Gathering an accurate understanding of what is important to the super fund must start before the initial pitch. Your fund may be top-performing, have the largest team of MBAs, CFAs and PhDs and be highly rated by consultants. But there’s little point banging that drum if the super fund values risk diversification, liquidity or organisational culture highly.
So how do you determine what is important to the fund?
Understand fund goals
First, it’s vital to answer this question: What is the super fund trying to do? The simple answer is: Invest to meet the retirement needs of its members. But funds have varying priorities, including:
• a long-term investment horizon;
• risk diversification;
• obtaining exposure to risk premiums; and
• reducing costs.
The Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus of super funds is the excellent book Investment Beliefs – A Positive Approach to Institutional Investing by Kees Koedijk and Alfred Slager.
Understanding what makes the fund tick is an essential ingredient in preparing a winning pitch.
Pool your knowledge
You’ll be surprised by how much collective intelligence you already have about the super fund you’re planning to approach. Existing relationships, previous pitches, industry experience: valuable intelligence may be already at your fingertips –or within your department.
Focused research of corporate websites, annual reports and member communication can answer important questions such as: What are the super fund’s core values? Their membership demographics? Is the fund in accumulation or running-off its assets? Does it have a defined-benefit offering? What are the risk and return objectives for each investment option? Who are the existing fund managers?
If there are gaps in the picture, fill them in the simplest way possible: pick up the phone. Some super funds will welcome the opportunity to talk about themselves. Especially when they know it will lead to an offer tailored to their needs.
Of course, funds may be tight-lipped. Some decision makers – rather like the best-looking person in the room – are swamped by unwanted advances. In this situation, coming on too strong isn’t a good strategy. You will look desperate and the market is small. People talk.
Once you’ve completed your research, distil it to a list of key points. Using this to inform your general approach will ensure you cover the needs of the organisation.
It’s time to get specific. The decision to award a contract is normally made by a small panel of decision-makers and influencers. These will normally be regulated by a fund governance structure. Understanding both will give you the competitive edge.