Whitehelm Capital, formerly Access Capital Advisors, has reopened its advisory arm for targeted business after several years of being closed to new clients.
It is publicising this decision with news of its first client win for around 8 years, the $2 billion Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Account based in Canberra, a trust fund that manages all assets in-house in fixed income, cash and term deposits.
Advisory services to the fund will include investment strategy, research and assistance with investment tools relating to its portfolio. In particular, research on inflation and interest rate outlooks will be of prime importance.
The trust’s objectives are to pay out money each year to its stakeholders, but for the pool of money to retain its size.
Whitehelm Capital, which rebranded in July from Access Capital Advisors after adding the Challenger infrastructure business to its fund management operations, has two other full consultancy clients MTAA Super and Prime Super. The latter is undertaking a review of its contract with Whitehelm after merging operations with HIP Super in May.
Ross Blakers, head of portfolio construction and risk at Whitehelm Capital, said it was his firm’s intention to add only a few extra clients, to ensure all have direct and easy access to senior consulting staff.
“You will never need two hands to count our clients on the advisory side,” he said. “We are looking to selectively grow the business, but our ambitions are relatively modest compared to the main consultancies.”
One of the attractions for clients will be the ability to access hands on knowledge of infrastructure and property investing. The company’s investment division has 75 different investments valued at $3.9 billion in infrastructure and property.
“Seeing all the issues with respect to the markets and the assets gives you an unparalleled insight, as opposed to other models where it is just an external manager, with the need to extract the information from the manager,” said Blakers. “This allows us to build highly customised portfolios of real assets for the clients – valuations are a key component in that space and there are segments in these markets that look expensive.”
This expertise has led to high proportions of alternative assets for Whitehelm clients, although this has evolved and is now significantly less than it has been in prior years. MTAA now has a 30 per cent strategic allocation to alternative assets (including private equity and alternative credit alongside property and infrastructure) and Prime Super a 35 per cent allocation.
The illiquidity of alternative assets caused problems for some clients in 2008 which led to forced asset sales.
Blakers said knowledge in this area had improved.
“There have been a number of significant improvements and enhancements that we have made to how we approach portfolio construction and risk management with respect to these types of assets,” he said.
Whitehelm’s advisory business utilises a largely independent advisory committee consisting of independent directors Janet Torney, Warwick McKibbin and Ken Liow.