Industry Blog

  • An eye on industry trends
  • Visionary solutions
  • Thought leaders
Request Demo

August

14

2017

Private Equity - Transparency and Technology is the future

SEC

By Karthik Thanikachalam

Tags :

A private equity fund is a pooled investment vehicle where the adviser make investments on behalf of the fund. As per the industry sources, total asset under management is around $4.5 trillion as of Jan 2017. In the recent years, private equity is increasingly scrutinized because even the non-accredited/non-qualified investors are investing in private equity through their pension funds or insurance policies.

In the current competitive environment, the managers are under huge pressure from the investors, regulators and other peer managers. Investors and regulators are also pressing for the transparency in the following areas, but are not limited to:

  • Accurate Information Disclosure
  • Fees & Expense Allocation
  • Fair Valuation Process

Regulators urge the managers to provide accurate information on their offerings to allow the investors to take informed decisions. Sophisticated investors often perform in-depth due-diligence before and after the investments by looking at the strategy of the fund, fund track record and exposure by geography/sector. So any misleading or incorrect information, will lead to higher risk for the investors.

Limited Partnership agreements often don't provide enough information on Fees and Expense Allocation. So to avoid any grey areas, regulators and investors are pushing the managers to disclose all the types of fees and expenses involved in managing the fund and its portfolio companies. As per the regulatory guideline, agreements should clearly layout all the terms and conditions along with the different fees and expenses.

Valuation is one of the biggest area of concern for both the investors and regulators. Often managers try to manipulate the valuation for their advantage at various stages. For example, at first, during the marketing and initial stages, managers tend to often show a higher fund valuation by cherry picking the best performing deals and ignoring the non-performing deal and secondly during the investment and closing stage, managers tend to manipulate the valuation and fees based on performing and non-performing deals to show a good and consistent track record. So regulators are advising the managers to follow the fund formation and fund agreement to have a fair valuation process throughout life cycle.

In summary, The SEC and investors are looking for fairness and transparency in fund management and administration. In-addition, operating partner fees, ancillary fess and management fees are being monitored and negotiated to their lowest ever, which has directly impacted manager profit margins. As a result, the managers have started relying on technology to minimize costs and increase productivity. Recent investment trends show that small and mid-size managers have started to differentiate themselves by being transparent and investing in technology to achieve their growth targets.

Vantage Software has been helping clients for 15 years to comply with regulators and investor expectations about transparency and reporting. Our specialized front and back office solutions provide seamless transparency and reporting capabilities, leading to cost effective, on time reporting and lowering manually intensive exercises.


Our clients are using the following products to comply with the above expectations:

  • Vantage Insight - Self-Service investor portal tool, helps our clients and their LPs to view their investment performance, fees & expenses and carryout exposure analysis to understand the risk involved. Our managers are also using Vantage Insight during the fund raising process to show their track record and documents.
  • Vantage Investor - Backend CRM, Partnership Accounting and Reporting tool, helps our clients in managing the investor/contact information, efficient partnership accounting with in-built waterfall calculation and seamless reporting. Vantage Investor allows our managers to track their expenses/fees granular to avoid any compliance issues.
  • Vantage Deal Suite - Deal Manager tool, helps deal team in effectively managing the investment life cycle including activities and contact management. Vantage Deal Suite also allows our managers to monitor expenses, portfolio performance, key performance indicators and value creation metrics.
  • Vantage Fund Accounting - Portfolio accounting and reporting tool, allows managers to perform comprehensive portfolio accounting and reporting. Vantage Fund Accounting provides streamlined workflow for investments in company securities or partnerships with their underlying portfolio holdings and multi-currency support.
  • Coalesce - Investment Research tool, help our managers and their deal team to identify the potential investments or look for any compliance issues in the existing portfolio companies or deals in the pipeline based on the external data feeds and internal documents.

CONTACT US TO FIND OUT HOW WE CAN HELP YOU TOO

Continue reading

July

10

2016

Comprehensive Platform for $800bn Investment Manager

Vantage Logo

Tags :

Yields Drastic Improvements and a Top-Notch Experience

Meketa Quote

The Problem
Meketa Investment Group is a full service investment consulting and advisory firm with more than 100 clients and with $800 billion in assets under management. Meketa was looking for a modern technology platform to transition from their legacy systems in a phased, controllable manner. Meketa also had a number of third-party and in-house systems which needed to be integrated into a single reporting platform to their management and investors.

The Solution
By adopting Vantage’s phased implementation approach, Meketa was able to ensure that their private markets Investment and Finance teams successful adopted each product module with low risk, reasonable investment and high efficiency. The Vantage Deal Manager, Vantage Fund Accounting and Vantage Insight modules integrated with each other as well other software applications in Meketa’s operational environment, providing them with a holistic solution that drastically improves their investment selection, accounting, portfolio analysis and investor reporting.

CONTACT US TO FIND OUT HOW WE CAN HELP YOU TOO

Continue reading

June

13

2016

Vantage Selected for Real Estate Software Award

Vantage Logo

Tags :

NREI / IMN Commercial Real Estate Awards Vantage for Outstanding Contribution in Technology Innovation

NREI Awards

We are pleased to announce that we were selected as a finalist in the 2016 NREI / IMN Commercial Real Estate Awards for Outstanding Contribution in Technology Innovation. NREI has recognized our leading investor marketing, accounting and reporting products – Vantage Investor™ and Vantage Insight™

Please join us at an Award Dinner on June 13th at the Grand Hyatt in NYC for an evening of networking

REGISTER FOR THE AWARD DINNER

May

5

2016

Rapid Growth Challenges

Vantage Logo

Tags :

Challenges for Rapidly Growing Private Equity and Real Estate Firms

Happy Customers

Problem: Rapid Growth
Recently two alternative investment firms came to us with a problem. Rapid growth was causing challenges for their investor relations operations. They were looking for a solution to scale their investor marketing, reporting and client service with minimal cost and resources. Fortunately, the new upgrades in our Vantage Investor platform has allowed them to reduce their mission critical tasks from weeks to hours.

