon Russell S. Reynolds, Jr. The firm has conducted thousands of projects for Boards and CEOs at public, private equity-backed, and family-owned businesses. The firm’s Asset Management Practice, which builds upon the legacy of Higdon Partners and its 30-plus years of experience, has become a premier asset management search and advisory team uniquely positioned to address the changing leadership needs of the $100 trillion asset management industry.