With a focus on transparency, Halstatt has been transformed by a matriarchal line of CEOs.
No one was picking up the phone at the big investment banks. It was the summer of 2009, just as the full depth of the Great Recession was revealing itself, and Katherine “Katie” Sproul, CEO of Halstatt, wanted answers from the so-called Wall Street experts she had entrusted with her family’s wealth. She reached out multiple times and heard nothing but crickets. “That was certainly an inflection point for reflection,” recalls Sproul, great-granddaughter and heir of the 20th-century advertising and land tycoon Barron Gift Collier.
The result was a change in direction for Halstatt, and not for the first time. Sproul was following in the footsteps of her mother, Juliet Sproul (known as Judy), who three decades earlier had risked her inheritance by developing a sleepy bit of Florida real estate into a winter playground for billionaires, the Grey Oaks Country Club. Back then, she had to fight her male trustees, who wanted to sell the land to developers.
Daughter Katie’s ambitions were different. Instead of parking the family assets with unresponsive banking institutions, she decided to become an active investor herself, and she sought innovative ways to make those assets work harder for the family. Committed to preserving capital, she also looked for serious risk investment expertise to partner with — but she would consider only those buying into the “Halstatt Ethos,” a written account of the firm’s values. The bold moves made by Sproul and her mother turned property worth just a few million dollars into a billion-dollar organization. Not surprisingly, the family asset community has taken note.
A new modus operandi
Halstatt’s emphasis on good governance, transparency, and financial sophistication is rare among closely held family wealth offices. But it’s the nature of how the company structures its partnerships that is most distinctive. Whereas most family wealth offices either hire a handful of investment experts or outsource decisions, Sproul seeks dynamic investment professionals and provides them with seed capital to create their own businesses in partnership with Halstatt. And because they have skin in the game, it helps retain the talent. By contrast, before the Soros Fund’s recent strategic overhaul, it had shed numerous experts, including seven chief investment officers since 2000 and multiple money managers over the past two years. Halstatt empowers its partners to grow by being open to external capital — often in the form of funds from other family wealth offices seeking to duplicate Sproul’s success.
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