Real Estate: Arel Capital
Arel Capital is a real estate investment firm that focuses on multifamily properties in large metropolitan markets. Arel was founded by Richard Leibovitch and Gabriel Bousbib. The team combines over 50 years of investment experience in real estate, asset-based lending, and debt and equity capital markets, having held senior positions at large asset management firms. Arel's investors also enjoy immediate visibility into their capital accounts, transaction history and performance analysis through Vantage’s interactive investor portal.

Private Equity: StoneCalibre
StoneCalibre is a privately funded investment firm specializing in the acquisition of lower middle market companies. Founded by Brian Wall, StoneCalibre is focused on making investments in both special situations and quality long-term capital investment opportunities. StoneCalibre implemented the Vantage Investor and Insight platforms to improve accounting, reporting and performance analysis internally and for their investors.

Rapid Growth: With Confidence
Vantage Investor™ and Insight™ provide a full-service platform for investor CRM, accounting and reporting that supports rapidly growing firms with AUM from $10 million dollars to $10 billion dollars. The latest version 4.0 streamlines workflows for fundraising, reporting and now offers tight integration with 3rd party general ledger software, like QuickBooks, and integrates with Vantage Insight, our online investor portal that provides an “on-line banking” experience more for more than 10,000+ private equity, venture and real estate investors worldwide.

CONTACT US TO FIND OUT HOW WE CAN HELP YOU TOO

Continue reading

Feb

25

2016

Event Presentation - "Cities of the Future"

image2

Tags :

Next Presentation in Series: Real Life Examples of Cognitive Computing

Future City

We are pleased to announce our second event in the series "Real Life Examples of Cognitive Computing". We are fortunate to have two visionaries who use big data and machine learning to improve the designs for Cities of the Future.

Speakers include the Head of Data Analytics for the City of Boston and a lead researcher for the Senseable City Lab at MIT.

Join us on February 25th at 6:00 pm EDT at the IBM Innovation Center in Cambridge, MA to learn more about this fascinating view into technology of the future.

REGISTER FOR THE FREE EVENT

Jan

15

2016

AI Global Magazine awards Greg Woolf "IT CEO of the Year"

image2

By AI Global magazine

Tags :

IT CEO of the Year

We are honored to announce that AI Global magazine has recognized our vision and innovation in developing Coalesce™. Coalesce is a personalized research assistant that combines machine learning with human expertise to provide business users with relevant information about their prospects, customers and investments.

The "IT CEO of the Year" award category recognizes leaders and visionaries who have developed transformative technology to change the way companies do business. We are grateful to receive this recognition and I count myself fortunate to be on this exciting path toward a bright future.

Please click here to view the magazine article

Sep

04

2015

My Hollywood Experience - Appearing in a Prime-Time TV Commercial

image2

Tags :

My Hollywood Experience - Appearing in a Prime-Time TV Commercial

Last month I was invited to appear in an IBM Watson TV commercial which was aired during the US Open on major cable networks and websites. What a fun experience! Flying out to LA and living the life of an actor for the weekend. I've gained a whole new respect for what it takes to make a movie - my "6 Seconds of Fame" took almost 2 hours to record. Many thanks to IBM, Ogilvy & Mather and Ridley Scott Associates for a superbly professional experience.

Click here if you missed the Commercial on CNN, ESPN or www.USOpen.org: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTBn7xemU3o

Jul

08

2015

Coalesce CEO to Moderate the Cognitive Computing Group of Boston

image2

Tags :

New Presentation Series: Real Life Examples of Cognitive Technology Helping People Today

Greg @ InnoTribe

Greg Woolf, CEO of Coalesce Inc., has been appointed moderator of the Cognitive Computing Group of Boston. Our next meetup will begin a series demonstrating how Cognitive Computing is helping people today, starting with "Real Life Examples of Cognitive in Health Care".
Join us on September 8th at 6:00 pm EDT at the IBM Innovation Center in Cambridge, MA to learn more about this fascinating technology.

REGISTER FOR THE FREE EVENT

Jun

17

2015

Coalesce™ Invited to Present at FinTech Innovation Event

image2

Tags :

Greg @ InnoTribe

Coalesce CEO, Greg Woolf, was invited to present at the InnoTribe Challenge in June 2015. Launched by SWIFT, the Challenge travels around the world with four regional showcases in the Europe, Africa, Asia and America to bridge the gap between the financial services industry and today’s brightest startups and innovators.

http://innotribe.com/about/

May

13

2015

Industry Analyst Impressed by Vantage’s Big Data Analysis for Deal Tracking

image2

By Jay Wolstenhome, Senior Analysts for Securities and Investments, Celent

Tags :

Celent is a research and consulting firm focused on the application of information technology in the global financial services industry. One of their senior analysts of disruptive technology in the investment industry, discusses Vantage Software’s latest offering for the Private Equity industry.

Click here to read the full article

May

6

2015

My 5 Minute Conversation with the CEO of IBM

image2

By Greg Woolf

Tags :

Last week I was invited to attend the World of Watson conference hosted by IBM in NYC. During the event, I was honored to have a one-on-one conversation with Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM. Ginni impressed me with her approachability, graciousness and “down-to-earth” manner. She listened with genuine interest when I reiterated her bold prediction from earlier that day: “In the future, every decision mankind makes is going to be informed by a cognitive system … and our lives in this word will be better for it.”

Through her vision and confidence in the face of skepticism, Ginni has created an environment to turn this idea into reality which clearly demonstrates how she has ascended to the highest levels of global business. She thanked me for participating in a community of innovators who are leading the way for this new technology paradigm and inquired what more IBM Watson can do to support us. We discussed the functionality of Coalesce, our product for the financial services domain, and she had some interesting suggestions for alternate market verticals where we could expand the product potential.

