This article was written by Bob Guilbert, Managing Director, and first appeared in Hedgeweek's 2016 Guide to Setting Up an Alternative Investment Fund in the USA.
You're a new fund manager, and somewhere on your task list the letters "IT" are probably followed by a question mark. Odds are, you don't have a technology background, so as your firm's Chief Operating/Financial/Compliance Officer (or in some cases, Portfolio Manager), the sudden responsibility you've undertaken as your firm's de facto IT Manager is intimidating at best.
The good news is, as a startup, your IT options are pretty clear. In 2016, there's no better technology decision a new firm can make than selecting a cloud platform – an infrastructure that has proven benefits including scalability, flexibility and robust security, among others. And while the thought of hosting IT offsite was once a worry for allocators, today's investors find comfort in knowing hedge fund and alternative investment firms are focusing on their investment priorities and leaving the technology decisions to the experts.
From our perspective, the cloud is now a tried and tested infrastructure environment that is acceptable to the institutional investor community. They have become very thorough in their operational due diligence process, understanding exactly what cloud providers provide from an operational, management and security perspective. This has allowed managers to become much more comfortable at appointing a cloud provider to deliver an infrastructure that will perform well in any type of trading environment.
Where managers need to spend their time is deciding on the best cloud provider to work with, as opposed to thinking about whether or not they should use a cloud provider in the first place.
And how exactly do emerging fund managers embark on that decision-making process?
The financial services industry is currently under tremendous pressure to meet both investor and due diligence requirements. Thus, it is increasingly important to maximize technology to meet these pressures. To conclude our six-part hedge fund launch webinar series, we spoke with Eze Castle Integration’s own managing director Vinod Paul, who shared insights about current IT challenges and demands and how today’s hedge funds can employ best practices for operational excellence.
Key Priorities for New Managers
Paul defined cybersecurity and scalability as two primary technology considerations for new managers. You must first understand your firm’s specific vulnerabilities and exposures. One of the most common mistakes new launches make, according to Paul, is assuming that they only require the basic bare minimum in terms of technology. He urges new managers to pick an IT solution with operational growth in mind -- considering the business not at the onset, but in three to five years.
Service Provider Selection Criteria
Paul continued to place emphasis on customized IT, stating that when it comes to outsourcing, it is imperative that a firm carries out proper due diligence in choosing a provider to meet the firm’s unique needs. “You want enter into a true partnership that offers open lines of communication, flexibility, and ultimately, trust and accountability,” he said. Brand and reputation, long lasting relationships with clients, and industry experience are some of criteria Paul feels are most important when selecting a service provider. “Don’t step in to it with the attitude that a current provider is good enough, for right now,” he cautioned. The service provider should not only address day-to-day operations but also anticipate potential problems down the road.
Successfully launching a hedge fund is a complex endeavor. Not only must emerging managers evaluate traditional deployment strategies, but consider current factors influencing the financial landscape.
Last week, Eze Castle Integration presented a webinar, “How to Launch a Hedge Fund,” featuring an expert panel that addressed some critical areas for consideration, notably capital introduction, legal and technology. There was quite a bit of content discussed during the 1-hour event, so we’ve pulled out some key takeaways.
Capital Raising (Paul Schultz, Director of Capital Introduction, Wells Fargo Prime Services)
Examine both content and context, i.e. cash inflows and outflows as well as the “big picture” that accounts for volatility
Be aware of the kinds of investors coming into the hedge fund space. Large and institutional pension plans are currently the largest investor base.
Be prepared when speaking to investors. Target those who have a history of being receptive to founder share class and who may offer lower management and performance fees.
Show investors that you have a 3+ year budget for working capital without any performance fees.
Have a well thought-out blueprint. Clarity and intention make all the difference.
Categorized under: Launching A Hedge Fund Cloud Computing Security Disaster Recovery Hedge Fund Due Diligence Hedge Fund Operations Hedge Fund Regulation Infrastructure Communications Outsourcing Business Continuity Planning Trends We're Seeing Videos And Infographics
Investment firms often place too much emphasis on managing portfolios and not enough on managing the business as a whole. Particularly for startups entering a competitive marketplace, expectations are high. That means you have to demonstrate to investors that you take your business seriously and that you’ve made investments in your operations, technology, etc. that will fortify your firm and provide a solid foundation for investment success.
The decisions you make from the outset will define how your firm is regarded within the industry, by both investors and competitors. By taking into account all aspects of your firm and relying on trusted service providers to support operations, you prove to the greater investment industry that you should be taken seriously and can operate successfully in a challenging environment.
Transparency is of critical importance.
Since the 2008 economic collapse and scandals caused by the likes of Madoff, transparency has become a key requirement for investors. Nothing less than full disclosure is expected of firms from the newest launches to the most established investment firms. As such, fund managers should take this to heart and make strong efforts to comply with increasing investor expectations.
The following is the second excerpt from our new whitepaper, Launching a Hedge Fund: 10 Keys to Success. Don't forget to visit Hedge IT on Thursday as we reveal the last of our key considerations for starting a hedge fund.
To read part one, click here.
Develop an IT budget for your first 2-3 years.
Operating capital may be limited in the first few years after your launch, so careful budgeting and long range planning will serve your firm well. Your information technology budget should include priorities and figures for at least two to three years, including infrastructure/hardware and software requirements. Some questions you’ll want to consider:
How many offices are you launching with? Do you plan to open additional offices in the near future?
How many users do you have on day one? How many can you expect to have in years 2 and 3?
Where are your offices located? Are there cost differences between domestic and international offices?
What are your trading practices and how does this impact your budget?
What kinds of systems do you need? (Order Management, Portfolio Accounting, Risk Management, CRM, etc.)
