(Originally published April, 2016)
When working with emerging managers, at some point during the engagement I’m inevitably told “I really can’t afford an attorney/accountant/compliance person/ [fill in the blank] yet. I’ll just have to wait until I get an allocation of capital and start to get some revenue, first.”
This is the Catch-22 for managers. They can’t afford the help to get properly set up to receive an allocation, yet they can’t get an allocation until they’re properly set up.
Below are the harsh realities that emerging managers need to accept:
I tell clients that, if they can’t afford to spend at least $50,000/year for two years, with no revenues coming in, they need to rethink their business strategy. Being an emerging manager is not for wimps because it’s not all about the trading. It’s equally about identifying and mitigating the associated business risks. Below are typical services that are minimally needed for a new manager:
Allocators look at all of these areas. At the end of the day, they give money to traders they trust. No allocator is looking at just one trader. Professionalism can help separate you from the crowd.
So what are your options if you believe you’re a brilliant trader yet don’t feel that you have the money that it takes to get properly organized to market to allocators?
CAPITAL SOURCING OPTIONS
Before determining which direction you want to go, attend industry conferences so you can meet people and firms that can help you. At a conference, you’re on a fact finding mission; discover what types of deals can be made, even if you’re not ready to make them. The more you learn about infrastructure services you need – outright, bundled or as a combination of both – the more you’ll understand what it’ll take to get to the next step and what you’ll want your next step to be. Recommended conferences? CTAExpo/Emerging Manager. One day, inexpensive, all the right people for you to meet, all gathered together for you.
For any choice other than being a prop trader, you must be willing to pay to get the support services you need so you can demonstrate an organized and scalable infrastructure. As Nell emphasizes, “You have to remember – you’re dealing with other people’s money. You have to hold yourself out as a professional.”
Once you’ve decided on a business strategy, where do you start? If your goal is being an emerging manager with your own firm, John Euler, of EAM Compliance Advisors, stresses that a manager’s legal documents need to come first; they lay the foundation on which the manager’s business is built. With that in place, a proper accountant, administrator, and other 3rd party vendors are added as needed. John cautions prospective managers to step back and evaluate the process as a whole to decide if they’re ready and financially able to take that step, converting their trading into a highly regulated and expensive business. “The last thing anyone wants, “he says, “is a simple and honest mistake that costs a lot of money in legal fees because the right foundation wasn’t established before moving forward.”