Finding the Keys into Sponsor Platforms (1/2)


This is a summary of a session from the Money Management Institute’s 2012 Fall Solution Conference. This is part one of a two-part series.

Moderator: 

Bill Broderick, Principal, Investment Advisory, Edward Jones.  They launched their SMA program back in 1993 ($2.5 bil AUM), Mutual Fund Advisory (MFA) was launched 4 yrs ago and now has over $83 billion in assets, last year launched UMA ($1.2 billion AUM).  All programs are home office-driven with very limited investment lists.  There are no Rep as PM programs.  Research team consists of 20 analysts based in St. Louis, MO who build the fifty supported models.  All of their models are GIPS-compliant.

Panelists:

Steve Raimer, Partner, Director of Due Diligence, Lord Abbett & Co.  They are an independent money management firm based in Jersey City, NJ.  $127 billion in AUM.

Jeff Holland, Executive VP, Head of Capital Markets, Cole Real Estate Investments.  Cole has been in business over 30 years and has $12 billion in real assets.  They focus on long-term, high-quality,  income-producing real estate.  Jeff has been with the firm for two years and is the gatekeeper for their platform and is responsible for driving advisor adoption of new products.  Prior to Cole he was COO of Equity Trading at BlackRock.

Anthony Ciccarone, Managing Director, Head of National Accounts Business Development, Nuveen Investments.  Nuveen has around $210 billion in AUM.  Ciccarone has been at Nuveen since 2005 and in National Accounts for three years.  Prior to that he was in Nuveen’s Product Development Group for four years.

What is some initial advice for getting onto your platform?

Holland proposed that the industry is coalescing towards a 2×2 matrix; advisory vs commission and discretionary vs non-discretionary.  When moving into discretionary platforms and home office models there is a higher level of due diligence, he warned.  Does your firm have the rigor to get on these platforms?  Even in discretionary products, some firms require client approval before investing in alternatives such as REITs, he advised.

How can managers better position themselves versus their competition?

According to Raimer, there are three things that are critical for a manager: 1) know your products; 2) know the sponsor landscape; 3) know the competitive landscape.  Are you a better or complimentary solution?  Unless you are contacted as part of an active search by the sponsor, then being a complimentary solution is better.  A manager should be able to demonstrate to the analyst how they can improve their recommended list, he said.

For small managers, such as Coles, who are focusing on alternatives to the standard 40 Act funds, it can be more difficult, Holland described.  Coles has developed what they believe to be an innovative product, which is a managed account wrapper around commercial real estate.  When making the value proposition, you have to make analogies to existing products so they can understand how you fit into their platform.  A big challenge for innovative products can be just finding the right people to talk to at the sponsor, he said.

What are the key steps to getting onto a platform?  How long does it take?Finding the Keys

The most important part of the process is building a relationship with the analyst and understanding their needs, Raimer said.  He emphasized that you must maintain an ongoing conversation, and continue building familiarity, to help the analysts know your portfolio managers and your discipline.

Getting hired is just the beginning, Raimer cautioned.  Are you part of their asset allocation model or were you placed on their recommended list or were you just added as on option on the platform?  This will determine the amount of work that you need to do to maintain your position.  There can be a tremendous amount of communication required for the monthly or quarterly updates.  Lord Abbott has a dedicated team just to support the research analysts to ensure they get the information they need, he reported.

How to get onto an asset allocation model?

When looking at a model, it’s important to look at all the sleeves to see how they blend, Raimer suggested.  At Lord Abbett, they run a series of analysis to see if they can improve the risk return profile of the model.  Where is the sweet spot?  It’s best to be armed with as much information as possible since data drives success, he said.

Ciccarone said it’s best to the find out what the asset allocation team is trying to accomplish since they have different objectives from other parts of the firm.  The asset allocation team has a different time frame since they think forward over a tactical time horizon.  Managers need to be more forward thinking.  They should find out how the sponsor’s asset allocation model evolving and how can they best fit in.  Understanding what they have in their portfolio and what their objectives are gives you the best chance to gain access to the model, he said.

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This is part one of a two part series. Look for part two coming soon! Meanwhile, check out some of our other wealth management content:

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