Ensure your technology budget coincides with your firm’s growth plan. Do you expect to grow quickly? Open new offices? Expand internationally? You will need to account for these changes.
Understand hedge fund regulations and how they affect your firm.
Governmental oversight of the financial industry has evolved dramatically in the last decade. Hedge funds, private equity firms and registered investment advisers now operate in a world where they are beholden to regulatory bodies with growing expectations and requirements. When launching your hedge fund, you’ll need to be clear up front with any responsibilities you may have to any applicable agencies – in the United States, that means the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Are you required to register? If so, represent your firm accurately and be descriptive of your operations. If not forthcoming, you may open up your firm to serious regulatory and criminal prosecution.
Categorized under: Launching A Hedge Fund Cloud Computing Security Disaster Recovery Hedge Fund Due Diligence Hedge Fund Operations Hedge Fund Regulation Infrastructure Communications Outsourcing Business Continuity Planning Software Trends We're Seeing
The following is an excerpt from our new whitepaper, Launching a Hedge Fund: 10 Keys to Success. Be sure to come back to Hedge IT next week as we reveal more of our key considerations for starting a hedge fund.
Do your legal homework.
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make as a new investment manager is how to set up your hedge fund. Your organizational structure will typically reveal itself as a limited partnership (LP) or limited liability company (LLC). You may also consider a master-feeder fund structure, which could provide favorable benefits, and a domestic or offshore choice may also come into consideration. Many of these decisions will be impacted by the assets you plan to launch with or if you’re using or planning to solicit seed or acceleration capital.
Based on these structural decisions, you’ll need to determine your tax implications as well as regulatory requirements. In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), under the Dodd-Frank Act, requires asset managers managing more than $150 million in AUM to register and hence meet a host of reporting requirements.
Create a marketing plan.
Once upon a time, hedge fund marketing was generally frowned upon, and in some cases, illegal. It wasn’t until the JOBS Act was enacted in 2013 that hedge funds finally had the opportunity to shed their fears of noncompliance and publicly market and advertise their funds. There are a variety of communication options firms can use to solicit investors – from traditional print and websites to social media, video and email marketing. Regardless of how, firms should build comprehensive marketing plans that will support their business beyond the launch phase.
Today's hedge funds are facing an environment defined by regulatory pressure, investor demands and fierce competition. For hedge fund startups, the challenges are even greater, so too are the demands. Successfully operating a new startup beyond the first year is a feat many managers struggle to accomplish, therefore it's critical for emerging managers to gain a full understanding of the industry that awaits them and the hurdles they should expect to face.
While the list of considerations is surely long for new managers, we've whittled it down to 10 Keys to Launching a Hedge Fund Successfully - a guide for new startups to use when setting off on their new journey.
Take a look at our latest video for a quick look at our 10 Keys to Success. And be sure to come back to Hedge IT later this week when we'll be sharing an excerpt from our brand new whitepaper on the same topic!
Categorized under: Launching A Hedge Fund Cloud Computing Security Disaster Recovery Hedge Fund Due Diligence Hedge Fund Operations Hedge Fund Regulation Infrastructure Communications Outsourcing Business Continuity Planning Trends We're Seeing
On December 9, 2015, Wells Fargo Prime Services and Eze Castle Integration hosted a panel on cybersecurity to discuss the current landscape. The panel featured leading industry experts including:
Eldon Sprickerhoff, Founder & Chief Security Strategist, eSentire
Stuart Levi, Partner, New York, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Vinod Paul, Managing Director, Eze Castle Integration
Timothy O’Brien, Supervisory Special Agent, Cyber branch, Federal Bureau of Investigation – New York Office.
Marc P. Berger, Partner, Government Enforcement, Ropes & Gray LLP
Marc Berger’s opening statements emphasized the extent of the cybersecurity threat currently facing firms across a wide swath of industries. He quoted FBI Director James Comey, who stated: “There are two kinds of big companies in the United States. There are those who’ve been hacked … and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked ….” (FBI Director James B. Comey, 60 Minutes, CBS TV Interview, October 5, 2014). Alarming statistics from the Ponemon Institute’s 2015 Cost of Cyber Crime Study, conducted with HP Enterprise Security, found that the average cost to resolve a single cybersecurity incident is $1.9M, and the average time to resolve is 46 days. Perpetrators range from nation-state-sponsored hackers and disgruntled/rogue employees to organized crime units, activists, and other thieves.
Times have changed. There is little doubt that the hedge fund industry has evolved in recent years with the rise of new regulations, the wide spread adoption of cloud services and deep focus on cybersecurity risks. These changes have affected the way many firms do business on both operational and technology levels.
But what effect do these changes have for the person responsible for technology at a hedge fund or investment firm? As a Chief Technology Officer (or comparable role: Director of IT, Chief Information Officer, etc.), one has historically been responsible for day-to-day IT functions and routine technology refreshes. But as the industry has experienced rapid change over the last several years, so too have the CTOs and their responsibilities.
If you’re one of the seemingly few firms who has yet to make the move to the cloud, it could be for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you want to maintain total control of your IT environment. Or maybe you’re waiting for a tech refresh to motivate you. Alternatively, it could be that you just haven’t made the proper case to management for switching to the cloud – and many times the one who really needs convincing is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
If you’re the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or IT Manager, your responsibility is determining the infrastructure choices that are going to best suit operations at your firm. But those priorities may not line up exactly with those of the firm’s CFO. IT doesn’t always have insight into the financial ramifications of an operations decision of this magnitude. Instead they are typically focused on the other benefits including personnel reallocation, workflow efficiencies, etc.
The CFO, on the other hand, is ultimately tasked with ensuring the company’s financial decisions are appropriate, and therefore, it’s often advantageous to at least attempt to speak his/her language when pushing for an IT change.