Only recently has the processing power become available, through cloud-based computing, to enable intelligent software to be used in every-day applications. I thanked Ginni for her support and for having the vision to leverage IBM’s deep resources to create an environment for firms like us to innovate. Ginni proved to me that regardless of the size of her organization, her interest lies with innovation and desire to harness technology for a “better future” for all. We shook hands and I walked away inspired and validated by one of the world’s foremost business leaders.

IBM invited us to participate in the opening video of the World of Watson conference:

Day 1 :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsZjo4gNCPM

Day 2 :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5QJs6byoaI

Continue reading

Apr

30

2015

Coalesce™ featured in
International Finance Magazine

image2

By IFM

Tags :

International Finance Magazine (IFM) features a 4-page article on how Vantage Software’s Coalesce product offers intelligent software to the financial services industry in partnership with IBM Watson. The story cites similar work with world-class organizations like Citi, Development Bank of Singapore, Standard Bank of South Africa, Royal Bank of Canada, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and USAA.

Click here to read the full article

Apr

08

2015

Knowing the Unknown

image2

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

Since the launch of Coalesce™ in January, we’ve had a number of discussions with investment professionals about their biggest challenge in finding and executing good deals. They all say the same thing … “finding what we don’t know … from too much information.”

At any given moment, a private investment firm is evaluating hundreds or thousands of prospective deals in various stages of their investment life-cycle. Keeping up-to-date with changes at prospective deals is a herculean task … even for an army of investment analysts. Says one partner, “It’s the unknown content that impacts our deal flow for both good and bad. Whoever gets the best information wins. It’s not just about hiring the best MBAs – we need more sleuths to identify the signals of promising opportunities.”

And when they find them, due diligence requires even more research, before and after investment. Investment teams maintain that companies are quick to tell them the good stuff but their challenge is to identify the bad stuff in a timely manner by verifying the facts and finding out “what we don’t know that we don’t know.” Says a top-tier venture client, “the worst thing is to be blindsided by our investors who find out something bad about a company before we do.”

The problem is that current information about companies doesn’t reside in easily accessible databases. Most information is available as raw unstructured text, including industry news and company narratives. Typical search engines like Google and Bing deliver information too overwhelming and irrelevant to be useful.

As we foray into the ‘brave new world’ of digital information, investment firms require a new breed of tools to combine, digest and analyze the content for meaningful interpretation to find and execute the best deals.

Continue reading

Mar

20

2015

Data, data everywhere …

image2

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

Intelligent research – discovering “what you don’t know”

We’re drowning in data. A staggering amount of content being added to the web every minute, but data doesn’t have to be your enemy. Using the right tools you can turn data into your friend – and establish a competitive advantage to boot. (see http://www.domo.com/blog/2014/04/data-never-sleeps-2-0/ )

Every day deal teams scour publically available content, industry subscriptions and their own proprietary knowledge bases to identify potential deals. Investment firms have to be extremely creative in identifying data trends to highlight opportunities, such as new hires or facility expansions, which may indicate company growth. And when they find them, the diligence process requires even more research of company profiles, management biographies, competitive landscapes and intellectual property advantages or risks.

We hear from investment teams that prospective portfolio companies are is quick to tell them the “good stuff,” but their challenge is to identify the “bad stuff” in a timely manner, either through verifying the facts presented or by finding out “we don’t know what we don’t know.” And that’s not just for new opportunities; it applies even more so to existing investments when the investment firm has already committed its funds. Says a top-tier venture client, “The worst thing we can do is be blindsided by our investors who find out something bad about a portfolio company before we do.” With the exponential increase in digital content, merely adding people won’t scale fast enough to address the problem. We need better technology to combat more data.

So how to get ahead of the curve? Either finding that diamond in the rough before someone else does, or making sure to “leave no stone unturned” during due diligence or portfolio monitoring? The problem is that most of the important narrative about companies doesn’t reside in easily accessible databases with convenient rankings and quantitative scores for risks and opportunities. Most content about companies is in the form of raw, unstructured text via industry news, company write-ups, blogs and various subscription databases which requires a new breed of qualitative tools to combine, digest and analyze the content for meaningful interpretation.

Even accessing a firm’s internal proprietary knowledge is a challenge. Our clients tell us they have hundreds of gigabytes of ‘know-how’ locked in network documents from years of investment research, and no way of extracting the valuable info they contain.

Over the last year Vantage developed “Coalesce™”, a tool to turn mountains of data to your advantage. Using the latest in intelligent software and machine learning through a strategic partnership with IBM Watson, Coalesce scours through and analyzes millions of pages of text, ensuring that investment managers have the right info at the right time to make sophisticated decisions.

Finding out “what you don’t know” about a deal can make the difference between poor returns and great returns, the lifeblood of a successful investment firm.

Click here to view the article at Private Funds Management website

Continue reading

Feb

18

2015

Private Equity and Cybersecurity – 7 simple precautions that can reduce your risk of attack

image2

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

In January Vantage's CEO participated in a panel discussion on Cybersecurity at the Private Equity International CFO/COO Forum held at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. He was joined by Glenn Siriano, Principal in the Information Technology Advisory Services Practice of KPMG.

Criminals are taking advantage of black market tools to create sophisticated scripts that target any organization. Look no further than Sony Pictures, whose cyber-attack allegedly at the hands of North Korea’s government has propelled the looming threat to the forefront of the collective consciousness. Target, Home Depot and more recently Anthem Insurance were other seemingly ironclad corporations that proved vulnerable to cyber-attacks recently.

So, how does a business protect its hard-earned assets from attacks, and maintain clients’ trust? There are some common sense safeguards which lower your risk of being hacked as follows:

1. Investor portals: Don’t post links to your investor portal on your public website, you are leading criminals to your precious client information.

