Many of the fund managers I speak to remain conflicted about how best to position their diverse asset management firm. While I don’t have all the answers, perhaps I can help shed a little light on the topic for folks. Read this while you’re thinking about your capital raising battle plans for 2019. And may it help you separate who’s been naughty and nice, whose chimney you should visit and whose you should skip in the New Year.

fund-5c-20raisi_34753941-3.png

Last night, I flew home from San Fran on the redeye after attending not one, but two, conferences in San Fran. Normally, I’m a champion sleeper on planes (as any of you who have ever seen me pre-pushback, comatose, mouth agape, and a tiny glistening pearl of drool perched majestically upon my lips) are well aware, at least based on the post flight mocking I get.

But on this particular flight, I was awake. I couldn’t get comfortable in my (there is a Jesus!) upgraded seat. I moved to the back of the plane and claimed a whole row to myself, but was likewise unable to sleep there after my left hip lost all feeling due to the firmness (I met floors in college with more give) of the seats.

After limping my way Sanford and Son style back to my original seat, I finally accepted my insomniac fate and settled with my ancient iPhone to listen to some tunes. Ironically, the Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was one of the first songs to play. I did not, however, appreciate said irony at the time.

Once I was able to grab a little disco nap this morning, it put things into a slightly better perspective. Sure, I couldn’t get what I wanted (a nice, long, mouth-breathing sleep in a tube of recirculated air), but maybe I needed those moments of introspection. I mean, otherwise, I wouldn’t have today’s blog post, right?

Likewise, I meet a ton of managers that are frustrated that they can’t always get what they want, usually $1 BIIILLLION Dollars from institutional investors in six months or less, but maybe, if they noodle on it in the dark of night under a (probably) ebola-encrusted airplane blanket, they may figure out how to get what they need.

To help investment managers on this journey, I put together a handy dandy decision tree to help determine whether now is the right time to market to endowments, foundations and pensions, or whether they should take other steps to get the AUM they require.

Should You Be Marketing To Institutional Investors?

 (c) 2018 MJ Alternative Investment Research

(c) 2018 MJ Alternative Investment Research

But investment managers, take heart, preferably before you start creating a voodoo doll with my face on it. There are plenty of things you can do to still get your Mick Jagger on and try spending some time to get what you need.

  • Try a different demographic - some of the items above are more specific to institutional investor clients and may not apply to high net worth individuals, family offices and even friends and family.

  • Talk to institutional investors when you DON’T have a fund to raise - I know you’re probably saying, in the words of Dorothy Parker, “What fresh hell is this?”, but investors can often be more accommodating of meeting requests (and provide some darn fine feedback) when you’re NOT looking for an immediate wire transfer. Asking for a half hour of time with an up-front caveat that you’re not “selling” anything can be a beautiful way to start a client relationship.

  • Get your ducks in a row - Figure out the nature of your game now so that when you do talk to institutions, you’re bulletproof. That takes time and effort as you perfect your elevator pitch, refine your deck, get the right service providers on board, train up IR staff, etc. Get it right on the front end and it will pay off on the back end.

I know it can be hard to wait to jump into the AUM chase, but if you follow at least some of this advice, I swear you’re likely to get a little more Satisfaction.

I miss Entourage. 

To this day, I’m not sure there was much better than watching Ari Gold lose his collective crappola and yell hysterical insults at people. Listening to Ari’s invective was like giving my id a voice. Sure, it was obscene, profane and probably actionable abuse in many cases, but that’s why it was so much better to watchsomeone else spewing that hilarious filth than to let my own inner Ari Goldout to play.

Vulgarity aside, I also enjoyed watching the agent-principal relationship that Ari had with Vincent Chase. Sure, Vinnie ultimately called the shots, but Ari brought moola and industry know-how to the table. It was, despite a brief firing at the end of Season 3 (and the entire “Medellin” disaster), an almost perfectly symbiotic relationship.

In many ways, you see that same principal-agent relationships play out in the investment world (minus the copious swearing). In fact, I content that all investors can be classified as either principals or agents, or as some hybrid blend of the two, and that it’s critical to know which one you’re dealing with at any given time. 

If you’re a money manager on the prowl for assets under management, knowing whether you’re interacting with a principal or agent can save you time, energy and headaches. If you’re an investor looking for a new role, understanding and explaining whether you’ll be a leading lady/man or Ari Gold can help manage expectations down the line.   

