Investment bank Greenhill & Co. (GHL) recently got its executives together to think about how to take better advantage of its relationships with this growing group of deep-pocked new buyers, according to CEO Scott Bok.
"We had a few situations where it was somewhat surprising to us that an individual family might be interested in buying quite a large asset that we were selling and were thinking it was more appropriate for some of the corporate world," Bok says.
That realization caused Greenhill to "go through the process of collecting: what are our collective relationships as a partnership. You know what you find of course is people in different sectors, different regions -- San Francisco, Chicago, London, Sao Paolo, etc. -- you have a collection of major families you deal with -- so we've kind of pulled that together and are thinking about how we access that group for acquisition opportunities more often."
Corporate acquisitions by wealthy families, of course, aren't exactly a new phenomenon, points out John Tsui, who manages his own family's assets through a New York-based company called Peninsula House.
"If you dig underneath where they built their wealth through generations, it's companies -- and real estate."
But the numbers keep growing, with lots of new fortunes being added to the mix. High net worth individuals had $56.62 trillion in assets for investment in 2013, up 14% from the previous year, according to a report from CapGemini and RBC Wealth Management.