2. Institute rules for safeguarding information: Make encrypted passwords and due diligence around third-party vendors a requirement. Make sure your investor portal login’s have two-stage authentication, a simple username and password is too easy to compromise these days.

3. Email is not secure: Email passes through multiple servers on the path from directing from sender to recipient. At any stage along the way, hackers can introduce monitoring software to inspect email packets for interesting content.

4. Test employees for common sense: Some companies have been known to leave a flash drive in a lobby or a bathroom for curious employees to pick up and plug it into their computer without considering the risk.

5. Beware of public Wi-Fi: Bring a loaner phone and computer when traveling to risky regions such as China. Wi-Fi in hotels and other public places is rarely secure, don’t do online banking from a hotel.

6. Invest in cyber security insurance and a vulnerability study: Ask for references and don't use the same assessor every year.

7. Craft a crisis communication plan: Amid President Barack Obama’s cyber security legislation package is the Personal Data Notification and Protection Act, which requires companies to inform their customers of a data breach within 30 days.

The threat is real when it comes to cybersecurity. One of the CFO’s in the audience recalled how a partner in Europe was working on an unsecured laptop, rendering him a victim to high-tech criminals who accessed his password and stole $400k from a fund. There is no guarantee that hackers won’t gain illegal access to your environment. However, implementing some common sense precautions can make you less attractive than the next target, encouraging hackers to focus on other alternatives.

Continue reading

Feb

10

2015

Coalesce™ is featured in keynote address at IBM PartnerWorld by Stephen Gold, Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President of IBM Watson

image2

By Stephen Gold, CMO of IBM Watson Group

Tags :

Steve Gold - IBM

IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference General Session: The Watson Ecosystem, Bringing Watson to Life Through our Business Partner Teamwork.

“Our partner Vantage is combining its financial know-how and private equity knowledge with Watson to create Coalesce, a tool designed to help financial analysts to make faster, more accurate, evidenced based decisions.
Coalesce can analyze literally tens of millions of pages of financial documents, instantly exploring available market intelligence, risk profiles and financial performance data to provide better insights to experts making investment decisions.”

Transcript (starts at minute 23:01 of the YouTube video)

See full presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtEVyLHCf98

Jan

21

2015

Vantage Software Joins IBM Watson Ecosystem to Help Speed and Simplify Financial Investment Research

image2

By Gregory J. Woolf, Vantage & Stephen Gold, Vice President, IBM Watson Group

Tags :

New Coalesce™ App Leverages Watson for the Financial Services Industry

Vantage Software has combined its private equity know-how with state-of-the-art cognitive computing capabilities from IBM Watson to create Coalesce, a software tool designed to help investment managers make faster, more accurate decisions. Coalesce analyzes and evaluates thousands of pages of information, instantly searching through market intelligence, risk profile and financial performance data to provide intelligent support for investment decisions.

Accessing the right information to make informed decisions has become a time-consuming burden for businesses. Workers in every domain are overwhelmed by the exponential growth of digital content that calls for a new generation of data intelligence tools to sift through mountains of information.

Coalesce™ learns from interactions with investment managers, using knowledge of how they preform research to deliver them with a broader picture of the market landscape and financial implications when conducting their due diligence on investments - a process which typically involves months of analyzing thousands of pages about a company’s profile, risk factors, management and competitive landscape.

With Coalesce™, Vantage has developed a solution that helps organizations better leverage their employees’ institutional knowledge, combined with public and proprietary sources, to generate insights that can lead to better investment decisions.

Vantage unveiled its Coalesce™ product at the Private Equity International CFO and COO Forum in New York City this month. “We are thrilled to partner with IBM Watson to deliver our vision of intelligent computing for the investment sector. The power of Watson’s cognitive capabilities heralds a new era of technology that will transform how investment research is conducted,” said Greg Woolf, founder and CEO of Vantage Software.

IBM Watson is a cognitive computing system that uses natural language processing, machine learning and advanced analytics to process information in a manner that is similar to the way people think. Watson answers complex questions posed in everyday language, while continually learning through interactions with users.

"To meet market and client expectations, the financial service industry is reinventing itself and looking for ways to provide evidence-based actionable insights, in real-time, delivering bottom line performance while mitigating risks,” said Stephen Gold, vice president, IBM Watson Group. “Vantage is well positioned to help enhance, scale and accelerate the expertise of financial professionals by allowing them to gain a new level of insight into market data, systematically learn with each interaction and outcome, and provide an overall improved experience."

“With the introduction of Coalesce™, Vantage Software extends its well-rounded suite of investment research products that enable investment managers to make superior investments with lower risk and higher returns to their investors. “Coalesce is the qualitative, natural language counterpart to Vantage Insight™, our leading tool for quantitative investment performance analysis,” says Woolf.

IBM Watson

IBM Watson represents a new era of computing in which third party apps and systems will interact with human users more naturally, analyze volumes of data, understand complex questions posed in natural language, and propose evidenced-based answers that help improve decision making.

Fueled by innovation from a mission to transform industries and professions, Watson is uniquely positioned at the forefront of the new era of computing, evidenced by an unmatched demonstration of what cognitive systems can bring to transform decision-making. IBM is delivering a range of cloud-based products and services to clients in industries such as banking, healthcare, insurance, retail and education.

IBM is investing $1 billion into the Watson Group, focusing on development and research and bringing cloud-delivered cognitive applications and services to market. This includes $100 million available for venture investments to support IBM’s ecosystem of start-ups and businesses building cognitive apps made with Watson.

For more information on IBM Watson, visit: www.ibmwatson.com

Check out the IBM Watson press kit at: http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/presskit/27297.wss

Continue reading

Jan

15

2015

Vantage Software extends its research and analysis platform to include intelligent computing and machine learning

image2

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

Vantage Software expands into the artificial intelligent market with solutions for intelligent research and analysis. Using state-of-the-art technology, Vantage’s new products help users instantly mine thousands of pages of information for better and faster decision-making.

