First Person: commentary by Sarah Quist Mazzocco

| Print |  Email
Saturday, April 01, 2006

{safe_alt_text} What's in a name?

One woman finds that defining her firm’s strength takes more than just an official term.

By Sarah Quist Mazzocco

Not everyone is familiar with the term “emerging manager.”  Is it a special kind of mutual fund? A training program for a new recruit? Do an online search, and you might be surprised. Officially, emerging managers refer to small money management firms (those with less than $1 billion under management) that may be minority- or women-owned. But to me, “emerging manager” is the path of discovery I have been on since last fall.

Last September, I joined Vision Capital Management, an investment adviser firm. Part of my job was to explore the institutional world of investing, specifically state retirement plans. This was an attractive direction for us, a women-owned firm with a desire to expand our services beyond individuals to institutions.

Portland-based Vision Capital, founded by Suzanne McGrath and Marina Johnson, manages money for high net-worth individuals. Working at one of the largest female-owned Registered Investment Advisors in Oregon with solid investment returns, I thought that breaking into the institutional world as an emerging manager would be a breeze. After all, I’ve been in the business for more than 20 years — I was raised in a family of investment bankers — so I was feeling pretty confident that just a few phone calls would lead me to the right person. Then, bingo! I’d be submitting my first proposal. 

How wrong I was. The first thing I quickly discovered is that the term emerging manager didn’t mean the same thing to everyone. My introductory phone pitch — “I am inquiring into the individual who is in charge of your emerging manager program” — needed a drastic overhaul. The treasury in each state had its own unique emerging manager definition. Some days I would spend hours talking with the people in private equity (wrong) or spend several days tracking down another person only to find out, “Oh yes, we do have an emerging manager program, but it is only open to managers in our state.“

I soon discovered that all my years working with individual clients were not helping me on this new journey. In the institutional world of investing, each state’s retirement fund had a different set of rules. So, I changed my pitch. Instead of using the obscure term, “emerging manager,” I began my call with “I work for a female-owned investment adviser firm looking for the opportunity to be selected as one of your investment advisers.” What a difference! Women-owned and not emerging manager proved to be more persuasive. Quickly I was getting to the right people. Soon I had in my possession several Request For Proposals (RFPs) from various states. But it still wasn’t smooth sailing.

One call stands out most vividly in my mind: On my first try, I actually reached the individual who was managing the state’s selection process. We talked for several minutes. I once again explained that I worked with a female-owned investment adviser who invests in large-cap growth stocks, and that we’d like to submit a proposal. The guy on the phone was very excited — they were looking for both a large-cap growth manager and a female-owned firm.

I thought I’d hit the jackpot. The conversation progressed. The e-mail with the proposal had already hit my in-box. Then I was brought up short: I was asked how much Vision Capital was willing to give up in equity. Blind-sided, I wondered: “What did he mean give up equity?” I soon discovered that in order to be selected as an emerging manager in this particular state, we had to give up a percentage of ownership in our company. From this state’s point of view, they were helping to incubate your firm, so asking for equity was not out of line.

My mind began to reel. After all, we feel Vision Capital is very well established, no incubation needed. If our firm’s investment returns are solid, and we qualify as a minority-owned emerging manager, is it really necessary to give them an ownership position? I thanked him for his time. In the end, we reluctantly submitted our proposal. We may be established players in individual investing, but we’re new to the institutional world.

It has now been several months since I first embarked on this uncharted path. Vision Capital has submitted several proposals and we’ve begun to set up appointments with prospective client states, including Oregon — where Northern Trust, the firm that manages our state’s emerging manager program, has been helping us navigate this process along with Jay Fewel at the Oregon State Treasury. Our goal is pretty simple: to secure one annual contract.

But on top of everything else I’ve learned during this process, the most important lesson has been this one simple fact — even with 20 years in the financial business, being a woman is what counted most.

Sarah Quist Mazzocco is vice president of marketing and client relations for Vision Capital Management in Portland.

 

More Articles

Urban renewer

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
UnknownBY LINDA BAKER   

One year after he was appointed chair of the Portland Development Commission, Tom Kelly talks about PDC's longevity, Neil Kelly's comeback and his new role as Portlandia's landlord.


Read more...

The 5 highest revenue-generating parks in Oregon

The Latest
Thursday, June 11, 2015
parksthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

In 2014, total revenue for camping and day use in Oregon State Parks was a little more than $17 million. That figure may even higher this year "because we've had exceptionally nice weather," Hughes says.


Read more...

Balancing Act

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY DAN COOK

The Affordable Care Act has triggered a rush on health care plan redesign, a process fraught with hidden costs and consequences.


Read more...

Stemming the tide of money in politics

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
 jeff-lang-2012-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

Jeff Lang and his wife Rae used to dole out campaign checks like candy.  “We were like alcoholics,” Lang says. ”We couldn’t just give a little.”


Read more...

5 things to know about veterans in the workforce

The Latest
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
070215-vetsthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

There are more than 10 million former military members working in the United States.


Read more...

Reader Input: Fair Play

May 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Former Governor John Kitzhaber's resignation in February prompted some soul searching in this state about ethical behavior in industry and government.


Read more...

Best Foot Forward

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE

Whether you're stepping out to work or onto the track, Pacific Northwest shoe companies have you covered.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS