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As some of you may know, we are part of an international association of family offices called the Wigmore Association (named for the street in London, UK where we had our first meeting). There are now six firms in the association – from the UK, Germany, US (2), Canada, and Australia. The group is composed of the Chief Investment Officers of each of the family offices. We meet twice a year to share investment manager research, global investment perspectives and best practices for serving wealthy families.

It was Canada’s turn to host the association and we had an excellent meeting in mid-September in Toronto. Each hosting country typically invites a few relevant, high-profile speakers to join us for private meetings. Northwood was pleased to host David Denison, the recently-retired president of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the Hon. Michael Wilson, Chairman of Barclays Canada and former finance minister and US ambassador, Roger Martin, Dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and Dr. Helima Croft, a middle east specialist and geopolitical and commodities analyst with Barclays in New York.

In addition, we met with a select group of investment managers covering topics such as infrastructure, private equity, real estate, farmland, credit funds, and global resources. We also had substantive discussion on the state of Europe, the US election, developments in China, Brazil, the Middle East and other developing markets and the global economy. Each member shared their own firm’s investment outlook, asset mix and portfolio construction.

While there is a range of investment views among the members, everyone was focused on a number of key themes including the following: the importance of government debt reduction and political stability; finding replacements for the ultra-low returns offered by government bonds without adding too much risk; looking for ways to best position portfolios for either outcome in the bi-modal world we live in (probable recovery, but possible disaster); making the shift to a world no longer dominated by only the developed-world economies; and evaluating a wide range of alternatives investments and ways to lower investment costs for clients.

Each member finds substantial benefit from the idea exchange among the members as well as the guest speakers, and we find that it helps to continually improve our investment process and results for clients. The next meeting will be held in Frankfurt, Germany in March 2013.

Tom McCullough

Tom McCullough is Chairman and CEO of Northwood Family Office, which looks after the investments and integrated financial affairs of wealthy families with $10 million or more. He teaches ‘The Management of Private Wealth’ in the MBA program at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and is also co-author of the books, Family Wealth Management and Wealth of Wisdom: The Top 50 Questions Wealthy Families Ask.

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