Access to the right information at the right time for making informed decisions has become a critical problem. Researchers in every domain are overwhelmed by the exponential growth of digital content, desperately seeking a new generation of data intelligence tools to sift through mountains of information. Vantage has assembled a team of experts in machine learning and cognitive computing to develop state-of-the art technology that assists users by automating their research patterns and summarizing content accordingly.

“Recent improvements in artificial intelligence and statistical natural language processing has made this technology accessible to innovative developers like Vantage Software to include in their products.” says Mark Watson, author of sixteen books on artificial intelligence and various programming languages and consultant to Google, CompassLabs, Disney and other leading technology companies. “The Vantage team has expressed a product vision that allows me to bring my natural language processing experience to bear by creating this new generation of search and intelligent document storage solutions.”

Vantage Software’s initial focus is on investment research, helping firms conduct due diligence on investments, a process which typically involves months analyzing thousands of pages about a company’s profile, risk factors, management and competitive landscape. The new intelligent computing capabilities complements Vantage’s existing quantitative analytical tools, including Vantage Insight™, adopted by global investment firms that manage more than a trillion dollars.

“Our new intelligent research tools add a qualitative dimension to investment research, helping investment firms identify and analyze opportunities that result in higher returns and lower risks,” says Greg Woolf, founder and CEO of Vantage Software. “We are actively exploring both content and technology partners to enhance our solution to the overwhelming amount of information facing users today.”

Continue reading

DEC

05

2014

Competing for Alpha

image2

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

The future role of technology in private equity marked another takeaway from the PESS conference that drew over 100 visitors to New York City’s Convene Center in October.
Thousands of firms are currently in the market for new capital, attempting to convince investors how they will generate top quartile returns in this competitive environment. Providing investment teams with technology advantages not only aids the front office, but heightens the appeal to investors seeking out GPs with superior returns or “alpha.”

Most investment professionals are hard-charging bright young grads in their 20s and early 30s from top business schools who grew up using technology as a second nature. On-demand, real-time access to info is as natural as breathing for them - and to attract, retain and utilize their talent, firms need to provide a seamless technical environment to compete. Consider the critical message from Bain & Company’s Global Private Equity 2014 report, which advises that alpha-generating skills are “more important than ever to achieve superior PE returns.” Market forces are dictating the imperative role of technology, particularly tools that drive superior investment research. “The more complex and volatile macro environment will require alpha skills to read the more perilous conditions and uncover the hidden pockets of opportunities turbulence creates,” the report notes.

Data transportability translates to competitive advantage, higher returns, lower costs and more money raised from investors. Panelists at the conference agreed that investing in front-office technology propels a PE firm beyond its peers. For instance, real-time access to portfolio and pipeline data via an iPad in Monday investment committee meetings versus antiquated static PDF snapshots, or worse, actual paper!

Current statistics, industry data comparisons and information about portfolio companies, from external sources as well as the back office, need to be highly available to desktops and mobile devices. With the exponential growth in digital data, the current generation of investment professionals will differentiate themselves with their ability to be faster in processing, synthesizing and correlating information.

While PE technology is behind some other industries which are more progressive, like hedge funds and mutual funds, PE firms are looking at technology as a way to achieve competitive advantage and ensure their performance ranks in the top quartile.

Continue reading

OCT

17

2014

Why institutional investors need more detail about your portfolio?

image2

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

Insights from the 2014 PESS NY Conference

Now more than ever, LPs want to see into your portfolio so they can compare it with the rest of their public investments. GPs have a history of holding their cards close to their chest, however their clients and LPs need more detail about underlying portfolio investments.
At the 2014 PESS NY conference, there was a clear increase in the appetite for information by LPs. Demands for data sharing, the cycle of data flow and new standards are raising the bar across the board. GPs want to understand the reason for more transparency and what can be gained from an increase in speed, accuracy and dynamic reporting and analysis.

Rebalancing Institutional Portfolios

Having an inscrutable “black box” makes it harder for institutional investors to re-balance their entire portfolio exposure. LPs need to see into your portfolio to compare it with the rest of their public investments. For instance, say an LP has a 20% Europe allocation goal overall with a 10% PE portfolio. If the PE portfolio is 50% invested in in Europe, total effective allocation is 25% which exceeds the LPs mandate. As the PE asset class becomes more mainstream, GPs need to think like their investors. And give them the tools to perform the analysis they need.

Attracting institutional money – think from your client’s point of view

Years ago, due diligence on GPs consisted solely of LPs reviewing the management team and their past performance. Too many variables make past performance an unacceptable guide to the immediate future. Today, institutional investors want to be informed with up-to-date facts. In order to keep LPs abreast of their investments, GPs need to provide LPs with the tools to make immediate decisions. A recent roundtable between a number of LPs and GPs highlighted that most GPs provide the “same old reporting” without understanding the LPs process to consume it. In other words, many GPs do not know how LPs are using their own data to evaluate them.

Interactive Access to Data at the LPs convenience

LPs yearn for the same self-service information experience they get from traditional asset managers, like brokerage accounts, without having to wait for an investor relations analyst to prepare an Excel spreadsheet. Obtaining information in a consumable format is not coming fast enough for LPs.
Most people remember “the story” behind the investments, but few can remember all the facts and figures. The best firms provide insight into the “black box” with dynamic tools accessible to their investors from the office or on the road via Mobile devices at any time.

And the regulators agree

Regulations, such as Form PF and other compliance requirements, will drive technology and eventually provide Private Equity firms with a single source of truth through the automation of fund information and delivering data to all participants at the same time. The time is now to differentiate your firm with technology and transparency as LPs look for better information to manage their own portfolios.

