For family-office leaders, helping clients manage wealth is a multi-faceted task. Even with many years in the field, most feel there’s still room to learn and grow.
Following the enthusiasm for our first selection of book recommendations from industry leaders, we present another instalment featuring popular classics that helped launch careers and less obvious selections that offer financial and life-management wisdom.
Here are a few titles that your peers recommend.
Tom McCullough, chairman and CEO, Northwood Family Office, Toronto, and author of Wealth of Wisdom: The Top 50 Questions Wealth Families Ask and Family Wealth Management
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (by Chip Heath and Dan Heath): “One of my favorite business books, it answers the question, ‘Why do some ideas thrive while other ideas die?’ Everyone is in the business of trying to communicate something important to someone, from clients, co-workers, managers, to the general public, and most messages don’t really stick. There is a lot of competition for ‘mind space’ these days — think about how many important ideas you can remember from last week. For over 10 years in my practice, I have regularly employed the authors’ six-step plan to improve the stickiness of ideas.”
- The Aspirational Investor: Taming the Markets to Achieve Your Life’s Goals (by Ashvin B. Chhabra): “A great book on investing for wealthy families. The author explains why goals, not markets, should be the focus of your investment strategy. It may seem obvious, but most investors try to time or outsmart the markets and can lose track of what the money is actually for. He provides an excellent model for helping keep the attention on funding the proper goals.”
Sudharshan Sathiyamoorthy, vice president and head of research, Richter Family Office, Toronto
- The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution (by Gregory Zuckerman): “How can one resist a book that teases to ‘solve the market’? This is the fascinating story of Renaissance Technologies, a tale that takes the reader through the trials and tribulations of Jim Simons and his colleagues as they built the Medallion fund, arguably one of the most successful hedge funds in history. The fund annualized at an incredible 66 per cent return over almost three decades, and was so successful that Jim Simons returned all outside capital, keeping the fund’s magic to himself and his team of mathematicians and rocket scientists. The book doesn’t tell you the secret behind Renaissance Technologies, but it does a good job of describing how they became successful. It is partly about being at the right place at the right time, but it is also about the ingenuity of the man who didn’t build the model himself but instead built the team that built the model. The book also has anecdotes about other well-known finance and business people, including D.E. Shaw, Jeff Bezos (whose firm was called Cadabra before the name was changed to Amazon!) and George Soros. The book has something for everyone, from layperson to finance professional to historian, and allows you to reflect on how predictable human behaviour can result in billions of dollars of profit.”
Ed Giacomelli, Canadian market leader, Family Office Exchange (FOX), Toronto
- Family Wealth: Keeping It the Family (by James E. Hughes Jr.): “Family Wealth was one of the first books I read regarding family succession. It was particularly relevant in my role as the new CEO of a relatively nascent family enterprise. Our founder had articulated a 100-year vision, and achieving our goals, including to keep the family together through future generations, would require we establish a proper foundation. Family Wealth has provided me with a rich context to better understand the intricacies of preserving family wealth, and it reminds us that the answer lies within the family itself. Accordingly, we built our strategic plan focusing on serving all stakeholders and our many initiatives were very aligned with Hughes’ thoughts and philosophies. I continue to benefit from Hughes’ insights as my relationships with business families and family enterprises evolve.”
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (by Stephen R. Covey): “I read 7 Habits at a pivotal time in my life: married, two careers and newborn child. Life had become challenging, and the concept of ‘effectiveness’ resonated with me. Covey describes the seven habits in a straightforward manner and applies them to life and business. I started observing these habits in myself and others to understand how they might impact effectiveness. Some came easy, and some remain more of a work in process. On reflection, two of the habits are key. These are, ‘Put first things first,’ and ‘Seek first to understand… then to be understood.’ When these two habits are in sync, it is easier to move forward.”
Angela Smith, director of family office services, Prime Quadrant, Toronto
- Caring is Everything: Getting to the Heart of Humanity, Leadership, and Life (by David Irvine): “David Irvine has committed his life’s work to inspire and develop leaders in all walks of life. He believes that true leadership comes from the identity and integrity of the leader. I’ve had the privilege of working with David through my development as an authentic leader, which has been influential in my work with families. This book ventures into the ‘softer side’ of leadership by pushing readers to explore the true power of caring and authenticity. Through sharing personal real-life stories and exposing his vulnerabilities, David invokes insight and inspiration to build a more fulfilling life that enriches your relationships with those around you.”
- Raising Financially Fit Kids (by Joline Godfrey): “Preparing the next generation to be successful stewards of wealth starts with the development of financial fluency. This book takes a practical and engaging approach to teaching and applying financial literacy concepts to children as young as five. One aspect I love is that the book applies 10 core money skills through five different developmental stages of life. From ‘I’m Just a Kid’ to ‘It’s Never Too Late,’ this book explores everything from money personalities to the entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit. It includes age-appropriate topics and activities that enable you to actively engage the next generation in building their financial skills and awareness.”
Brent Barrie, family office director, First Affiliated Holdings Inc., Halifax
- The Wealthy Barber: The Common Sense Guide to Successful Financial Planning (by David Chilton): “It might be a cliché, but my parents gave it to me when I was in university, and because of that time in my life when I read it, this book had the most influence on me. Many years have passed, but I would still recommend it to young adults and their parents as a solid foundation in how to think about money and create financial security.”
What does success look like at the family office? Execs weigh in
‘It's not just about the money’: Q&A with author Jim Grubman
- True Family Wealth: Love, Money and An Inspired Life (by Chris Clarke): “In the family office space, I’d recommend [my colleague] Chris’s book to business owners and people with busy careers, especially those with children, or to advisors seeking to advise those clients. It’s the best book I’ve read on integrating financial success with the bigger picture issues associated with helping your children to reach their full potential.”
Kevin D. Algar, president, Algar Virtue Family CFO, Calgary
- Strangers in Paradise: How Families Adapt to Wealth Across Generations (by James Grubman): “Anyone with a family office should understand the concepts in Strangers in Paradise, which describes the clients I see among wealthy families in the real world: The avoiders. The assimilators. The integrators. I think it’s very useful for advisers to understand the nature of their clientele and the challenges that exist because of the various wealth cultures. For example, he notes that people who are poor or in the middle wealth category often exhibit ‘hostile envy,’ thinking wealthy people are undeserving and/or immoral. What happens if they become wealthy? Can they shake off their former beliefs, or do they think they are undeserving and/or immoral? The avoider chooses to ignore these issues, acting as if they have no wealth. I saw a documentary on Warren Buffett, who brags that on a certain day of the week he can get his Egg McMuffin for a few cents less. Ridiculous. In my experience there is such a high level of denial among avoiders and assimilators it’s incredibly difficult to break through. It’s such a treat to meet families that have successfully integrated wealth cultures; they take the best from the old culture and combine that with the best of the new wealth culture. It’s a beautiful thing, and they are a joy to work with.”
- How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (by Alan Jacobs): “The takeaway from this book is that to understand another person’s perspective, you need to be able to repeat it back to them such that they agree with you that you have understood them. I think an approach like this is sorely needed in today’s polarized world. It’s not easy but it gets to the essence of meaningful communication and, hopefully, progress.”
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Get the latest stories from Canadian Family Offices in our weekly newsletter. Sign up here.