Investors who are principals usually have some traits in common: 

  • They’re often quicker to invest – usually because there’s not layers upon layers of decision makers behind the scenes. There is no (or a limited) investment committee and there’s usually no consultant or operational due diligence outsourced resource. 
  • “Principal” investors may choose more innovative or niche-y investment strategies, invest in new trends earlier and generally take more risks. 
  • However, they are often able to do this because they are investing their own capital and may not have fiduciary duty to anyone other than themselves or a small group of constituents, which means they don’t have to make enormous allocations or worry about headline risk. 
  • Think high net worth individuals, single family offices, small foundations. 

Investors who are agents also have traits in common:

  • They usually take longer to invest due to multiple layers of sign-off and decision making. 
  • You can be pretty sure that every nook and cranny of your fund, firm and investment strategy will be gone over with a fine-toothed comb, because these investors have more headline and client risk. If an agent investor recommends a fund that blows up or fails you’re almost certain to hear about it because they are investing large, either for themselves or on behalf of their external clients.  
  • Because “agent” investors often move as a herd, you can rest assured that where one goes, there will likely be a sequel. Making it past the gate with one agent can pave the way for others.
  • Think institutional investors (whose minutes and meetings are often matters of public record) and investment consultants. FOFs (who generally have to think about attracting clients to ensure their existence) can fall anywhere on the agent-principal spectrum, depending on the organization.
 (c) MJ Alts

(c) MJ Alts

Obviously, there are benefits and drawbacks to working with both agents and principals when it comes to investing. The only real drama comes from not knowing with whom you are dealing and therefore not effectively managing expectations (and resources). 

For example, if you’ve got a truly niche-y and innovative strategy that perhaps is a bit untested, presenting it only to agents may pay off, but it will likely be a long slog and you may be stopped out entirely if your strategy can’t handle large allocations. Or if you have a strategy that is more of a new twist on an old tale, Aquaman 2for example, you may find that high net worth individuals aren’t sufficiently wowed by your offering. If you need to get to a quick close, or if you only have limited capacity left before your final close, landing a prime role with an agent may not be possible. But if you’re looking for a large anchor, or if you have enormous capacity and the time to run the agent gauntlet, these investors can provide the bulk of your capital.

And to make matters worse, some agents present as if they were principals, and principals can suddenly bring an agent to what you thought was your fund’s premier. It would be so much easier if there was just a script the industry could stick to, but unfortunately, you just have to try to learn everyone’s role and trust that if there’s some confusion, you can just hug it out in the end. 

It’s August. It’s slow. It’s what the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy might have referred to as the “long dark teatime of the soul” when it comes to investment industry activity. The conference circuit is dead. Everyone is on vacation. There are practically tumbleweeds rolling through your office.

 (c) 2018 MJ Alternative Investment Research - I spent my OOO time this year in Middle Earth.

(c) 2018 MJ Alternative Investment Research - I spent my OOO time this year in Middle Earth.

Yep, it’s about this time of year when you believe that everyone but you sold in May and went away.

And you’ve got the Out of Office emails to prove it.

Sure, you’re still sitting in your office, or you’re on a nice beach trying to be productive while your family cavorts and relaxes, dutifully sending out email requests for meetings, performance updates, introductory information, requests for proposals, whatever. And all you’re getting back from Darryl, John, Hall and Oates is “I am currently traveling with no/limited/sporadic access to emails/phone. If you need immediate assistance, please eff off/contact this random person. I will respond to/continue ignoring your email upon my return.”

So what’s an investment professional to do?

If you’re getting the Out of Office (OOO) treatment these days, try these handy tips for coping:

1)    Assume the email you just sent is going into the virtual circular file. It ain’t never gonna be read, answered or otherwise acted upon. Even if the autoreply doesn’t go as far as this particular OOO did to spell things out for you, your chances of getting a timely response are pretty slim. So look at the date the out of office email expires and mark your calendar for one week after that date. On that day, send your email again. Do not forward, do not refer to your prior email. Send a virgin email, to be touched for the very first time, without the guilt and recrimination of a forward. Start fresh. Just like you hope the recipient is doing after a nice, relaxing holiday.