Vantage Insight™ platform is the industry’s leading analysis and dashboard product for communicate and sharing information with investors. For a demo, please email us at info@vantage-software.com

Continue reading

OCT

2

2014

Vantage to Exhibit at PESS Event

image2

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

Vantage Software to exhibit the latest in performance, analysis and reporting technology at the PESS event in New York on Oct. 2, 2014. PESS is the premier event for Private Equity firms investigating portfolio and investor servicing technology. Stop by the Vantage booth for a live demonstration or drop off your business card for a chance to win $25 Starbucks gift cards or a Mophie Juice Pack for your smart phone.

Click here for free registration

JULY

18

2014

Differentiating your Online Brand and Investor Experience

image2

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

pdf Vantage Whitepaper July 2014 - Differentiating your Online Brand.

“The concept of personalisation and CRM has expanded in scope to emphasise a much broader notion of benefits to a company.”

Differentiating your firm through Branding and Messaging

A client’s online experience consists of a combination of Internet searches, visiting your company website, reviewing your LinkedIn profile, logging into your client portal, and social media sites and feeds. With so many opportunities for investors to perform due diligence and gain an impression about a firm, is your firm prepared with a consistent message across every form of digital content and social media for your brand?

Branding and messaging was the topic of a panel discussion at the PEI IR Conference held June 12, 2014, at the Convene Center in New York. Panelists included Franny Jones, Director of Marketing and Investor Relations from the Sterling Group in Houston, Texas; Andreas Moon, Principal and Head of Investor Relations & Fundraising at iSquared Capital, New York; Erika Spitzer, Head of Investor Relations at Leonard Green & Partners, L.P. in Los Angeles, California and Greg Woolf, CEO of Vantage Software based in Boston, Massachusetts. Roland Tomforde, CEO, of Broadgate Consultants, led the panel discussion.

While private equity firms are very reluctant to be in the social media space, most firms realize the necessity of keeping their brand in front of investors to maintain an edge over other firms. Being recognized as a subject matter expert in their area of expertise is one way to gain that edge.

Is your Firm a Convert or an Influencer?

Today, you need to take control of your firm’s online reputation. Some attendees said they use social media to monitor what is being said about their firm and go on the defensive when negative press is published. Few firms are embracing social media to build their brand and emerge as a thought leader.

Most often, the first place investors look when performing due diligence about a firm, its partners, portfolios and funds is a website. Firms need to build a foundation of their online digital presence and be an influencer. Firms want to be the first resource for investors and future investors, whether they are investing in one of their funds or somewhere else. It is important to be that resource which reinforces your brand. Updating the firm website is the first step.

Website Design Styles

A website is paramount for any firm. With a crowded market, it is critical to make certain your website is user-friendly and compatible with mobile devices while providing a consistent message and thought leadership that will differentiate your firm from all others.

“Vantage's CEO spoke with IR Managers who attended the conference and they said it took them up to a year to redesign their website” said Woolf. “It took us six months to redesign ours.” Woolf and his team worked with website designers, marketing personnel and content writers to create what he calls “the pre-school approach” – an easy-to-use style that enables website users to quickly navigate through reams of content found on the Internet today.

The days of multiple tabs, links and an overload of content are over. Today, websites are very straightforward and simple with long pages to scroll through for information. A website needs to get a message across very quickly.

To make the online experience pleasing for the visitor, the site needs wide spanning images, interesting imagery, a simple page-border, large fonts and contrasting colors that make your site very visible and dynamic.

Take Control of Your Online Reputation

Investment managers succeed by specializing in an area of focus to leverage their expertise and thereby ensure their investments perform well. The same applies to your online reputation and social media. While a website is a must-have, don’t try to emulate major corporations and use every form of social media at once.

Find the right social media outlet for your firm. Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or a blog - select one and master it. Does your firm have someone to maintain your various media outlets or is this an add-on to someone’s already taxing schedule? The huge amounts of updates involved raise the stakes for choosing the right technology and the right person. You may not need sophisticated software tools to measure Web and mobile traffic, track performance on social networks, and create data visualizations and reports right away, but you will want to have a baseline measurement to start.

Social Media is Scary: To Embrace or Not to Embrace?

Many investors are looking at information online with iPads, smart phones and other mobile devices. LinkedIn is a medium to connect with current and prospective investors by providing links to interesting articles, webcasts, research papers and updates. Some larger firms are using twitter to disseminate information such as announcements, research papers or personnel promotions and changes.

The field of social media is rapidly evolving. Having a branded website is no longer enough. The level of information that people ask for has drastically changed over the years. Years ago, detailed operational and reputational diligence inquiries were few and far between, now your LPs do a deep dive into GP profiles and operations to ensure your level of transparency meets the needs of investors.

The panelists noted that the Private Equity space is reluctant to jump into the social media space due to the SEC’s scrutiny of the industry. IR Managers are stuck in the middle; between a conservative partnership and investors who want as much information as possible through any digital arena.

“We are seeing an increase in white papers and blogs where firms are providing thought leadership to differentiate themselves, as well as information that will help investors make decisions based on the information provided by partners and leaders in their firm” said Woolf.

Creating an “Online Banking Type Experience”

Creating an online experience that makes it easy for investors to find what they need is not an easy task. “The financial services industry as a whole has moved toward an online self-service model,” said Woolf. The conference attendees were asked to participate in an informal poll whether they use online banking. Almost everyone raised their hand.

When online banking was introduced, retail customers embraced the ability to bank on their own schedule. They like the convenience, they like the control, they like the ability to make changes on their schedule and of course, to know how much money they have. Even more so for private equity investors who have much larger investments at stake.

Investors want the same type experience. They crave personalization as well as the ability to see their investments on demand through sophisticated and personalized portals where they can “slice and dice” their investments and make intelligent decisions.

Online banking studies conducted by Gartner, Inc. in 2007 revealed customers want communication, transparency and personalization. According to the study, “customers want to personalize their experiences, analyze their transactions and payment data so they can better manage their money, pay bills, and transfer funds.”

