I am no stranger to making lame excuses. Just last week, in the throes of a bad case of the flu, I managed to justify not only the eating of strawberry pop-tarts and Top Ramen but also the viewing of at least one episode of “Friday Night Lights.” It’s nice to know that when the chips are down at my house, I turn into caricature of a trailer park redneck.
But in between bouts of coughing and episodes of Judge Judy, however, I did manage to get some work done. And perhaps it was hyper-vigilance about my own excuse making that made me particularly sensitive to the contrivances of others, but it certainly seemed like a doozy of a week for rationalizations. Particularly when it came to fund diversity in nearly every sense of the term, but particularly when it came to investing in women and/or small funds.
So without further ado (and hopefully with no further flu-induced ah-choo!), here were my two favorite pretexts from last week.
Excusa-Palooza Doozie #1 – “We want to hire diverse candidates, but we can’t find them.”
In an interview with Fortune magazine, Marc Andreessen, head of Andreessen Horowitz said that he had tried to hire a female general partner five whole times, but that “she had turned him down.”
Now c’mon, Mr. Andreessen. You can’t possible be saying that there is only one qualified female venture capital GP candidate in the entire free world? I know that women only comprise about 8-10% of current venture capital executives but unless there are only 100 total VC industry participants, that still doesn’t reduce down to one. Andreessen Horowitz has within its own confines 52% female employees, and none of them are promotable? If that’s true, you need a new head of recruiting. Or a new career development program. Or both.
But it seems that Andreessen isn’t entirely alone in casting a very narrow net when it comes to adding diversity. A late-March Reuters piece also noted that they best way to get tapped to join a board as a woman was to already be on a board. One female board member interviewed had received 18 invitations to join boards over 24 months alone.
It seems the criteria used to recruit women (and, to some extent, minority) candidates into high-level positions are perhaps a bit too restrictive. In fact, maybe this isn’t a “pipeline” problem like we’ve been led to believe. Maybe it’s instead more of a tunnel vision issue.
So, as always happy to offer unsolicited advice, let me put on my peanut gallery hat. If you genuinely want to add diversity to your investment staff, here are some good places to look:
- Conferences – The National Association of Securities Professionals, RG Associates, The Women’s Private Equity Summit, Opal’s Emerging Manager events, the CFA Society, Morningstar and other organizations are all now conducing events geared towards women and minority investing. Look at the brochures and identify candidates. Better yet, actually attend the conference and see what all the hubbub is about, bub.
- Word of mouth – I have to wonder if Andreessen asked the female GP candidate on any of his recruitment attempts if she knew anyone else she could recommend. If not, shame on him. Our industry is built in large part on networking. We network for deals, investors, service providers, market intelligence, recruiting, job hunting, etc. We are masters of the network (or we should be) and so it seems reasonable that networking would be a fall back position for anyone seeking talent. And if Andreessen did ask and was not given suitable introductions to alternate candidates, shame on the “unnamed woman general partner.”
- Recruiters – Given the growing body of evidence that shows diversity is good for investors, it’s perhaps no surprise that there are now at least two recruiters who specialize in diversity candidates within the investment industry. Let them do the legwork for you for board members, investment professionals and the like.
- Service providers – Want a bead on a diverse CFO/CCO – call your fund auditor. Looking for investment staff? Call your prime broker or legal counsel. Your service providers see lots of folks come in and out of their doors. Funds that didn’t quite achieve lift off, people who are looking for a change, etc. – chances are your service providers have seen them all and know where the bodies are buried. Don’t be afraid to ask them for referrals.
Excusa-Palooza Doozie #2 – See?!? Investors are allocating to “small” hedge funds! In a second article guaranteed to get both my fever and my dander up, we were treated to an incredibly optimistic turn of asset flow events. It turns out that “small” hedge funds took in roughly half of capital inflows in 2014, up from 37% in 2013 per the WSJ.
Now before you break out the champagne, let me do a little clarification for you.
Hedge funds with $5 billion or more took in half of all asset flows.
Everything that wasn’t in the $5 billion club was termed “small” and was the recipient of the other half of the asset inflows.
It would have been interesting to see how that broke down between funds with $1 billion to $5 billion and everyone else. We already know from industry-watchers HFR (who provided the WSJ figures) that 89% of assets went to funds with more than $1 billion under management. We also already know that there are only 500 or so hedge funds with more than $1 billion under management. So really, when you put the pieces together, aren’t we really saying that hedge funds with $5 billion or more got 50% of the asset flows, hedge funds with $1 billion to $5 billion got 39% of the remaining asset flows, and that truly “small” and, well, "small-ish" hedge funds got 11% in asset flows?
I mean, for a hedge fund to be termed “small” wouldn’t it have to be below the industry’s median size? With only 500 hedge funds at $1 billion or more and 9,500 hedge funds below that size, it seems not only highly unlikely but also mathematically impossible that the median hedge fund size is $5 billion. Or $1 billion. In fact, the last time I calculated the median size of a hedge fund (back in June 2011 for Barclays Capital) it was - wait for it, wait for it - $181 million.
And I’m betting you already know how much in asset flows went to managers under that median figure…somewhere just slightly north of bupkis. And the day that hedge funds under $200 million get half of the asset flows, I will hula hoop on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
So let’s do us all a favor and stop making excuses and start making actual changes. Otherwise, we’re leaving money and progress on the table, y’all.
Sources: WSJ, HFR, BarclaysCapital, Reuters, Huffington Post