2)    In investing, time is money, but it isn’t life. We’re not carrying hearts around in beer coolers, y’all. Whatever you are emailing about, chances are it can probably wait a week (or two) for a response. Even if it doesn’t feel like it to you in a particular moment. If you get an out of office response, DO NOT attempt to hunt the person down like you’re the Terminator of the email world. On a recent vacation, I had more than one recipient of my OOO decide to text me since they couldn’t reach me via email. Needless to say, given the 17-hour time difference, I was none too happy to receive communication from those individuals in the wee hours of my morning respite from work and responsibility. So, before you go to extreme lengths to contact someone who is out of the office, ask yourself how you would feel if you reached them and they were, I don’t know, at a funeral. Would your call or text be worth disturbing that particular occasion? If the answer is “no” then put down your phone and back slowly away. Otherwise the only funeral you may be going to is yours.

3)    Try a little patience. Most people I know start going through their missed emails from the top down (most recent dates first), in the off chance something has resolved itself in the intervening days or moments and they can blissfully ignore all related messages. If you emailed early on in someone’s OOO timeline, give the person a few days to get back to you. See also, OOO tip one.

4)    For those composing an OOO, go ahead and say you’re not checking emails. Even if you are, there’s bound to be a few you can’t or won’t deal with. Telling people you’re checking emails sporadically or that there’s a “delayed response” gives those receiving your OOO false expectations, and gives them a little more leeway to harass you while you’re grabbing some R&R (or attending a conference, or staycationing…).

5)     Even if you don’t get an OOO response, if you don’t get response from someone after a week during this most humid time of the year, give folks the benefit of the doubt. There’s nothing worse than coming back to the office to find a bunch of pissy emails (“I tried you last week but didn’t hear back”) to make someone NOT want to prioritize you.

If you find you’re just too impatient to follow my Out of Office Etiquette, perhaps you need a little OOO time yourself. Economist Juliet Shor found that Americans take less vacation than the average medieval peasant, who worked around 150 days a year. So make a break from your feudal ways and chillax. You can always start stalking folks again after Labor Day.

As someone who was born, raised, and has spent the majority of my life in the South, one of the things I’m required to love, besides SEC football, is Redneck Humor. From Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester, Roy Wood Jr., and Drew Morgan today to Ron White and Jeff Foxworthy a decade or so ago, I love poking fun at myself and laughing at my fellow rednecks. I can reliably drive on the backroads of Tennessee and come up with “You may be a redneck” moments every few miles, and my friends and me are up for our own hillbilly kudos when summer reliably finds us in a backyard with a baby pool and some PBR.

I even have a personal favorite “you may be a redneck joke” that makes me laugh every time I tell it:

“You may be a redneck if you think a tornado and a divorce have a lot in common – ‘cos either way, someone’s losing their trailer.”

 (2) 123rf.com

(2) 123rf.com

Bwhahahahah!

A recent trip to the WellRED comedy show in Nashville got me thinking about all the ways in which, I as a redneck, can be defined. It also got me thinking about how we categorize and group other people, places and things in an attempt to make cosmos out of chaos.

There are few places in the investment world where there is more confusion than in the world of emerging managers. Ask two people what constitutes an emerging manager and you’re likely to get two completely different answers. Is it small funds? How small? Is it diverse funds? Ownership or fund management? Is it new funds? What’s the cut off? Does the manager need to be local? Does the manager need to be certified? What counts as a minority? Frankly, I find that emerging managers swirl in their own vortex of uncertainty.

So to help everyone out a little bit, I thought I’d use my 11+ years in the emerging and diverse manager space to create a handy-dandy checklist to determine whether or not a fund may be emerging. After all, it seemed like a great project for a winter weekend when 0.5 inches of snow has me pinned inside the house like the Southerner I am.

You Might Be An Emerging Manager If…

…you have less than $2 billion in AUM and manage long-only assets. Although this may seem reasonable on the surface, since the largest long-only fund managers may control trillions of dollars (with a “T”), it may still be a little large. In an August 2017 study by Richard B. Evans, Martin Rohleder, Hendrik Tentesch, and Marco Wilkens looked at 3,370 separate accounts (“SMAs”) managing $3,671 million and found those in the 10th percentile managed $5.38m, the 50th percentile managed $128m and the 90th percentile managed $1,470m, with a range of accounts from 3 to 15 to 305, respectively. In line with research about mutual funds, the authors found better performance in the smaller SMAs, in part due to liquidity constraints and market impact costs, but also due to increasing management complexity as the number of accounts increased. Take a look at the research if you’ve not seen it yet.