No matter how you present your figures for each quarter, investors need to have hard numbers to support your firm’s claims, and investors want the ability to see the figures through portals with sophisticated dashboards and reports.

Woolf added that his clients provide their investors transparency with the ability to measure fund performance, providing investors with the flexibility to make decisions on their schedule, 24/7. Investors want to see pie charts, roll-forward their capital accounts, reconcile their cash flows, and dashboards that provide an interactive, on-line banking type of experience.

Your online experience should be personalized and all about the client, the prospect, the investor, and the end-user. This is especially true of small, growing firms who want to convey a world-class professional impression to their current and prospective investors.

Know your Audience

Websites, social media, maintaining, updating and consistent messaging takes time and money. But how can a firm know they are spending their money on the right tools to meet the needs of their clients?

Google Analytics is an excellent, low-cost way to find out who is looking at your site and how long they are staying. Having tools in place to track online communications, website and mobile traffic, social media and other data will allow your firm to track visitors and base decisions on future campaigns and the type of social media you use with hard evidence. Just as clients want to know as much about the firm they are investing with, the firm needs to know who is investing in them.

Conclusion

We can’t stop investors from increasing their use of online resources to evaluate your firm, however we can populate the World Wide Web and social media sites with tantalizing information that showcase the strength, depth and passion of your firm and its principals. It is up to each individual firm to provide timely and appropriate information with consistent messaging delivered by everyone associated with your firm to its stakeholders via email, websites and client portals, LinkedIn, twitter and the occasional article in a print newspaper or magazine. And while you are providing thought leadership to your constituents, don’t forget to take the time to monitor and listen to the needs, wants and desires of your investors so your firm will be the first resource they turn to.

Continue reading

MAY

22

2014

Investing in your brand

image2

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

Time and money spent on research to invest in billion dollar companies or funds is part of the daily grind at a private equity firm. Your due diligence, strategic initiatives and success outperforms any firm in your region. You spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on technology to make certain your employees have the right stuff to keep your clients apprised of their investments. Yet the last time you invested in your website was 2008.

You heard it before, first impressions count.

Laptops, tablets, smart phones; the screens are getting smaller yet investments are getting bigger. By 2020, over 50 billion devices will be connected to the web. Our lives will be more mobile than ever. Decisions will continue to be made at any time and any place. Finding information fast is paramount to help make accurate and sound decisions.

Internet searches will help people find your company website. But once there, can they find the information they need or are they wasting time clicking through a maze of links that take you on an unnecessary tour of words, images and non-relevant graphics with no hope of finding the information you need, right now?

While word-of-mouth referrals are the ultimate marketing tool, I know I will turn to the Internet to check out the website of that referral prior to making a call. If the website is outdated, how can I be certain the tools and strategies used by the firm are not from the same era as the copyright on their site?

Less is more.

At Vantage Software, we released Version 5.5 of our Vantage InsightTM product in April and are busy working on a new product release later this year. With our focus on improved performance and new products, we needed to have a website to match our streamlined, easy-to-use suite of products.

Our former site had tabs, links and lots of words. Years ago, most companies believed it was critical to provide clients and potential clients with a website the size of the Sunday edition of the New York Times. Today, we know time is money and we want our information to be found fast to fill your need for information.

This month, Vantage Software updated their website to complement our sophisticated and cutting edge product line. We spent hours with consultants, developers and asked for client input while deciding how to provide the best online experience with the least amount of clicks while implementing the ease of scrolling on a long, informative home page. Screen wide images that work on any size device and only information that is pertinent and informative is included on our new site.

Our research for a streamlined website gave us a keen insight into the current trends required for branding, automated marketing, website design and cyber security. We all must become visionaries when using the Internet to promote our brand in the future which is why we decided to share our findings.

In June, Vantage Software CEO Greg Woolf is scheduled to speak on "Branding and Thought Leadership Initiatives" at the Investor Relations and Communications Forum taking place on June 12 and 13 at New York's Convene Conference Center. Like-minded panelists will share details of how and what we need to do to have a positive Internet presence for your brand and how to attract new clients.

Continue reading

APRIL

02

2014

Vantage Software releases Insight(TM) 5.5

image2

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

This month Vantage Software launches Insight(TM) 5.5 with enhanced improvements to their analysis, dashboard and reporting software platform with new functionality including industry specific improvements for Private Equity, Venture Capital, Real Estate and Fund-of-Fund Asset Managers and Advisors.

Vantage Insight(TM) provides visibility into a firm's investment activities from a high-level, spanning multiple funds and strategies down to the detail of individual portfolio companies and their operating performance.

When Vantage Software debuted its Insight(TM) product in 2012, it quickly became their flagship product due to its unique performance analysis and return calculation capabilities for unparalleled internal analysis and a secure, world-class investor portal experience.

"No matter which industry we work with, everybody wants more investor and investment information at their fingertips " said Greg Woolf, CEO, Vantage Software. "We have improved Insight's performance and return calculations to be more industry specific and increased the overall speed of the system for producing dashboards, calculations, analysis and reports."

With the new release, the product produces sophisticated dashboards and reports in a matter of seconds, even for many thousands of investments. Other features include multi-currency functionality to serve Vantage's global clients in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.

Dynamic report generation is one of the most sought after features of the Vantage Software product line. Insight(TM) 5.5 allows for better reporting via intuitive dashboards, improved Excel integration and PDF report generation. The product automatically imports data from spreadsheets, databases, or 3rd party vendor products to maximize efficiency and simplify its deployment.

Vantage Insight(TM) continues to strengthens client relationships through improved communication; increases investor confidence through greater transparency; provides in-depth information for asset valuations; helps analyze investment holdings to support decision making; and improves staff productivity.

