The innovation challenge for family offices

Opinion 23.04.2024

The innovation challenge for family offices

The intersection of family offices and innovation is both complex and crucial, framing a narrative of potential, challenges and societal impact.

Simple Expert Kjartan Rist explores the growing influence of family offices in the global market and their potential to shape the future of innovation across various industries.

What you need to know

  • Family offices have experienced exponential growth over the last decade, positioning them as significant players in the global economy.
  • While family offices possess a long-term outlook conducive to innovation, they often face hurdles such as risk aversion and lack of expertise.
  • Partnering with entrepreneurs not only accelerates the path to innovation but also ensures that the ventures undertaken have a lasting impact on society.

Akio Morita, the legendary former CEO of Sony Corporation, once famously stated, “Innovate or Die!” This mantra still resonates strongly today.

The essence of innovation remains pivotal across societies and within the realm of family offices. These entities have grown not only in number but also in economic significance over the last few years, wielding considerable increasing influence in the global market.

The intersection of family offices and innovation is both complex and crucial, framing a narrative of potential, challenges and societal impact.

The rise of family offices

Over the last decade, family offices have witnessed exponential growth in both numbers and the wealth they have accumulated. This proliferation has transformed them into pivotal players in the world economy. As private wealth increases, these entities are uniquely positioned to channel significant investments into various sectors, underscoring their importance beyond traditional wealth management.

Increased investment expectations

With the accumulation of wealth, there’s an expectation—and indeed, an observable trend—that family offices will assume a larger portion of global investments. This shift not only highlights their financial clout but also the potential role they could play in spearheading innovation.

The nature of innovation

Innovation is neither spontaneous nor effortless. It demands time, intellect, and patience to forge breakthroughs that significantly advance societal progress. Behind every innovation is the willingness to invest and to bear the associated risks. This process underscores the arduous journey from conception to realisation, which is fraught with challenges in measuring progress and ensuring tangible societal benefits.

The question of whether family offices are inherently innovative is met with mixed responses.


  • Strategic flexibility: Family Offices often have the autonomy to make swift decisions, unencumbered by the bureaucratic constraints that large institutions might face.
  • Long-term outlook: With no pressing need for immediate returns, Family Offices can afford to invest in long-term projects that promise innovation.
  • Personal commitment: The personal stake and involvement in investments can drive a deeper commitment to nurturing innovative ventures.


  • Risk aversion: The primary goal of preserving family wealth can make Family Offices cautious, potentially sidelining high-risk, high-reward, innovative investments.
  • Lack of expertise: Without the requisite expertise in emerging technologies or sectors, Family Offices may hesitate to venture into uncharted territories.
  • Operational limitations: Smaller teams and a focus on traditional investment areas might limit the capacity for groundbreaking innovation.

Global innovation imperatives

The contemporary world is replete with challenges that demand innovative solutions. From combating climate change through renewable energy technologies to advancing healthcare via biotechnology and AI, the need for substantive progress is unmistakable. Other areas ripe for innovation include sustainable agriculture, education technology, ageing population and digital finance solutions aimed at improving inclusivity.

Family offices and innovation: A natural synergy?

Family offices should be uniquely equipped and positioned to engage with innovation, thanks to their considerable resources, long-term investment horizons, and the personal passion of their principals. Their potential to act as catalysts for change aligns well with global innovation imperatives, suggesting a natural predisposition towards fostering significant advancements.

Crafting the ideal partnership

The optimal symbiosis between family offices and entrepreneurs embodies a relationship built on trust, shared vision, and mutual respect. Such a partnership leverages the strengths of both parties: the visionary zeal of the entrepreneur and the strategic assets of the family office. This alliance not only accelerates the path to innovation but also ensures that the ventures undertaken have a lasting impact on society.


As family offices continue to carve out their space in the global economy, their potential role in driving innovation becomes increasingly significant. Aligning their considerable resources and investment capabilities with the entrepreneurial spirit offers a promising avenue for addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges. In this evolving landscape, family offices stand at the crossroads of wealth preservation and societal progress, embodying the potential to not just participate in but actively shape the future of innovation.