Family Capital and Governance: Navigating Wealth Beyond Rich Lists

While they might seem innocuous, 'rich lists' tend to be quite limited in gauging wealth. When it comes to good governance, family offices should rather look at the concept of family capital, a broader concept encompassing family well-being, decisions, knowledge, and health.
family capital

What you need to know

  • Despite their purported acclaim, ‘rich lists’ present a number of limitations in accurately ranking individuals based on wealth.
  • Along with other various issues, there is an oversight of important factors such as debt and liquidity in measuring wealth.
  • For family offices looking to address dynamics amongst generations, centring a conversation around “family capital” might be useful, emphasising non-financial aspects of well-being that contribute to overall prosperity.
Governance Updated on January 16, 2024

At face value, it might be the dream of some to be included in a ‘rich list’, however, these lists not only fall short in a number of ways, but they can also be incredibly damaging to the families they highlight. Seeing this first-hand, as my family featured on local lists as I was growing up, and the comments and attitudes of others weighed heavily on me – from being teased at school to being treated like a wallet by non-profits, to the small observations here and there. Every year, these lists continue to be a trigger for snide assumptions about individuals and families and are oftentimes incorrect. There’s more to family wealth than just net financial worth and when it comes to good family governance, family capital should count for more than just what’s in the bank (and portfolio).

Family offices and advisors will recognise the issues these lists can cause and while there is little one can do to change society’s attitude to the wealthy, there are ways to manage this within a family context. This starts with educating them and discussing these issues more openly, which starts with the realisation that lists like these are bad for several reasons.

About the Authors

David Werdiger

David Werdiger

Family governance & succession planning

David Werdiger is a 2nd generation family member, tech entrepreneur, non-exec director, philanthropist, thought leader now applying all that lived experience to help other family offices.

Connect with David Werdiger

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