• David Grammig

Interview with Stonechair Capital CEO Chris McLean (Single Family Office, Canada)

We are honoured to present an exclusive interview with Chris McLean, CEO of the hugely successful Stonechair Capital.

Chris, please introduce yourself and your family office to our readers.

Stonechair Capital is a manifestation of the McLean family office. Based in Calgary, Canada the family had its history forged by the oil patch.

For three generations the family has been part of the oilpatch in all its forms. From its beginnings on the service side, it has continued to the starting of businesses, investment banking businesses and now financing them.

For the last 20 years, the family has only participated in activities that have had a connection with Africa. Today Stonechair Capital only invests in energy projects in Africa. Its PE fund #EnergyAfrica is the flagship of this endeavour.

Africa's growing energy deficit is an opportunity that must be addressed. Investments opportunities of all sizes required attention and capital.

Stonechair's investments strengthen African energy sectors and use local networks to generate benefits for local businesses while providing tangible returns to Stonechair's stakeholders.

Can you remember how many conferences you attended in your career?

30-40 conferences

Why do you attend conferences and what type of conferences would this usually be?

Oil and gas, Private Equity, Government annual reporting, Venture Capital

What is the greatest value you see for single-family offices to participate in a conference or summit?

There has been a contraction in the managed money space worldwide. More money is handled by ETF's than by money managers of just ten years ago. The Family Office has replaced this space. The FO is now the equivalent of active money managers of the not too distant past. They are much needed in the ecosystem of investment worldwide. Participation in conferences and summits exposes the FO to a more considerable list of opportunities for consideration in the global world that is now more involved cross border than it has ever been.

How do you assess the quality of an event and whether it was worthwhile?

The agenda and the speakers accessible are the critical features looked at when considering an event.

What is in your opinion the right amount of engagement between summit host and delegates? So how should this engagement manifest?

Polling in advance of a summit is always a positive thing. Q and A with the attendees when a programme is engaged helps to deal with the items of importance. A good app when attending a conference is a must now. The interactions had always are appreciated

What role do conference sponsors play in making an event successful?

Advertising for the event. Sponsors that are trying to sell something are looked at unfavourably.

Do you usually engage with sponsors? And if so, do you seek them out or are you being approached by them?

If they are participants in the agenda and the voice is material in its contribution I will reach out for future consultation. This is what they have earned if done successfully. There is a risk in all activities. This is a risk they are taking in sponsorship.

Which kind of (financial) service providers would you like to see more often at the type of events that you attend?

International legal and tax advisors that are specific for the jurisdictions that the conference is targeting.

From a family office’s perspective: what are the mistakes typically made by sponsors vis-a-vis engagement with investors like you?

The assumption that I do have existing service providers. Rather than additional and complementary. Not better advice complementary advice.

Credit Suisse estimated that there are more than 10,000 family offices worldwide. Only a fraction attend public conferences. Why do you think that is and how do you think they could be motivated to participate in?

They are not targeted based on my thesis that they are then new active money managers in the international arena. Motivation is based on like minds. Topics of the family interest need to be widely spread. Many conferences lack this side of the equation. Attendance should be a complementary function. Let industry pay for the event, not the investment capital that supports it.

If you attend a family office summit, is it important to you whether the delegates represent multi or single family offices and why?

No. Either way investment thesis is going to be driven by a mandate regardless of its source.

Chris - thanks a lot for having talked to us.

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