The coronavirus continues to have an unprecedented human and economic toll, and as we face our “new normal,” no sector of the economy is immune to the potential impact or resulting downturn, including family offices.

Wealthy families and family offices, like many others, are facing new challenges and unforeseen changes in the wake of this crisis. While the world is healing and our society recovers from the impact of COVID-19, families and family offices should be debriefing: Was the family prepared for something like this? What steps could have been taken to prepare sooner, and what can we learn from our missteps? What can we implement now to prevent future losses or risks?

The most common question? How do we navigate the current environment and prepare for future chaotic situations? The following issues should be top of mind:

1. Technology
The value of technology has never been more obvious than today; what’s less obvious are the risks our increased reliance on technology can potentially expose. Leveraging technology to play a critical role in disaster planning, whether it pertains to personal and residential security, cyber protection or simply the ability to work effectively from home long term, is critical.

Perform regular tests on your security systems and processes and ensure every family member is properly trained to utilize this system. In addition to implementing systems to protect your home, take steps to protect online data by doing simple things such as changing passwords, implementing high-end data back-up and fraud detection systems. Evaluate document storage options to protect and save critical family documents (wills, trusts, titles, insurance documents, etc.) in one place. Unfortunately, crises increase our vulnerability to cyber-attacks and open windows of opportunity for cyber criminals who may try to access key reporting systems and private data. We are even more vulnerable when working from home. Implementing formal security protocols along with education can prevent the loss of critical and confidential family information.

Finally, seek professional advice regarding wiring your home to support extended periods of remote work. Confirming the strength of your IT infrastructure, bandwidth, network security and records management will minimize disruptions and keep your operation moving forward.

2. Households And Residences
Given varying travel restrictions, secondary residences may not currently be accessible. This increases the importance of having a management company or local security team to aid with physical surveillance and protection. Appoint someone you trust to manage your non-primary residence(s). If this individual or institution is unable to work, identify steps to ensure your home is secured and implement household staff mitigation strategies.  

For your primary residence, added layers of precaution for household staff should be considered.  This could include screening employees prior to entry in the home, requiring protective measures such as facemasks, or even providing uniforms that are left at the residence, cleaned and reused only at that site. Home entry sanitization stations can easily be established in a garage or mudroom. Once in place, protocols should be followed rigorously without exception.

Like most of the world, many ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) families and family offices were caught off guard by COVID-19 and lacked the proper safety and everyday essentials in their residences.  On the contrary, some family offices have been preparing for years and thus have stockpiles of masks, cleaning supplies, rations, etc.  Having some level of emergency inventory may make sense given this “new normal.”

3. Health Care
Planning for events that seem unlikely may save your loved ones from having to make difficult decisions on your behalf. It can also keep your family united during crucial moments, knowing they have your best interests in mind.  

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