CEO blog: Three years in
By Jack Inglis
Published: 09 February 2017
In February it became three years since I took up the role at AIMA. This is an immensely engaging position with a far busier schedule and agenda than I could ever have imagined. I hope in the course of that we have been of productive benefit to our members. What I find most rewarding is getting out and meeting with members, big and small, all around the world. You are the lifeblood of the association and hearing your views and opinions is vital in informing how we channel our resources each year.
Of course the value of an association is only as much as the positive benefit it brings to members. One of the questions I asked myself before accepting the role was whether AIMA would have ongoing relevance in a period after which new swathes of regulation had already come into play. It became clear to me that it most definitely would and the extent to which we still have to address the issues is still as great as ever. Last year was yet another year in which we submitted over 100 response letters to authorities around the world. And I believe we are getting results. Looking ahead there is much to do. The brave new world of the UK outside the EU brings the potential opportunity of more flexible arrangements for managers based in the UK. The indicated rollback of regulations under President Trump opens up the need for us to understand what this means for our members and express your views and priorities in this process.
One of the most common questions I get asked by members is how other people and firms are dealing with particular issues. There is clear reluctance to be an outlier in compliance terms and a desire to learn from others about efficient and effective operational standards. That is why we continue to expand our library of due diligence questionnaires and sound practice guidance as well as the popular training programmes we organise for alternative investment management staff globally. AIMA is more than a website and weekly newsletter. That is why I always encourage members to treat us actively rather than passively. In particular we have a deep bench of expertise amongst our senior staff who are on hand to answer direct queries.
Our industry tends to suffer from a poor image and mainly for the wrong reasons. As ever we seek to counter this negativity with well researched and evidence based output. In this digital age this has to involve more than trying to persuade sceptical individuals so we have intensified our presence on Twitter and LinkedIn and have transformed our website with a public section as the go-to place for industry learning. We are also seeing that our openness and more engaged approach with the media is starting to pay dividends, with more balanced reports on matters AIMA has led on.
Coming with the industry background that I do, I understand the challenges our members are facing. And it’s not just about regulatory compliance. Performance, fees and AUM have all been under pressure of late forcing reviews of existing business models. While we are unable to solve for all of this we do think it extremely important for fund investors to be able to review the ongoing investment opportunity and value proposition of alternatives in the right context. Hence the work we have done on defining alignment of interests and educational papers aimed at trustee boards, all of which is assisted by a group of investors who sit on our steering committee.
We are fortunate that allocators are so supportive of what we do. In several centres (most notably Australia and Canada) they play a very active part in driving the content around our events. We now host over 200 conferences, seminars, webinars and manager training sessions each year and find them an efficient way for members to exchange views with each other and benefit from peer-to-peer learning.
Many of you will have noted the work we are now doing to support the private debt space. This is happening under the banner of the Alternative Credit Council to provide a recognisable identity under the AIMA umbrella. A number of our existing members have been expanding with direct lending funds as have many from the private equity side of alternatives. This latter group have joined AIMA specifically for our work in this area and are thus helping to fund directly this initiative without us having to divert resources away from our core mission. Currently we have about 80 firms amongst our membership managing around $300bn in private credit assets.
I don’t have a crystal ball to tell me what the next three years will bring but I do have an excellent board of members who comprise AIMA’s governing Council. I rely heavily on their guidance in our strategic direction and we next meet for a full day of strategy discussion in early April. As ever I welcome your feedback on the work we are, or are not doing, on your behalf so I can bring that to the discussion.