FUND BOUTIQUES & PRIVATE LABEL FUNDS: Frankfurt is always worth a trip – not only for financial professionals! (Interview – Thomas Caduff, Markus Hill)

Caduff: Mr. Hill, what services do you offer?

Hill: “Investment concept check” for planned fund issues, manager selection, identification of potential investors or seed money providers, presentation of products and services to decision-makers – with the proviso that you maintain your independence and arouse interest in long-term contact with your counterpart through professional exchange of ideas. In short: Activities where, in addition to purely conceptual work, support is also required for the first practical steps – where conception, communication, and implementation are intertwined. I often write about topics that I have had or have a practical connection to in the past or present. Due to my many years of experience in the fields of marketing, sales, and PR (not always motivated by financial considerations), I like to make contact with people and things when I see a good “match”.

Example: Many investors often like to participate in panels or lectures themselves or write professional articles themselves – I often like to make recommendations to organizers or journalists. Conversely, many people have also been very helpful to me in this way. Of course, there are sometimes constellations that can lead to projects. There are of course limits to this “charity approach” – if someone is willing to invest large sums of money for events, PR, or direct mailing campaigns without follow-up activities, then a common business intersection can arise because of the efficiency of the approach could perhaps be increased. This is an interesting experience that I have made with not so “every day” project designs: Many clients appreciate strict confidentiality for certain types of projects (e.g. in the family office area).

Caduff: What do typical work steps look like? How do you see the role of content and interest in investor topics in establishing contacts and for the professional exchange of ideas?

Hill: Be it topics, services or products – many market participants want to know quickly and briefly from the decision-maker side (investors, etc.): Content interesting for decision-makers – interest is given: “Yes”, “No”, “Maybe” – to be able to take further steps in market development. Operational support can also be provided for some time for business development. Without being put into the sales drawer at the counterpart. If there is a clear lack of interest (“No”), one can talk to the other person about “10 other topics” and ask what is interesting or what is being sought. If there is something that fits, you can start a new dialogue. Or I have met a new speaker or author who can be recommended with conviction. Maybe you can also find an interested, qualified feedback provider for projects – not a one-way street, by the way. The investor side knows that I and my team also see many things and are happy to give our assessment. The support for me is also important because in well-budgeted projects you can find out certain things faster if things are filtered well in the first contact. Many decision-makers are interested in technical matters – technical expertise and market knowledge seem more attractive than “flooding” with product and service information, even at the initial contact, due to the numerous feedbacks.

Caduff: In June you will moderate a panel on the topic of family offices and manager selection at the International FundForum in Monaco. How did you get this mandate?

Hill: Due to various projects (including “manager search” for institutional clients) I maintain frequent and intensive exchanges of ideas with investors, vendors, and other market partners. Sometimes these practical discussions result in suggestions for professional articles, columns, and lectures on behalf of third parties. I am increasingly in demand by organizers, who appreciate “industry multipliers” and independence. Since I also have various practical interfaces to the topics of independence and asset management, fund boutiques, and family offices, it probably seems attractive for international organizers to take up such topics as well. The year before I had a panel on market entry to Germany, fund boutiques, and selection criteria. In the fall, the Family Office Forum in Zurich focused on family offices, asset allocation, and due diligence.

Caduff: Back on home ground. Frankfurt is the financial center of Germany. How is the exchange of ideas going? What networking opportunities are there?

Hill: There is a variety of events and formats – expert lunch, hedgework, institutional money as examples or investor breakfasts, evening events, and also the possibility of short official channels in Frankfurt – coffee or lunch with industry colleagues or investors. Due to the central airport, Frankfurt has an interesting international component. Many consulates and associations offer exciting events where there are interfaces to the financial community. There is an interesting network of service providers such as law and tax firms and, for example, media representatives. It is important to approach specialist events with the right expectations – purely professional exchange of ideas with colleagues or roadshow discussions with investors? Specialist presentations, a tight program requiring a high level of concentration, or a relaxed, casual evening program? The transitions here are often fluid.

Caduff: And how do you get involved?

Hill: Roadshows based on projects, participation in various invitations to investor events (“product scouting”), lunches, or coffee with industry colleagues and investors are typical formats where you don’t get “dumber” by talking, so to speak. Especially since ideas for practical comments often arise in this way. Appearing on panels, whether as a moderator (last year, for example, “Roundtable Infrastructure”) or as a panelist (as an independent representative of the fund industry on foundation panels) also helps to maintain a good overview of the market. Visibility in the market often leads to meeting many interesting people and services etc. because they are actively introduced. I have had a good experience with small, non-commercial specialist formats, for example, two foreign and two domestic family offices discuss investment opportunities over lunch or coffee – without any sales motivation. Frankly and freely said at this point: Of course there are formats with a sales and PR orientation that are successful and have their justification – above a certain size, you need sponsors. As a rule, and this has always been the feedback, investors value dialogue at eye level and are more interested in the exchange of ideas and networking activities afterward.

Caduff: What role do multipliers play in the Frankfurt financial industry?

Hill: In general terms: As networkers, they are the ones who bring providers and consumers together, bring in national and international contacts, and also check ideas before they go public. In doing so, you promote ideas and business opportunities. Since they are usually not themselves suppliers of services and products, they are considered neutral or impartial. But I would like to take a closer look at this independence in particular. Multipliers (industry experts, lawyers, tax consultants, media, etc.) also often have to generate income. As long as it is made transparent to the other party where their interests lie and what the fields of neutral discussion are, this seems “clean” and comprehensible to me. To describe the image of a newspaper and, so to speak, cultural sponsoring: With this medium, I know that it lives on subscribers and advertisements. This is legitimate – as soon as these areas are separated, I can gain great pleasure and information while reading the articles!

Caduff: What challenges are product and service providers from Switzerland and abroad facing? What trends do you observe in the financial industry, especially in Germany?

Hill: To put it very briefly: there is information overflow. Probably no decision-maker would notice if in certain segments a predominant share of providers left the market. Many approaches, even interesting ones, suffer from the fact that they do not get into the due diligence process of the investors. In my opinion, foreign companies often do not use their budgets as efficiently as they should when entering the market. Often Germany appears here like a white sheet of paper, which one would like to describe without ink (brand entry e.g. without proper databases, without proper marketing material, without knowledge of the investor mentality, etc.) If you are convinced that Frankfurt is the “gatekeeper location” in Germany, even with a locally fragmented investor landscape, then you can deliver great added value as a service provider in the sense of one-stop shopping. And this opinion is certainly held by many other service providers who care about Frankfurt. For anyone from abroad who needs door openers, “preselectors” or helping hands in the area of business development or fact-finding missions, Frankfurt will offer a wide range of supporters with added value. The city or rather the business location Frankfurt could become even more attractive if the alternative event and press concepts were used even more – from my own experience from numerous discussions I have taken this as a message: Many potential sponsors are not yet aware of this untapped potential!

About the person
Markus Hill is an independent Asset Management Consultant in Frankfurt. His fields of activity include the support of mandates in the marketing, sales, and PR sector. Due to his “special topics” fund boutiques/use of public funds at institutional clients, he also deals with the topic of target fund selection in multi-management approaches. Due to his cooperation with the market leader in the field of private label funds / Master KAG in Germany (Universal Investment) as well as the “initiation” of market-known studies (among others the first Germany-wide consultant survey with RCP/Telos), he is considered a proven industry expert. Publications at home and abroad, columns as an independent expert as well as lecture events underline the “industry networking”.

Photo: www.pixabay.xom

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