Q&A: Ole Rollag, Pueblo
Rollag discusses trends in technology that facilitates manager and investor connections
Q: Ole, you recently launched Pueblo, am asset-class agnostic tool which enables investors to connect with previously unknown managers whilst traveling. What was it that investors were telling you that prompted the development of the product?
A: For years, allocators have been expressing their frustrations to me about the number of unsolicited approaches they get from managers, very often promoting funds that they have little interest in investing in. It is not unusual for up to 30% of an allocator’s inbox to be comprised of emails from managers requesting meetings. Since a good proportion of asset managers don’t bother to find out the institutional investor’s preferences, the allocator needs to filter requests asking questions like “Am I interested? Can I even allocate to this? What is so special about this manager?” This is both time consuming and frustrating. The converse is fear about missing out on managers they do want to meet with, especially those that are new and previously unknown to them. It was as a solution to these problems that the idea for myPueblo.com was born.
Q: And what about the managers?
A: Managers are the inverse. Most often, managers will find that there is a key meeting that they need to go to in a city, and do not want to waste time and money just seeing that one investor. This puts a lot of pressure on the business development professional. Hence why there is a lot of email traffic to investors’ inboxes. The pressure to fill a schedule is enormous. The NBD and IR teams need to prove that they are doing a good job and deliver a full calendar of allocator meetings.
It is this intensity that creates a bottleneck of communication. It is hard on everyone. No one wants to put this pressure on the very investors they are wishing to pursue. However, fund marketeers have a job to do.
Q: The alternative investment industry is as much a relationship business as any other. Where is technology truly adding value to the manager selection process?
A: I have always believed that technology, particularly in this industry, needs to enhance relationships and not detract from them. The problem that we have in the funds industry is that professional investors have a plethora of choice and it is a daunting task to sort through all of the managers that are requesting meetings and pitching their wares. It is startling when you realise that there are more long-only equity managers than listed equities.
Technology like ours supports the manager discovery process in a cost-effective way because it helps investors determine whom they want to meet and which managers within their selected criteria are available to meet.
Q: How much more can technology add to this process, i.e. is there an application for advanced technologies like artificial intelligence?
A: I am cautious about artificial intelligence in this area of finance. We have seen broad adoption and development of technologies on the retail side of investments and investment provision but there is more of a bespoke requirement with large institutional portfolios. Institutional investors are different for several reasons: sophisticated portfolios can avoid herding and look for lesser known, higher alpha opportunities. They tend to have longer investment horizons and are less constrained.
There is a role for technology for sure, but to what level of sophistication, i.e. advanced AI, is disputable. Sometimes simplicity is best and ultimately, I believe, there is no substitute for the intelligent, thoughtful and well-informed portfolio manager.
Q: It’s been suggested that this type of desk-top technology will erode the traditional conferences circuit as a more time and cost-efficient method of bringing managers and investors together. To what extent do you believe this market evolution will occur?
A: Potentially. The problem with a lot of conferences is that asset owners and allocators can get a lot more done sitting at their desks reviewing managers. The large format panel and speaker conferences are probably facing the biggest challenge because it seems as though investors are going to these less and less.
I think that this sort of technology could prove to be hugely beneficial and potentially further challenge these kinds of events because the access to managers, transparency and filtering ability will be available to investors without the expense and time involved of supporting the conference infrastructure.
Ole Rollag is Founder of www.mypueblo.com
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