Sunday, December 21, 2014


Every investment management firm has a brand; the key question is whether you are actively or passively managing your brand in the marketplace.  Actively managing your brand is critical to being successful in attracting assets under management from the institutional marketplace, since how well you manage your brand will be viewed as an indication of how well you manage the rest of your firm.
To help you gauge whether you are currently actively managing your brand, please take a few minutes to think about the following questions:
  • Do you have a marketing plan?
  • Does your marketing plan provide guidelines to help you manage your brand?
  • Does your marketing plan include a communications strategy designed to create positive awareness of your brand?
  • Do you have well-articulated values that help shape your culture?
  • Do you have a clear mission statement?  Vision statement?
  • Have you developed a well-defined edge that differentiates you relative to your competitors?
By having a well-thought out marketing plan, communications strategy, values, mission statement, vision statement and edge, you have the foundation for an effective brand strategy.  A brand strategy is similar to an investment strategy in the sense that it defines how you want your brand to be viewed in the marketplace and how you will manage the perceptions of your brand among clients and prospects.

A good brand strategy has three primary benefits:
  • Makes it clear who you are and what you do
  • Helps differentiate you from your competitors
  • Enables you to generate more visibility, “shots on goal” and assets under management
Developing and implementing an effective brand strategy typically encompasses four primary steps:
  • Assess:  review all current online and offline materials; determine what works well, what works OK and what is not working; conduct market research among your current clients and investment consultants to learn how your brand is currently perceived
  • Strategize:  develop your values, mission statement, vision statement and edge and ensure that they are integrated into your marketing plan and communications strategy
  • Translate:  using your values, mission and vision statements and edge, translate them into actionable ideas for online and offline marketing materials
  • Implement:  develop relevant, useful marketing tools (online and offline) using a consistent look and feel and tone of voice
Lesson Learned: Actively managing your brand is critical for success.

Henry Hakewill, IV
Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer
NexTier Companies, LLC

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

THE BURDEN OF COMPLIANCE: A New Era for Private Equity

As a former senior compliance officer for Hewitt EnnisKnupp, Inc., I’ve seen the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) steadily increased its compliance demands.  It  seemed to start slowly for private equity funds, with the majority of the initial Dodd Frank burden being carried by hedge funds.  But the day is fast arriving for private equity funds, if it hasn’t already arrived.

Registration as an investment adviser, with either the SEC or a state securities agency, requires an ongoing program of compliance.  State securities agencies, such as our own Illinois Securities Department, almost universally look to the SEC for leadership in this regard and rely upon them for regulatory guidance.  Accordingly, best practices in compliance requires following SEC guidance.  The SEC’s emphasis on the ongoing and constantly evolving nature of a compliance program is one that consistently causes trouble for newly formed advisors.  Private equity fund advisors, who are a relatively new addition to the SEC’s regulatory oversight, are particularly vulnerable to overlooking essential compliance tasks since it is not part of the industry culture. 

Along these lines, the SEC has been very vocal about its desire to investigate newly formed and/or newly registered private equity funds, including forming a special task force specifically organized and trained to perform this task.  Recently, the SEC has also spoken out about the consistent deficiencies that it has uncovered in private equity investing, publicly noting in May, with several recent enforcement actions emphasizing the point, that significant issues were found in over 50% of the funds that it had investigated.  Consequently, institutional investors have been quick to seize upon the compliance programs of potential investments as an increasingly important piece in their investing checklist.  For institutional investors, a thorough review of compliance matters is an essential way to meet their fiduciary duties to their own investors and to quickly weed out private equity firms that are not suitable. 

This twin focus, from both regulators and potential investors, on compliance issues has raised the importance of understanding investment adviser registration as much more than just an initial registration, but as an ongoing set of tasks that play a critical role in the organization and constant attention.

Lesson Learned: The compliance burden is only getting larger and it pays to be prepared.

Randy J. Heinig, Esq.
Director and General Counsel
NexTier Companies, LLC