Family offices made few dramatic strategic changes in their investment policies due to the upheavals of 2008 and 2009, although they did increase cash reserves and liquidity, according to a new study by Cambridge Associates in Boston.

Instead, ultra-high-net-worth families seemed well positioned to ride out the market turmoil, according to the study.

The survey looked at 40 single-family offices in the United States and Europe that serve families with median incomes of $534 million. Cambridge provides independent investment advice and research to institutional investors and private clients.

Few strategic shifts were made by the families, according to the report. Instead, tactical steps were taken to adjust cash management and liquidity, with 62% increasing liquidity and cash reserves and 43% reducing some risk. Cash positions rose from 7.5% before 2008 to 9.6% now.

Nearly half of the single-family offices rebalanced parts of the portfolio and 41% conducted more projections of cash flow and capital calls.

"We believe that family offices increased focus on liquidity and cash reserves now will position them well to take advantage of future market opportunities, such as European distressed debt," said Douglas Macauley, Cambridge Associates managing director.

Some changes were made to family office oversight, with 71% reporting amending performance monitoring and review of investment managers. Nearly half of the respondents updated the due diligence applied to the manager hiring process, but only a third added more risk metrics to performance reporting or to their policy statements.

A majority (83%) have either increased the use of external consultants or kept the number constant since 2008.

"It's evident from the research that family offices were already well configured and although in many cases they tactically made adjustments, strategically most were prepared going into the financial crisis," Macauley said.

-Karen DeMasters