The Four P’s of Marketing by Hedge Fund Managers to Pension Fund Managers in the Post-Placement Agent Era: Philosophy, Process, People and Performance

As a result of the recent “pay to play” scandals in New York, California and other states, the SEC, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and certain state pension fund managers have restricted or prohibited hedge fund managers from using placement agents when marketing to state pension fund managers.  See “What Do the Regulatory and Industry Responses to the New York Pension Fund ‘Pay to Play’ Scandal Mean for the Future of Hedge Fund Marketing?,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 2, No. 30 (Jul. 29, 2009).  Prior to the pay to play scandals, placement agents often served an important intermediary role between investment managers and the trustees of state retiree money: they understood the investment goals of pension funds and the investment competencies of particular managers, and they added value by connecting goals with appropriate competencies.  However, the regulatory and industry responses to the pay to play scandals – still perceived in various quarters as unduly draconian – have all but eliminated placement agents from hedge fund manager marketing efforts, at least to the extent those efforts are directed at state pension funds, and at least for now.  At the same time, pension funds are expected to contribute a growing proportion of the assets under management by hedge funds in the next few years.  So who or what is going to fill the hedge fund marketing void that has opened up in the post-placement agent era?  In an effort to answer that question, this article revisits the New York State pension kickback case then discusses: the reduction in the use of placement agents by state pension funds in New York and California; the SEC’s recently proposed rule regarding placement agents; the move by pension funds away from allocations to funds of funds in favor of direct investments in hedge funds; specific examples of pension funds that have moved to single manager allocations; what precisely pension funds are looking for in allocating capital to single managers; specific steps that hedge fund managers can take to market to pension fund managers without relying on placement agents; considerations with respect to in-house marketing teams and prime broker capital introduction services; due diligence by pension funds; and background checks.

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