Annie Koh, associate professor at Singapore Management University, told CNBC that while family firms in South East Asia tended to be second- and third-generation, some European businesses have passed through 15 generations or more.
"In large parts of South East Asia, business and family are largely inseparable and in India, for example, the family business is a source of the social identity of the individuals belonging to the family," said Koh.
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But developing world companies are starting to look to European models of governance, where family ownership is coupled with strong professional management.
For example, after 41 years at the helm of United Overseas Bank in Singapore, Wee Cho Yaw appointed a non-family chairman to replace him, instead of his son Wee Ee Cheong.
'Aggressive' expansion plans
EM family firms are more likely to look for rapid expansion, rather than the steady growth favored by their Western counterparts.
According to a report published by PwC last month, 57 percent of family firms in China and 40 percent in both the Middle East and India aim to expand "aggressively" over the next five years. This compared to 5 percent in Germany, 8 percent in the U.K. and 16 percent in the U.S.