05/03/2024

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day: The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to playCasey at the Bat, Ernest Lawrence Thayer

Hope springs eternal in the OCIO space. Each year confident investment officers and ardent marketeers announce their brand-new best-in-class discretionary outsourced solution. But for most of these eager rookies, few customers will come or care.

Looking back over the last four decades, the best time to pitch an outsourced chief investment officer (OCIO) proposition was probably about thirty years ago when prospects were plentiful, competitors few, and margins were healthy.

In today’s hyper-competitive wealth management arena, fielding a full-service institutional grade asset management team is expensive and costs are soaring for compensation, cyber-security, audits, and compliance, to say nothing of rampant regulatory hurdles and those nasty unknown unknowns.

(See our charts below for detailed office cost breakdowns.)

We recently completed an OCIO search and selection engagement for a sizable east coast nonprofit and found all the responding providers to be consummate professionals and serious competitors.

Firms such as Hirtle Callaghan, Blackrock, J.P. Morgan, and Brown Brothers Harriman, among the stalwarts in our directory, have had years to hone their systems, service, succession, and investment capabilities. But it’s never easy.

In an interview with Jon Hirtle for our 2020 OCIO review he reminisced on the firm’s early efforts to win clients.

Debby [Jon’s wife] and I often talk about the financial low point when our checking account had dropped to $17. What kept us going was that everyone loved the OCIO concept. The idea of powerful, informed, energetic advocacy without the conflicts of interest that define the traditional investment industry.

This Cold Cruel World

It’s tough for newbies and niche players to keep up with the veterans. This year kicked off with Edgehill calling it quits, Agility selling to Cerity Partners, and Vanguard’s OCIO team decamping en masse for Mercer.

They’re in good company. The past few years have seen a steady stream of outsourcing hopefuls merge with better-resourced patrons including Truvvo, Ellwood Associates, New Providence, CornerStone, PFM, and Permit Capital. There will certainly be more.

Boston Consulting Group, in their Global Asset Management 2023 review, estimates that – due to rising costs – the industry’s compound annual growth rate in profits “will be approximately half the average of recent years (5% versus 10%).”

Most nonprofits and family offices, basically anyone under $500 million in investable assets, don’t have the time or resources to build competitive and secure internal investment capabilities. 

Investment Office Costs: you pay to play

Strategic Investment Group published an investment office cost study recently, Building Blocks and Costs of an Internal Investment Office, that’s worth a read. 

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Mellon’s John Hull Tops Non-Profit CIO Pay Rankings

Institutional Investor – March 15, 2012  •  Frances Denmark

Charles Skorina had a problem. As an executive search consultant specializing in filling investment officer holes at pension funds and endowments, he was often asked by boards of trustees to produce metrics to aid in candidate comparisons. But in his 30 years in the search business, such data had proved hard to come by ­— that is, until late January. That’s when Skorina’s “CIO Performance-for-Pay” ranking (see chart below) hit the institutional investor zeitgeist.

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Bloomberg: Help Wanted on Campus

By Gillian Wee  Aug 18, 2010

Bloomberg Markets Magazine

 

Top U.S. universities are looking for a new breed of investment manager who can be nimble in tough times.

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