A few weeks ago, an industry friend came to Nashville for a meeting of the Mid-South Alternative Investment Association (MSAIA). When he told his (New York-based) work colleagues that he was attending the meeting to network with investors, he was met with laughter, derision and accusations that he was only gracing my fair city to meet chicks. After all, Nashville is the bachelorette capital of the country.We’re now known for having a surplus of both hot chicken and girls that go “Woooooooo!”
Despite the skepticism of his colleagues, my friend did attend the MSAIA meeting, where there were 51 attendees (larger than some conferences I’ve attended) including family offices, endowments and pension representatives. In fact, even though it’s not New York, the society as a whole boasts 700 members (including more than 200 allocators) from a number of cities around the Mid-South. Sure, we’re more likely to have our meetings at Maggiano’s than at Cipriani’s, but despite the mass market meatballs, there IS investor flesh to press and nobbing to hob.
Yet it seems that many (most?) people in the investment industry seem to believe there is no financial world outside of New York/Connecticut, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, DC. And while it’s true you’re likely to find a larger absolute number of millionaires and more institutional investors in those locales, it doesn’t mean that other areas of the country are complete bereft.
In fact, if you really want to get down to the investor lick log, there are certainly states that have higher concentrations of wealth outside of the traditional marketing stomping grounds. Hawaii, for example, boasts 43.1 millionaires per 1,000 residents. Delaware has 34.7, more than New York or Florida, thank you very much, and Rhode Island, Utah and Ohio all outpace Texas in millionaires per capita, believe it or not.
It’s funny, but in investing it almost always pays to go off the beaten path. Whether you’re looking to grab a new private equity or venture capital portfolio company, where less competition means a lower multiple, or if you’re just bargain hunting in public equities or fixed income, finding unique opportunities (or at least finding them first) is generally perceived as a good thing.
However, when it comes to fund raising, despite how hard it is for so many fund managers (read: all but the largest of the large), taking a road less traveled isn’t looked upon as a sound investment. In point of fact, however, while there may be fewer meetings to be had away from major financial centers, but it can be easier to get meetings as neglected investors are often happy to see folks in their own offices, rather than traveling (yet again) to meet them in theirs.
To be clear, I’m certainly not advocating you spend all your time flying to flyover states, but if you can find a few good events (local investor meetings like MSAIA, Southeastern Hedge Fund Association, Texas Hedge Fund Association, larger CFA events and the like) and add on a meeting or two, it might just be worth the time, effort and almost inevitable chain restaurant food. Even a single investment from a jaunt like that more than pays for the trip, and that should be enough to make even the most jaded investment professional yell “Wooooooo!”