By Andrew Saunders
President, Castle Hill Capital Partners
Finding the right investor for your alternative investment strategy is a challenge. Due to a combination of innovation and efficiency the speed dating format has taken hold as the preferred format for capital introduction events. The format provides investors the opportunity to review a number of strategies in one go. Managers can deliver the investment story consistently and consecutively to many investors in an effort to “widen the funnel” and build out the follower ecosystem. Additionally, these events are explicit in their intention to foster interaction. There are no panels, or the patina of content, that serves to distract from a manager’s (or marketer’s) true objective.
Yet, when blessed with the opportunity to participate in such a meeting, managers rarely get organized and optimize the precious interaction to the benefit of both manager and investor.
Too often I see that these formats lead to frustration on both sides as managers do not empathize with investors on how to manage the information – 10-12 meetings a day for a couple days…plus all the social events. The funds all blend together, and managers are not clear on what the objectives should be and how they should prepare.
It’s a MASH unit – not a research hospital: For those of us of a certain generation who remember the 80s TV show MASH, MASH units – Mobile Area Surgical Hospital were forward deployed medical units where the injured were rushed to be stabilized and then taken to hospitals for full evaluation. Speed, efficiency and triage were the priorities. Similarly, speed dating events are meant as the starting point in a process that continues at different venues and degrees of complexity.
You have three goals:
- Establish points of affinity.
- Communicate the basics of the investment strategy.
- Identify the next step.
That’s it. The goal is to get the patient to the hospital…not die on the table.
You are NOT there to:
- Condense the entire investment story into the allotted time.
- Share a detailed CV or discuss organizational or operational aspects of the firm.
- Hand out reams of materials, however professionally packaged and designed.
- Receive a check.
I have organized dozens of cap intro events, attended too many conferences to count and advised numerous clients on the many different conference formats 20+ years of corporate investor relations and alternative investment marketing. I offer the following tactical counsel on how to optimize your presentation for this unique format.
Follow these tips and you will find yourself enjoying the exercise and investors will appreciate it.
Before the event
- Identify the top 10 questions that you are likely to be asked and have responses or 1-2 slide exhibits ready to go.
- Have 1-pagers to hand out if investors request and 1 copy (and 1 copy only) of the presentation. The deck is not for distribution; it is for reference. The one-pagers should be white background and have enough negative space to allow the investor to write notes on the page. Solid color backgrounds work on screen…not on paper.
During the event
Assuming you have a 30-minute time slot per meeting…which is really ~27 minutes when you incorporate transitions and logistics, coffee refresh etc. here’s how best to use your time:
- Step 1: 3 minutes (24 minutes remaining) Goal: Engagement
- Too often, managers start talking without the faintest idea who they are talking to. Kick off the interaction and ask the investor about themselves and their firm then frame this in the context of a “1-2 minute intro on your firm.” The purpose is to understand who you’re talking to and establish points of affinity and validation. Our world is small. Human relationships matter – personal and professional. If the investor goes into too much detail, politely cut in with something along the lines of “In interest of time we should probably pivot to…”
- Step 2: ~7 minutes (17 minutes remaining) Goal: Present a High-Level Introduction
- Deliver a high-level overview of your strategy, team and current opportunity set. If there are two of you – and there often are – take turns to present different parts of the story so one doesn’t talk too much…or even worse, one doesn’t talk at all. The benefits are threefold: Maintain stamina and focus, take notes on questions, demonstrate breadth of talent and expertise.
- “High Level” overview means just that – keep it at 20K feet. ~7 minutes is not a lot of time, so identify the three points that you want investors take with them when they walk away from the meeting and stick to those points e.g. Returns (e.g. correlation, or capital appreciation), Team and Market…or Technology, Asset class and Investor base. Every manager should have three points of interest/differentiation. Stay in those lanes.
- Do not allow yourself to be distracted. This is your time. Q&A comes next.
- Step 3: 10 minutes (7 minutes remaining) – Goal: Q/A/E (Question, Answer and Educate)
- This is your opportunity to relax and engage your audience. There should be NO questions that they can ask you that you are unprepared for. This is your strategy, your bio, your team, your asset class. This is your opportunity to prove your proficiency in executing the strategy but also establish yourself as an expert and educate. This segment is where the dialogue comes in, when the conversation starts, when the relationship develops.
- Listen to the question – do not interrupt. An annoying characteristic of managers is that as they hear the same questions – “to be helpful” they finish investors’ sentences as they think they know where they’re going. The effect, however, is that shutting down discourse and discouraging the investor from asking further questions. Take a count before responding.
- Take notes of all the questions that are asked during the meeting. Over the course of a day, unless you write these down, you will forget…and you will have lost a valuable opportunity and rationale to follow-up.
- Step 4: 5 minutes (2 minutes remaining) Goal: Wrap up and Transition to Next Steps
- Stay cognizant of time. If posed a good question or one that requires a detailed response – offer to circle back after the event and spend some time on that topic. Do not acquiesce and provide a diluted version…it’s a lose/lose situation as the manager loses track and the investor likely won’t remember the answer in a few weeks.
- Inquire as to their suggestion as to next steps. What is the best way to follow-up? Would this strategy be of interest in the short or medium term?
- Don’t be discouraged if someone simply asks to simply be on the distribution list for the time being. Many allocators take years to get comfortable with a potential investment. This is a natural part of the process.
- Don’t expect the investor to carry away a lot of paper, so don’t bring it. Offer to send them further information via email etc. when you follow up. Nothing is more demoralizing than to walk past a trash can and see your presentation staring back at you.
- Update your CRM – add new contact information and the questions asked.
- Follow-up with a thank you note saying it was a pleasure to meet them and refer to a point of affinity, with the goal of solidifying the interaction and being remembered.
- Under separate cover, send detailed information which may include the presentation or 1-pager or DDQ…but do not send them a zip drive of everything.
- Set expectations for next steps along the lines of “If I don’t hear from you, I’ll follow up in two weeks…after Labor Day…before Thanksgiving…etc.”
- And finally, the responsibility for follow-up is yours. So, do it.
Next installment: Speed Dating from the Investor Side of the Table – Tactics on How Investors Can Optimize the Format
Andrew is the President and Co-Founder of Castle Hill Capital Partners (Castle Hill) . Castle Hill is a broker/dealer with 18 registered representatives engaged in raising capital for alternative investment strategies to sophisticated active allocators including endowments, foundations, family offices and public and private pension plans. Andrew has successfully raised seed capital, acceleration capital and fund investments as well as managed accounts. He advises his clients on marketing strategy, fund structuring and team development with a goal to reach capital raising goals thoughtfully and efficiently.
Prior to founding Castle Hill, Andrew was the head of Capital Introduction at Lazard Capital Markets.
His first position on Wall Street was with Taylor Rafferty, a boutique cross-border investor relations firm. During his 7-year tenure, Andrew assisted senior management in implementing all aspects of their investor relations programs including corporate strategy development, IPO/Secondary roadshows, media relations and assisted senior management coordinate the investor relations activities for 12 ADR listings and IPOs on the NYSE and NASDAQ.
Andrew graduated from Haverford College in 1993 with a B.A. in Economics. He holds the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst designation (CAIA) and is the Head of the New York Chapter with +1,000 members. Prior to entering the financial services industry, Andrew spent four years in Malaysia and Indonesia as a teacher and entrepreneur.
Andrew holds the Series 7, 63 and 24 licenses.
Andrew is married with two children and lives in Brooklyn, NY.