On Outsourcing of the Family Office Chief Investment Officer Role

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1 On Outsourcing of the Family Office Chief Investment Officer Role By Robin Coady Smith, Co Founder, the Continuum Consortium & Douglas S. Rogers, CFA As this very complex topic of outsourcing of the family office CIO is being discussed via a blog on the Family Office Channel (G9), I reached out to Douglas S. Rogers, CFA. He is a highly recognized, well written and experienced chief investment officer to both institutions and consultancy practices, as well as to family offices. I sought his perspective on this matter and what follows is an edited version of our discussion in interview format. Doug, there is a movement underway of family offices outsourcing their CIO role. This is due in part to several factors. First is the pending regulatory change that could mean greater disclosure of family office investments and ownership arrangements. Second is the continued growth in complexity of alternative investments and the rising costs of staff and systems to keep pace may also be prompting an outsourced solutions. What is your take on this? Any time you have market disruption of the magnitude of the subprime debacle we are still recovering from there is likely to be change. At present, family offices are adjusting to a changing regulatory landscape. The SEC is still attempting to achieve clarity around the definition of a family office following passage of the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. As you suggest, I also hear that many family offices now realize that they do not have sufficient talent on staff to properly address their needs, especially as complexity continues to evolve with the increasing sophistication and complexity of financial instruments. Truly qualified and experienced investment professionals are likely found only in the largest family offices that manage or supervise in excess of $1billon of assets and family wealth. The primary reason is the cost to retain investment talent, but culture is also a major factor. The environment that investment professionals require to make sound decisions is often in conflict with the legal or tax focus of many family offices. Moreover, many investment professionals see no upside to these positions in terms of career progression. Thus, smaller family offices managing or supervising family wealth below $1 billion are choosing from a limited and often inexperienced talent pool. And finally, the more modest family office that manages or supervises family wealth of $500 million or less, may need to outsource most all services, such as investment management and trust services.

2 In your opinion what are the key functions of a Chief Investment Officer, (CIO) in a family office environment? The CIO ought to be the investment authority and voice of the family office investment practice. In general the key functions of the CIO include the following: Establishes the investment vision that accomplishes the family objectives and overall mission of managing their investments and family wealth Drives the strategic positioning and tactical outlook Develops the forward think on asset class assumptions and manages the asset allocation, asset location, manager selection and due diligence processes Refines the balance of taxes, estate planning and investment management throughout the entire investment function Builds the investment practices, supporting processes, infrastructure and need for systems Develops and mentors the investment staff, and trains both staff and family on investment related matters Would you agree that the essential functions of a CIO in a family office are derived from the institutional environment? I believe this is a valid observation. Institutional investment management has focused on serving the needs of pension plans and large charitable organizations. Historically, competitive pressures by plan sponsors through ERISA legislation have driven an almost uniform code of best practices which has been adopted by investment managers, in practice if not in writing. The challenge with family offices is their characteristics and needs vary far greater than pensions, foundations and endowments. At a minimum a family office has the added complexity of addressing a diversity of family wants and needs, as well as critical estate planning and tax issues.

3 I wonder, Doug, are families aware that institutional standards of best practices can be scaled down to the essential standards that apply to the manager of manager approach, which most all family offices follow and enables successful practices and an improved quality of investment service for family members, stakeholders, Trustees, the CFO, Advisors and consultants to the family? With the description, above, of a chief investment officer, you can easily see that most registered investment advisors, not alone family offices, do not have a person of this caliber or a chief investment officer. Thus, it is quite rare to find a family office following best in class investment practices. This is compounded by the fact that in too many instances someone with a background from the endowment community or institutional servicing serves in this capacity with no appreciation or little understanding of the other critical functions that impact high net worth investors. Additionally, many family offices are operating without a uniform investment approach or voice. It is little wonder that families are often confused as to services they should expect to receive. What are the key elements of service that an outsourced CIO should provide? I see three critical elements. The first key element: understand the current structure and posture of the existing investments and support both in house and those that are outsourced to multiple custodians, an investment firm, multifamily office or brokerage firm. Second key element: understand who the decision makers are, any gaps in practices and processes, and also to evaluate what is required in the future to achieve individual family member objectives, as well as overall objectives for the family as an entity. Be able to articulate a viable solution and by the way, there is no one solution that fits every family. The third key element: can be the most critical one. This is the ability to execute. In summary the family needs to look for qualified professionals, sound processes and strategies that can yield compelling results over time, as well as the outsourced CIO or firm s ability to execute. These three critical elements are consistent in all cases. The ability of family or their family office to perform these tasks or to rely upon the outsource CIO or firm to be objective will vary greatly.

