Getting to Know the Gatekeepers: How Hedge Fund Managers Can Interface with Investment Consultants to Access Institutional Capital (Part One of Two)

If you as a hedge fund manager want to raise and retain institutional investor capital, you have to make (or remain) friends with investment consultants.  Such consultants are playing an increasingly central role in the allocation decisions of institutional investors with respect to hedge funds, for at least five reasons.  First, funding gaps, demographic shifts and other factors have increased the need among many institutions to generate consistent alpha; the same dynamics have accentuated the stakes of making an allocation mistake.  Second, consultants are usurping much of the advisory terrain previously occupied by funds of funds because of concerns regarding the latters’ fees and performance shortcomings.  See “SEI Report Highlights Challenges Faced by Fund of Hedge Funds Industry and Recommends Improvements,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 5, No. 47 (Dec. 13, 2012).  Third, the due diligence process and allocation decisions have become more multifaceted, focusing as much (or more) on operational issues than on performance alone.  See “What Should Hedge Fund Managers Expect When ERISA Plans Conduct Due Diligence on and Negotiate for Investments in Their Funds?,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 6, No. 25 (Jun. 20, 2013).  Fourth, the pace of regulatory change and new fund launches make it difficult for institutions to keep up with due diligence best practices or investment options.  See “Legal and Operational Due Diligence Best Practices for Hedge Fund Investors,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Jan. 5, 2012).  Fifth, the growing use of investment consultants by institutions has made any particular institution less inclined to go it alone.  In short, investment consultants are fast becoming the standard of care for institutional investors allocating capital to private funds.  As such, they effectively serve as “gatekeepers” – in the commonly heard phrase – to the deepest pool of capital available to hedge fund managers.  In light of the centrality of investment consultants to the world of private fund allocations, this article offers a tutorial to hedge fund managers on what matters to consultants.  To do so, this article – the first in a two-part series – memorializes our interviews with a range of leading consultants on the topics they consider most important.  In particular, this article provides an overview of services and service models employed by investment consultants; discusses how consultants staff engagements and how they are compensated; explores how consultants think about manager selection; and details how managers can disclose information required by consultants while protecting such information.  The second article in this series will focus on the legal and regulatory risks faced by hedge fund managers in working with consultants, and will offer suggestions on mitigating those risks.

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