What Should You Consider When Hiring A Family Office PA?

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One of the key points of embarking on a career as a PA is that the duties of the role are transferable across industry and environment.   While a boon for candidates in this field the same fact makes hiring someone for this role in a Family Office particularly tricky.   

No doubt you will make hires for the investment staff based on qualification, and relevant task experience.   This is not the case for PAs as the CVs won’t differentiate to any great degree.

Identifying the person who will work seamlessly with and for your team is absolutely critical.  From here you can develop the tasks of the role knowing that you have the integration taken care of.   A range of candidates will come with a variety of skills and experience that may seem enticing, but fit is what makes a new hire thrive or fail.

The range of duties that a modern Family Office PA/EA or Business Assistant can cover is quite astounding, and the criteria of the candidates represent that shift.  Our recent survey (ISE Partners Market Report 2014) demonstrated that over 70% of our investment sector candidates were educated beyond A Level, with around 40% having at least 1 degree.    The number of languages spoken has increased sharply, as has the acumen and involvement of the candidate in the business as this gains credence as a viable career, rather than just a ‘job’.   Professional PAs were once secretaries.  They are now the backbone of thriving businesses.

A few starting considerations, such as why have you decided you need a PA? Are you replacing someone with like-for-like or is there other opportunity now you are faced with change?  Is the role purely for diary/travel/expenses management or are you seeking someone who can proactively liaise with other aspects of the business, internally or externally?  Perhaps someone with basic accounting skills?  Another language?  Office management?  Staff management?  Domestic staff management across multiple estates?  Project development or research skills?   What about the personal aspect – will that factor in the role at all and if so, to what degree?  Will travel be required?  Is cultural knowledge and etiquette of importance?  What of the office environment, is it quiet / busy / populated or often empty? Are people largely present or generally traveling?  Where is the ‘hub’ of business done and the family based – will this affect the hours someone needs to work or is the day quite stable?

While many of these things are also found in corporate based roles, Family Offices often require things done with a degree of panache beyond the standard.   This is not something easily learned and so needs to form part of your person specification from the outset.

This is the hard part.   No CV will tell you what the person is truly like.  No database contains our emotional intelligence or response to situations.   The only true way to assess this is to meet with someone and talk to them.  Understand their aspirations, motivations, drivers and fears.

This takes time, a lot of time.

When ISE Partners embark on a search we spend time interviewing the firm before we even start the search for a suitable candidate.  Why?  Because half an hour of your time at this stage enables us to learn about what will work for you, and more importantly, get a feel for how you work.  That allows us to quickly identify the personalities and practices that will assimilate with your office and enable the success of the hire.    Often we end up editing parts of the job description based on this meeting and the insight we gain from it.

Only then do we embark on meeting a wide range of people and reach out to a mature and established network within this particular field.   ISE Partners has the luxury of working anonymously, thus removing the potential for any compromise in confidentiality of the Family Office.  At the heart of this is ensuring that the right hire is met and made.

You will have limited time and resources to allocate to this project, placing greater emphasis on the quality of the candidate.  It is widely recognised that the highest caliber candidates are least likely to respond to job postings but more likely to move through network connections.  This is a luxury that an office recruiting directly does not have and must consider when advertising a role.

Once a hire is made, the induction and integration process will dictate how quickly and how much of an impact is made.  Paying particular attention to the first few months and regular feedback sessions can make all the difference here.   This is something we will discuss further in a future post.

 

‘Till next time,

Isobel