4 Most outsourced CIO functions may not be exclusively a CIO function. A pure CIO is a family centric function that takes into consideration people, process and execution around liquid, illiquid, marketable and nonmarketable assets and the various entities of family wealth management, as well as the balance of taxes and estate plans with investment management. Therefore outsourced CIOs may all have a solution of some sort. But let me share an example of how critical this selection process can be. Can the professionals on staff carefully orchestrate taking an estate plan into account? Can they collaborate in transitioning assets without generating an inordinate amount of capital gains? The talent pool that can do this effectively is limited. Moreover, the investments may be held at multiple custodians. Has the firm that performs the outsource CIO functions invested sufficiently in data aggregation software & multiple layers of accounting systems as well as integrated general ledgers and spreadsheets to stay abreast of the process and to prepare the necessary reports so the family offices receives the information necessary to make sound decisions? There are numerous issues like this that family offices have to contend with that institutions do not. Before the commitment is made to outsource the CIO role, there is a tremendous amount of preparation and assessment on both ends that will be required by the outsource solution in order to achieve a best in class result and outcome. What do you believe are the key lessons that we should take away from the sub prime debacle and the events of the past 2 3 years? There are two that come to mind. The first is that from the experience of the major endowments the first priority for high net worth families is to ensure there is sufficient cash and income generating capability to match liabilities. This is financial planning 101. The second is that families at all levels of wealth are overwhelmed by the complexity of the financial markets and it is only getting worse. There is a genuine need for better alignment of asset & entities and asset/liability matching and to create simpler, easier to comprehend solutions. Doug, do you see a benefit of one type of investment platform over another? You may be surprised to hear this from me, since the past twelve years I have been involved with open architecture firms but my answer is clearly NO!

5 As I stated earlier, there are three critical items investors need to look for in a platform; the quality of personnel, processes and strategies that have the potential to achieve compelling results, and the ability to execute. Many of my peers would like to make the case of open architecture being a superior or even the only acceptable solution. Firms that manage strategies internally also have the potential to achieve compelling results with proper product construction and execution. The major problem lies with potential conflicts. However, this challenge impacts open architecture platforms as well. Open architecture advocates argue they inherently eliminate conflicts of interest, but open architecture firms face a different form of conflict that is rarely discussed. When the research staff recommends eliminating a manager from the approved manager recommended list consider the effort involved by an advisor that may have twenty relationships to replace the manager with another. Most advisors will side with the existing manager, because they do not wish to share with the client their original choice was not the best and the effort of notification, resigning documents, etc are significant work. How do investments firms, multi family offices, financial advisors, etc. solve this issue? The best way I know of is to keep the investment function independent of client servicing. When you form an investment committee, the client servicing function should establish the search priorities and criteria. It is the responsibility of the chief investment officer to ensure the research staff has vetted all possible options and conducted the necessary due diligence. As long as the research staff follows sound established practices and manager searches are checked and documented the recommendations of hiring and terminating managers should rarely be questioned. In a similar vein the operational due diligence effort should have veto power over investment considerations. It s simply the best way to manage manager risk. I hear of firms using institutional consulting firms for manager recommendations and due diligence. What are your thoughts on this approach? The challenge you have is that many firms and family offices cannot afford or are unwilling to pay the cost of personnel, travel, etc. to conduct adequate due diligence on investment managers. Firms that take this approach may purchase the product of an institutional consulting firm at the cost of let s say $200,000 annually, which appears to be cost effective. It may be advantageous in the area of alternative

6 investments to have such a product as a tool to support the research effort. However, you can delegate the authority but not the responsibility on due diligence. If a manager fails you may be able to protect the firm somewhat legally, but the reputational damage will still take place. With the traditional manager institutional products, when you take into account the impact of taxes, there are few institutional managers that make sense in the framework of what the leading practitioners refer to as the tax aware core and satellite approach. If a family office is unsatisfied with the results achieved by their CIO or external provider how do you suggest they approach trying to find a better solution? Robin, the first item to do is formally review the results and determine if in fact the results are unacceptable after taking into account the objectives and constraints that the chief investment officer or the provider is operating under. If possible, I recommend that they use a team of qualified professionals to do this. The team should consist of the following skills: Family governance skills to determine the involvement and guidance by the family and if their objectives are clearly known Assessment of Structuring of family office investment practices, processes and systems with attention to industry standards and the ability of lack of ability to produce accurate reports and accurate and timely family statements. Often the lack of having investment policy statements in the right place, which serve as a blue print for building the investment platform, is indicative of a lack of awareness of industry standards and it is shocking how many families do not have this essential tool. A qualified investment professional collaborate with governance professional for understanding of the objectives and what should have taken place. Then the investment professional should meet with the chief investment officer or outside advisor in attempt to understand their philosophy and approach. This is critical, as there are different approaches to managing money successfully. The key is whether the particular approach matches the needs of the client. Then the professional can begin analyzing returns taking into account what should be a reasonable expectation. This can be a time consuming process. Most family offices or providers do not construct their quarterly performance reports in a manner that allows for quick and thorough interpretation. At the end of the exercise, however, the family will be able to determine objectively whether the chief investment officer did in fact achieve reasonable results, as it is extremely costly to transition to another provider.

7 If you would recommend for a change to be made how would do you suggest the family go about it? What I do not recommend is what you most often see. The family talks to friends or gets in a chat room and obtains the names of twenty or so providers. Then the president of the family office calls and obtains answers to a few questions, gets the list down to six or so firms, issues a brief industry standard request for proposal and then the family interviews three candidates. This is the ultimate beauty contest that causes high expectations and often leads to disappointing results. The best way to do this is to hire a qualified external team to understand the issues and clearly identify what the family really needs before they reach out to potential providers. Once this is complete it is time to identify those firms that most closely match the requirements. A detailed request for proposal should be prepared, but in a custom fashion that addresses the specific requirements of the family. The team should prepare and assist the family during the interview process of the finalists and ultimately final site visits. Ideally the team will guide the family and decision makers of the family office through the entire process. This is the best process I am aware of to achieve a mutually beneficial, long term professional relationship. Thank you, Doug for sharing your insights on this complicated topic of adding value to the critical choices and future of family office investment practices. Robin Coady Smith, Managing Partner and Visionary Co Founder of the Continuum Consortium Douglas S. Rogers, CFA

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