…you have less than $1 billion, and really more like <$250 million, in hedged AUM. (There are only about 700 funds with over $1 billion, so if you’ve gotten to that milestone, beating out 9,300 of your peers, I’d say you’d emerged).

…your firm is owned at least 51% by women or minorities for official certification, or has 33% women or minority ownership if you want to get a bigger crop of funds from groups that historically have had less assets with which to launch funds, and therefore may have partnered with firms or individuals that dilute the ownership structure.

…your fund is managed by women or minorities. This can be key for investors who are looking for cognitive and behavioral alpha (or differentiated networks for private asset funds), and may be more important to some than ownership status.

…the minority ownership or fund management in question is done by a U.S. citizen.

…the minority ownership is not by fungible personnel who were given ownership status simply to qualify for MBWE status (wives, daughters, back office personnel, figureheads).

…the fund is less than three years old or is a Fund I, II or III.

…the fund is not part of a mega asset management complex.

…the fund meets the above requirements and is located in the same state as the certain potential investors (Illinois, Pennsylvania, etc.)

…the fund is owned by veterans or disabled veterans.

Now, obviously there are all kinds of competing definitions out there, and there are also practical implications for investors, particularly larger ones. For example, if an institution manages billions of dollars (with a “B”), it may be difficult for them to look at the smaller end of the spectrum of emerging funds without having to assemble a massive portfolio of managers. Still, I hope these definitions may resonate with folks out there who are looking to capture some structural, cognitive and behavioral alpha. They may be a more successful investor if….

 

Sources: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2933546 Preqin, SBA 

I seem to provide this information to newer and smaller funds often, so I thought I'd cut down on repetition and provide all you gorgeous small, new, and diverse fund managers with a short guide to early stage investors. Now start smiling and dialing!

 (c) 1980 Paramount Pictures

(c) 1980 Paramount Pictures

State Plans To Prioritize

Arizona - Has made at least one investment in a large 'emerging' manager.

Arkansas - Teachers Retirement System reportedly tabled the program in 2008 but 2011 document shows active investments in MWBE managers. 

California - Looks for EM's based on size and tenure but prohibited by Prop 209 from looking at minority status or gender.

Colorado - Colorado PERA added an "external manager portal" in 2016 to make "it easier for us to include appropriate emerging managers when the right investment opportunities develop."

Connecticut - Based on size, minority status or gender. Awarded mandate in 2014 to Grosvenor, Morgan Stanley and Appomattox. 

Florida - Looks at emerging managers on equal footing with other managers. 

Georgia - Invest Georgia has $100 million to work with venture capital and private equity firms in the state. There is an emphasis on emerging managers and emerging funds per press reports.

Illinois - Perhaps the most active emerging manager state, based on gender, minority status and location. 

Indiana - Based on size, minority status, or gender. 

Kentucky - Reported $75 million allocation at one time.

Maine - Has made at least one investment in a large 'emerging' manager.

Maryland - Very active jurisdiction with details available online for gender and minority status manager information.

Massachusetts- Includes size, minority status or gender. 

Michigan - $300 million program.

Missouri - Status based on size. 

Minnesota - Past investments in emerging managers. 

New Jersey - Status based on size. 

New York - Status based on size, minority status or gender. $1 billion mandate in 2014. $200 million seed mandate in 2014.

North Carolina - Status based on size and HUB (minority and women owned) status.

Ohio - Status based on size, minority status or gender. 

Oregon - Emerging manager program in place. 

Pennsylvania - Status based on size with preference for minority or women run funds.

Rhode Island - Plan in place from 1995.

South Carolina - Status based on size.

Texas - Actively engaged with emerging managers. Status based on size, minority status or gender.

Virginia - Status based on size, minority status or gender.

Washington - Has issued prior emerging manager RFPs.

Oh, and if you reproduce this list, be sure to cite MJ Alts. Thanks y'all!

Seed Programs to Explore

https://www.hfalert.com/documents/FG/hsp/hfa-rankings/575025_Backers.pdf

Music to Groove To While Dialing for Dollars