IN THE world of wealth, towering over the rich and the super-rich are the "family office-rich".
These secretive boutique organisations have soared in popularity in the past few years as the ultra-wealthy strive to take more control of their finances and move away from traditional wealth management firms.
And boy, can they cultivate an air of mystery. The lack of concrete data on how many actually exist is a prime example of the overarching secrecy that characterises the sector.
They don't come cheap. Around $200 million is generally accepted as the minimum required to establish a single-family office, according to James Burkitt, chief executive of family office networking group The Table Club.
Family offices are private wealth management firms established to protect the wealth of the world's richest families so that it can be passed on to the next generation.
A new survey produced in Eureka Report lists details surrounding 100 of the nation's top family offices: industry estimates suggest there are 250 single-family offices now operating in Australia. With Australia holding less than 2 per cent of the world's GDP, the survey suggests Australia's richest are clearly punching above their weight when it comes to creating fortunes.
The lure of the family office is the broad range of services covered, including generational succession, family governance, estate planning and philanthropic services, as well as the usual investment, tax and advisory needs. Some even go as far as providing financial education for children.
At the end of 2012, there were more than 5000 family offices operating worldwide, comprising 2700 single family offices and 2300 multi-family offices, according to research group WealthInsight.
While family offices have long been popular in the US and Europe, in Australia the industry has really taken off over the past 15 years, with most of Australia's wealthiest families now having some form of family office, the research group says.
A list of Australia's top 100 single family offices, as detailed in Eureka Report, includes the likes of Gina Rinehart, Andrew Forrest and Clive Palmer, but also features lesser-known players such as mining billionaire Chris Wallin and entrepreneur Paul Fudge.
The top 250 family offices in Australia accounted for $230 billion in assets at December 2012, an increase of $16.38 billion, or 7.7 per cent on the previous year, according to The Table Club.
The top 20 family offices were worth $103.9 billion, up from $88.8 billion.
Property has been a boon for many of these wealthy families.
WealthInsight estimates that 21 per cent of families with single family offices in Australia made their money in real estate. Retail and fashion is where 11 per cent got rich, while just 5.5 per cent made their fortunes in financial services.
While single-family offices are best suited to those with $200 million and above, a multi-family office is an option for those who haven't quite achieved that level of wealth. As the name suggests, a multi-family office is one that manages the wealth of a number of families. Some even accept clients with as "little" as $5 million.
Myer Family Company is perhaps the most well-known player in the multi-family office segment, and currently services 100 clients with the majority of the families' wealth ranging from $30 million to $200 million.
There are just a few of these multi-family offices in Australia, but the segment is earmarked for growth.
Multi-family offices in the US and Europe have boomed in recent years. Australia can't be far behind.