The chores of paying bills, keeping ledger records, reporting on investments, capital calls and other tasks may not make the blood race, but these tasks can make the difference between a family office that works and one that turns into a wreck. As tasks mount, so does the need for solutions. We talk to a firm operating in the space.
When people want a service or product, but no-one is providing it, some of the best business ideas stem from making it oneself. Consider craft beers made by enthusiasts who wanted something tastier. They ended up spawning a multi-billion sector.
With family offices, a similar development can be seen. An example in the sector is Rockit® Solutions, which came out of an internal technology development effort at the wealth management firm founded by the Rockefeller family – hence the “Rockit” name. In 2016, that entity became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fi-Tek, and still serves family offices, among others. The trend of wealth management firms taking their own technology and business systems and selling or licencing the content to outsiders is not completely new, but the rise of organizations such as Rockit points to an interesting way ahead. These businesses are managed by people who have gotten their hands dirty trying to figure out their own firms’ needs before selling an idea to outside businesses.
Another such firm is Eton Solutions, created from Eton Advisors, a multi-family office, as its own company in 2015. And in February this year, Eton Solutions launched AtlasFive 2.0. The new solution, its creators say, enables new levels of process efficiency, data accuracy and accessibility, and risk reduction for ultra-high net worth family wealth management offices.
AtlasFive 2.0 is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for managing the complexities of family offices and is the comprehensive technology platform that seamlessly connects all data, services, and stakeholders within family offices.
The process of handling the bills, ledgers, reports and other tasks has traditionally been highly labor-intensive; it has to be stored and such information has typically sat in different files and places in a firm. This also adds to the risks of making mistakes. He gave the case of what happens with a capital call – the whole process requires work on six or seven systems and, as more calls come in, the workload explodes.
“These are the kind of things where there has just got to be a better way….and that is what our system does,” Rob Mallernee, founder and chief executive of the MFO and Eton Solutions, told Family Wealth Report in an interview. Eton Advisors works with about 40 families in the US, many of them billionaire families. Mallernee started as a CPA working for Arthur Andersen and then headed for a North Carolina trust company. Mallernee wanted to build a business process and during the early 2000s went through a set of foundations, ending up at US Trust and UBS.
Eton Solutions was created from the MFO as its own company in 2015. It moved to the Microsoft Azure cloud in 2020. The group has 28 clients and administers $450 billion of assets. It covers tasks such as ledgers, bill payments, financial reporting, and CRM systems This is a big, if not always particularly “glamorous” business.