Linda Mack of Mack International moderated a session during the North American Family Office Conference sponsored by Campden Wealth, November 26-28 in Boston, MA.

Linda Mack of Mack International conducted an interview with Jim Field, President of Okabena Company during a session on Aligning Expectations and Strategies Across the Family Office during the 13th North American Family Office Conference sponsored by Campden Wealth.  

Chicago, IlLinda C. Mack of Mack International recently moderated a session during the 13th North American Family Office Conference sponsored by Campden Wealth, November 26-28 in Boston, MA. This years’ conference was attended by business owning and financial families, along with significant private investors and their family offices. The sessions were dedicated to investment trends, a deeper look at talent and improving Family Office efficiencies, specifically exploring how CEOs and families can make their enterprises deliver more value.

Linda’s session, entitled, “Aligning Expectations and Strategies Across the Family Office” featured an in-depth interview with Jim Field, President of Okabena Company. “Founded in 1967, Okabena is considered one of the most pre-eminent family offices,” said Linda. “Jim Field, who joined Okabena as President in 2014 is an extraordinary leader. Okabena is known for their standard of excellence and are considered a benchmark for best practices.” Linda spoke with Jim about a variety of topics including the history of the office, succession/transition, governance and key challenges.

Okabena Company (including its subsidiary Okabena Investment Services, Inc.) has more than 50 years of experience seeking to grow and preserve the financial legacies of its clients, offering a unique approach to family office and wealth management services that combines institutional rigor and quality with highly personalized service. As President, Jim Field is responsible for management oversight of the accounting, tax planning, compliance and financial reporting, as well as the delivery of financial planning services to Okabena clients and guiding the strategic direction and growth of Okabena Company and its subsidiaries.

The office has continued to successfully evolve under Jim’s leadership. Jim discussed his vision with Linda including the evolution of new services and implementation of new systems and technology to improve efficiency. “We talked about his interest in growing the business.  He transitioned the office to a one enterprise wide system and has attracted new family clients,” said Linda.  “Jim described how the family made the decision to increase the diversity of their client base by developing new relationships with aligned non-profit organizations and families looking to manage wealth strategically and preserve legacies.”

Having recently experienced succession and transition first hand, Jim shared his experience with Linda. “Jim assumed his leadership role as successor to the previous CEO who had been at Okabena for 21 years. Because there was a specific plan and time frame, the transition went smoothly and seamlessly. It was successfully accomplished in a relatively short period of time— less than 6 months.”  According to Linda, this is impressive and underscores another best practice by Okabena. Jim shared how well his predecessor prepared him and how she joined him early in the process—to meet and develop relationships with key clients. Linda commented, “This comprehensive and highly intentional planning and support is critical to a well-organized and successfully executed transition…definitely a benchmark.”

Okabena governance structures and processes were another best practice model discussed. Jim described the evolution of the Okabena board which consists of family and non-family members and includes two outside independent directors. There is an established quality process around meetings and decision making. Linda highlighted this as an example of very sound and effective governance. “Board members bring valuable “inside” and “outside” perspectives in their areas of expertise. Okabena’s sophisticated approach works not only on paper but in practice. Family offices who want to build effective governance structures are wise to look to offices like Okabena as a model to emulate.”

The interview concluded with Jim noting several key challenges that he and other Family Offices face. Recruiting and retaining the right talent is always paramount. In addition, staying at the forefront of technology, including future applications to continuously improve efficiencies are also critical. Cyber security is another key area of focus. Jim shared solutions he has implemented at Okabena along with those he envisions for the future.

“It was wonderful to have the opportunity to hear Jim describe his experience at Okabena first hand. He is an inspirational family office leader and executive role model on building a “best practice” platform,” said Linda. “Some participants in our session are in the process of preparing for leadership succession and transition, and others are building their respective governance structures.  Jim’s personal story and perspectives based upon his experience were extremely helpful to all.”