The Perspective Blog
The Northwood Perspective

Chairman’s Message: Hiring Integrated Advisors

Tom McCullough

Northwood is growing. More and more families need a family office. We are committed to maintaining a high level of service for existing clients, so we are always on the lookout for new staff who can help carry the load. But that is easier said than done.

Plenty of people want to work for a family office. The scale of client assets at a family office makes the work appealing for many advisors. Others may be more attracted to the complexity of the work, and the challenge of finding novel solutions.

For me, one of the great draws is how client-centric the work is. We are not focused on a product or a specific type of work, but rather  on helping client families achieve their family and financial goals.

We don’t have anything to sell at Northwood. We have no agenda beyond helping clients get the services they need. We are always on their side of the table. Clients appreciate that, and that is why they have continued to trust us for over 20 years now.

The rewards that come with managing wealthy families are obvious, but the path to that role may not seem as clear. We are a bit like a general contractor to our families. In the trades you have plumbers, carpenters, and electricians and the general contractor coordinates, manages, solves problems, and ensures you pay the trades a fair price. In our business, those are lawyers, investment managers, and accountants. It’s our job as the general contractor to see the big picture, manage all the moving parts, and get things done. Recruiting outside advisors with those skillsets —what we call an “integrated advisor”—can be challenging, given most advisors start with quite a specific focus, largely on investments. Investment management is only one of the four key areas we look after for clients. The others are planning (including goal setting, cash flow projections, tax, estate, and philanthropy), wealth administration (consolidated reporting, task calendar, minutes, record keeping), and family engagement (family meetings, next gen education, family playbooks). It takes a range of hard and soft skills, as well as a wide breadth of knowledge, to manage all these components.

The world has a lot of great tax people, great investment people, great family governance people. What’s often missing is that great integrated advisor to manage all of the moving parts, which wealthy families have a lot of!

We would love to be able to hire an “integrated advisor” from the get-go, but there are surprisingly few people out there who have the full range of skills required. While the candidate pool is improving somewhat, our historical approach has been to identify advisory talent and train them on the other range of skills. We have typically hired someone who already has their CFA or CPA, and then require them to achieve their CFP designation. And then we train them on the components they are missing and skills around playing the integrator role. That has been a highly successful approach for us over the last 20 years.

We have multiple staff who came to us in their late 20s with one designation and one main skill set (usually tax or investments) and now, years later, they are fully trained integrated advisors looking after key clients, with 20+ working years ahead of them.

The family office is much more diverse than a typical advisor practice. You have to really want to be that generalist to be in the family office world. It’s clearly not for everyone, but for the right people it can be very, very fulfilling.

As we continue to grow, if you know anyone interested in a career as an integrated advisor at Northwood, please direct them to the careers section of our website:


Tom McCullough

Tom McCullough is Chairman and CEO of Northwood Family Office. The combination of his background, along with his own family’s desire for a truly ‘comprehensive, customized and confidential service, led him on a search for a multi-family office. Tom is a frequent speaker on issues relevant to families of wealth and is the co-author of Wealth of Wisdom: The Top 50 Questions Wealthy Families Ask and Family Wealth Management: Imperatives for Successful Investing in the New World Order and the soon-to-be-released Wealth of Wisdom: Top Practices for Wealthy Families and Their Advisors. He is an adjunct professor and Executive-in-Residence at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management MBA program. He is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Western University’s Ivey School of Business and a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Wealth Management. He was recently awarded ‘Best Individual Contribution to Thought Leadership in the Wealth Management Industry’ by the 2020 Family Wealth Report Awards.

Read More