For more information or to request a product demonstration, contact info@vantage-software.com

Continue reading

MARCH

02

2014

Expert Panel Comments on Tech Trends at 2014 PEI CFO / COO Forum - Part II

image1

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

When Software is Not the Answer

Last month we posted commentary from the Tech Panel held at the Private Equity International CFOs and COOs Forum in NYC. Panel members included Ms. Shawn Pride, Partner at E&Y Advisory Services and Michael J. O'Connor, Operating Partner at Arsenal Capital Partners. Based on the tremendous amount of interest in the initial article (Part I), we are pleased to provide the remaining content from the discussion below.

Often, technology is recommended for operational improvements. However, there are times when software is not the answer. Especially for financial models and projections which are hard to automate and are more effectively maintained in spreadsheets.

"General Partner accounting is a good example" said Ms. Pride. "Obtaining correct results with a pushbutton tool is difficult. Even off-the-shelf products designed for GP accounting require significant customization to fit each fund's specific payout models."

Although many firms are making the valuation process more repeatable and transparent, few firms relying on the technology for total automation of the process. Firms using this software do so to support, not calculate, their underlying portfolio valuations.

The panelists discussed the use of data exchanges to provide investors with operating metrics about portfolio companies. However, in Ms. Pride's opinion "no one provides portfolio management data to their investors."

Mr. O'Connor described how technology can "free users to ask questions about the data, versus mechanical data entry." The self-service nature of the modern Internet has encouraged users to be more self-reliant and demanding about their on-line data experience, particularly when it comes to Investor portals.

Investor portals have moved beyond the "old-fashioned" mindset of merely housing documents to providing more transparency and analysis. Portals now provide drill-down into investors cash flows and balances, plus analytics and performance calculations. According to Ms. Pride, Investors want to "play with the data to determine the future state of the market".

Mr. O'Conner emphasized that there needs to be strong procedural controls around how and when data is published and released to investors. "Especially if the portal data is coming directly from a 'live' back-end accounting database."

As a final point, the panel was asked to consult a crystal ball for their view of future technology trends, from the near-term to far-off including:

  • Information at your fingertips - accessing data across all parts of the organization including deals, funds, contacts and investors from one place.
  • Tools, like data warehouses which support institutionalized and standardized analysis for investment teams and investors.
  • Work-flow enabled systems. People need systems running on their devices like iPads and smartphones today but also futuristic devices like Google Glass.

We hope this brief commentary was useful and valuable. Please feel free to contact us directly at info@vantage-software.com for more details about the panel discussion, or for information on our data warehouse and investor portal products.

Keep a look out for our next installment!

Continue reading

FEB

02

2014

Expert Panel Comments on Techn Trends at 2014 PEI CFO / COO Forum - Part I

image1

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

Doing More with Less is the Goal

In January I braved the storm along with 500 other delegates to attend the annual Private Equity International CFO's and COO's Forum in NYC. There were a number of interesting comments about new technology trends especially from Ms. Shawn Pride, Partner at E&Y Advisory Services and Michael J. O'Connor, Operating Partner at Arsenal Capital Partners. For your benefit I've summarized the major themes and added my own technical insight where appropriate as follows:

In 2014, the main focus for operational improvements in a PE firm will be to leverage technology for efficiency, analysis and reporting. The best firms will harness technology to improve data collection from investments, analyze that data and provide the "right" level of transparency to investors and regulators.

"Doing more with less is the goal" claimed Ms. Pride, especially as the number of stakeholders and consumers of internal, external and regulatory information increase. By using intelligent automation, firms will focus on interpreting and analyzing their data, rather than spending inordinate amounts of time collecting the data. Key areas where clear benefits will be obtained are:

  • Analyzing data across multiple sources within the enterprise
  • Streamlined interaction between GP's and LP's
  • Automated investment data collection and analysis

GP's will benefit from efficiency and reduce their reporting time-frames to less than 45 days, especially with technology that identifies exceptions / errors in the report-production workflow, according to Ms. Pride. The benefits of cloud-hosted solutions was also discussed since 80% of new implementation are in the cloud vs. installed despite security concerns. Interestingly, Mr. O'Connor also described the need for security audits at portfolio co to identify potential weaknesses in their systems (data and physical). He said the security analysis is available "for short money and the results are surprising scary."

The panel also discussed the challenges in consolidating data across disparate systems at a PE firm. Ms. Pride stated that it's not realistic to have a single software system support all facets of the business, regardless of the capabilities of the individual products. Investor transparency and compliance reporting (such as Form PF) needs data from all systems. Mr. O'Conner emphasized that consistent data definitions, removing duplicates and a centralized interface is critical for better analysis and reporting . According to Ms. Pride, firms are implementing data warehouses to create a single portal for both internal and external analysis and reporting to stakeholders.

I trust you found this brief summary of the Tech Trends Panel useful. Please feel free to contact me directly at info@vantage-software.com for more details.

Next Article: Part II - GP Accounting (Carry Allocation models), LP Portal Transparency, Valuation Software and Future Tech Trends for PE Firms

Continue reading

Dec

02

2013

Commentary on PEI Article "Outsourcing fund admin not always reliable"

image1

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

Knowing that the responsibility for accurate reporting results lies with the fund manager despite outsourcing to an administrator, many firms spend significant effort in choosing the right partner. But people make mistakes and the need for accuracy is heightened when admin staff are overwhelmed with auditor and tax requests during busy season.

So how to ensure reliability? Have your team spend 10% of their time reviewing your "numbers" at the administrator while they are in process via a Transparency Portal. Clients can see their data at any time during the reporting process and with the correct level of scrutiny can identify and rectify any issues before they make it to your management team or investors.

oct

02

2013

10 Top Strategies for a Successful CRM Implementation

image1

By Gregory J. Woolf

Tags :

The goal of this paper is to provide thoughts and guidance for those who are thinking of implementing, upgrading or improving their use of a CRM system. The goal is not to tell you which system to use; but what pitfalls to avoid, technical and people-related when selecting ad implementing any system.