What Can Family Offices Teach The World Right Now?

Here at Alea Global Group we are honoured to be part of a worldwide network of family offices. These family offices are spread across different parts of the world, with very different business interests, and on very different scales, but we share a common experience. That experience is one of building relationships in a modern international business arena, in a way which honours and builds on one’s own family legacy and national identity. Sometimes this legacy goes back so many generations that its origins are far from living memory. When compared with many other kinds of corporate entities, family offices have elements of history, personality and purpose which are entirely unique, and have nothing to do with monetary gain. This means that our decisions don’t always make good business sense, because they are really about something deeper. It has always brought us great satisfaction at Alea to work with people who have a very different experience of the world, to collaborate on projects which have a common good. We have had the uplifting experience of hosting and being present at events where people who should – according to their backgrounds – be enemies, but who enter the room in a spirit of collaboration and go on to do great things together.

Therefore it saddens us to see such division as has been caused by the reprinting of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Not simply because our own family office is of Muslim faith and heritage, but because this kind of gesture does nothing but create needless division between faiths, cultures and countries which ultimately sets us all back. It causes great offence to so many people – offence which we believe should never be answered with violence. A free press and free speech are essential, and so too is respect for other people’s beliefs, experiences and perspectives. Where difficult issues arise, we must be able to address these with respectful debate. It is our belief that initially printing the images was an unkindness to all real Muslims, and it is also our belief that those who respond with violence are not real Muslims and committed a terrible and unjustified act. To answer this act with a further unkindness to all real Muslims has little justification and makes little sense.

This is how representatives from warring nations come together in business, and how family offices build their legacies – often as the leaders in healing international rifts. The ongoing violence in America which has come to characterise the race relations crisis; a crisis which was sparked initially by the rejection of such violence. In the chaos that has ensued, all those who care deeply about truth and justice are being mobilised and encouraged to choose one political party or another, and to fight each other on behalf of those parties as they head into an election.

This is short term politics, not long term humanity. We believe that there is a bigger battle to fight – a battle against any attempts to divide us by race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality. We believe that family offices around the world already understand the best way to do this, which is through kindness, mutual respect, and working together towards the common good.

Family offices are very accustomed to treading the line between honouring one’s own cultural customs, personal principles, business ethos and family legacy, and also respecting the customs, principles, ethos and legacy of every other family office member we meet. These relationships are deeper than business. We must act honourably and appeal to the honour in the other person so that – even if we walk away without reaching an agreement – we are still able to speak fruitfully again in the future.

Our business as family offices is deeply personal, and deeply rooted in the places generations of our family have called home. We are part of a lineage which we hope will extend beyond our own lifetimes and make our great great grandchildren proud. And so to climate change, again an instance in which family offices are uniquely placed to do good.

Not only do we invest heavily in a future much more long term than our corporate counterparts, but we do so with a love for our own countries that defies all business sense. It is our great wish to see our own country flourish, wherever we are in the world, and we recognise that taking care of it means investing in sustainability for sustainability’s sake. This is not corporate social responsibility, it is responsibility. With these three principles – a respect for our differences, an attempt to reach unity, and a responsibility for our own homes – we believe we could all navigate to a better place. You perhaps may disagree, and we (of course) respect that.