While recognizing the potential problems of family ownership, the Pitcairns consider family ownership and family participation in the firm as assets that help distinguish it from many others in the multifamily-office arena.

The family is more sensitive to clients' interests, they say, because it is a client of the same services. And generations of keeping a very large family and its wealth intact -- understanding how, as Junge puts it, "at the margins, over time, things tend to decay" -- is experience the firm can share with others.

"We can talk at a very high and very deep level" about family governance and stewardship of both businesses and wealth, he says. He recounted the example of a Chicago-based family that came to Pitcairn looking for corporate trustee services. The Pitcairns realized that, while the client family's operating business had strategic goals, the family itself had none with regard to managing its wealth.

The Pitcairn firm helped them make key appointments to a family foundation and investment council, among other things. The Chicago family's patriarch, in his 70s, teared up while expressing his gratitude. He'd been trying to get such a structure in shape for years, Junge recalled, "and it took about 15 minutes to finally do it."


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