Schwab acted as a custodian to 88 family offices as of the end of 2008, including 14 of the 20 largest family offices in the nation, according to Schwab.

That amounts to about $33 billion in custodied assets, which Schwab feels could double over the next four to five years.

Schwab's family office services are more intensive, and are often called upon to be speedy and streamlined. In one example, Sallenave notes, a family office gave Schwab an hour's notice to wire money to a client who needed it for a car auction in Europe.

Schwab has also noticed a demand for help handling clients' lending needs, she adds.

"It's much more about speed and attention," she says.

Schwab considers family offices to be shops serving multiple generations of families with at least $25 million in wealth, with a breadth of services that extends beyond wealth management and into lifestyle management, she says.

GenSpring Buys Epic Advisors
GenSpring Family Offices announced the acquisition of Denver-based Epic Advisors, creating a combined firm with more than $17 billion under advisement.

Epic is a multifamily office serving families in 11 states in the west. The acquisition gives GenSpring, based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., a presence in Denver, Phoenix and all along the East Coast.

GenSpring is a wealth management firm serving ultra-high-net-worth clients.

"Epic's location in Denver accelerates our strategy of creating a national and international market leader that squarely sits on the family's side of the table and uses its collective power and resources solely for their benefit," says Maria Elena Lagomasino, CEO of GenSpring.