Effective ways to communicate with Emerging Manager platforms, as featured in FundFire.
Amid all the headlines portending doom for traditional active management, one of the few remaining bright spots is the ongoing search for unique, concentrated strategies that can add value beyond the indexers. Smaller managers offering these sorts of products are in an advantageous position and should look to find their way onto emerging manager platforms to capitalize on the demand. While many “traditional” consultants do not have the time or the resources necessary to find and recommend smaller managers to their clients, emerging manager platforms are uniquely positioned to identify new talent, perform due diligence, and ultimately select and monitor “smaller” investment managers to provide an institutional- quality multimanaged portfolio. In addition, the less experienced marketing and sales teams from these smaller firms make it hard to differentiate and move ahead with the research process within the competitive institutional marketplace. Generally speaking, anything a manager can do to make a researcher’s job easier, whether targeted at a traditional firm looking for smaller firms or an emerging manager platform, is a good thing to do. Despite the challenging environment, managers can create some wind at their back by executing a dedicated, efficient and proactive sales and marketing strategy. As part of any marketing strategy, a manager wants to identify the lowest hanging fruit. As a smaller manager, the emerging manager programs fit within this context. The emerging manager platforms are more willing to give immediate feedback, suggestions, and observations about a manager’s “story,” and they generally have an “open-door” policy to begin a dialogue with managers.
This is welcome, especially when getting a phone call or email returned from a consultant can be difficult, even after a seemingly terrific first meeting. Generally speaking, interactions with emerging manager platforms can be more engaging than the sometimes less than enthusiastic reaction from large global multi-product consulting firms. When approaching an emerging manager platform, a manager’s first objective should be identifying the right person to begin a dialogue with. The ultimate goal is getting on their radar and getting “pre-approved” to become “first off the bench” as a potential future replacement in their lineup. Since virtually all of these programs are fully-funded with an existing roster of managers, managers need to be patient. It is rare to contact a gatekeeper at the exact moment that she or he happens to be looking for new firms. Fortunately, many of emerging managers programs’ websites have specific instructions on getting started. Typically, a sample questionnaire, marketing materials and some historic performance information are an effective way to get started. More likely than not, the research contact will be able to perform a fairly detailed analysis during the pre-screening process. One of the biggest challenges smaller firms face is the tradeoff of spending time and money out of the office, so consider starting with a 30-40 minute conference call, instead of asking for an appointment. This is an efficient use of time and can quickly determine if a future meeting is necessary. Managers also shouldn’t underestimate the back office due diligence process. While it was never a “rubber stamp,” it has evolved into the same process that “traditional” consulting firms use. The days of firms relying on the soundbite “we will re-invest in our infrastructure when the assets come” are a thing of the distant past. Today, the initial RFI has a large percentage of its content dedicated to the administration component of the firm. Lastly, managers must be prepared to accept lower fees, which will be highlighted in the early stages of a discussion. There is little to no fee negotiation so managers should not expect to get through the process and re-negotiate at the end because their “numbers are that good.” The bottom line is that most managers are “fee takers” and if they refuse, rest assured that there is a list of firms ready to take your place.
In summary, here are 5 key things to do/remember:
Websites often have portals to educate you on specific firm process, use them
Fully complete industry databases so firms can pre-qualify you on their own
Start with a 30-40 minute introductory phone call to qualify meeting interest
Decide up front that you will accept reduced fee business
Get continuous feedback through the journey
Perhaps most important of all is staying patient while being professionally persistent. But the sooner you get started, the sooner you can get into the game.
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