Prepping For Virtual Annual Meetings With Fund Management Software

The Benefits of Fund Management Software for Fund Managers and Investors During Annual Meetings

Restrictions on indoor meetings of large groups of people, travel restrictions, and concerns from members about attending large-group meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic may mean that holding a traditional, physical annual general meeting (AGM) is impossible. These limitations have forced many firms to start planning a virtual annual meeting.

As a fund manager, you need an AGM to communicate with investors and reflect on a year’s worth of work (and investment). This requires a format that enables you to celebrate portfolio companies victories, learn from defeats, and present your firm’s strategy moving forward.

Annual meeting preparation is already stressful considering the months of hard work dedicated to planning the event. Now throw in the uncertainty of a pandemic.

This is where it gets good. Fund managers that use fund management software are at an extreme advantage for presenting and promoting a fully virtual event.

Fund managers that use fund management software are at an extreme advantage for presenting and promoting a fully virtual annual meeting.

Prepping for a Virtual Annual Meeting

It’s your first virtual annual meeting. Typically you are planning an event to gather all of your investors together to feed them full of information (and food and booze). To most, it’s a necessary evil that requires months of preparation and some serious time away from your core business activities.

This year you are busy selecting a virtual platform that can support your AGM and stay compliant. Focus on the event and let your fund software handle the data details.

Using only spreadsheets of data and calendars to track your activities, your analysts are going to have to comb through a year’s worth of Excel rows and shared calendars (read 10 Reasons Why Excel for Fund Management Doesn’t Work), essentially to count up how many meetings you’ve had, how many calls you’ve had and with whom, and the number of companies you’ve invested in and their revenues or changes in revenues.

This is a tedious process. But it’s also likely to be highly inaccurate due to human error.

For fund managers with a fund management software system, the process is easy and more efficient with a quick look at an interactive dashboard. Quickly see how many interactions you’ve had with each investor and real-time visual representations of portfolio companies’ performance.

For fund managers that enlist a capable fund management software system, the data compilation process for an annual meeting is made easier and more efficient.

Good private equity fund management software is designed to, among other things, track and report on exactly the data that analysts are spending weeks or months gathering: what have you been up to in the past year? If you have the right system, getting this information for your annual meeting can be as easy as the click of a button.

We have several clients doing this reporting already. Click here to read our client case studies.

Improve Annual Meetings for Investors

As a Limited Partner, the most obvious benefit to using fund management software is the potential to significantly reduce the amount of prep work required to understand fund performance.

Every diligent LP plans to arrive at the meeting, knowing what the manager’s portfolio looks like. However, without a regimented approach and effort, this plan usually results in a chaotic scramble that produces a half-baked summary. While this summary will remind you of the more notable recent events or pieces of information, it will never tell you what hundreds of pages of quarterly reports have explicitly (and not-so-explicitly) conveyed over the course of the year.

On the other hand, when you have a GP that shares detailed performance information in a fund or data management portal, tracking each portfolio company becomes easier. In mere moments, you can see operational metrics and broader portfolio analytics. You already know what the manager has to share at the virtual AGM. You are one step ahead, ready to ask about the value drivers or the portfolio companies that have grown revenue or EBITDA most over the last year.

Using private equity fund management software, you can capture that data and are better equipped to analyze and understand it. Not only do you save yourself time, but you also have an advantage because you’re already making sense of the data they’re reporting on. Demonstrating to a GP that you are an active and interested investor can earn your priority.

A final justification for a digital fund management software for investors during the annual meeting season is simply to make it easy to catch up on the prior year’s activities, including meetings you were a part of, but meetings and conversations that you weren’t. We all want to avoid getting caught off guard, and while technology can help prevent that, it can also enable more meaningful conversations with managers that make you stand out and open up the highest potential for value creation. Whether being proactive in offering to co-invest in a value driver you’re already aware of, or simply coming off as on top of your relationship with the manager, avoid being caught off guard and falling behind by using technology as a strength.

Annual meetings are a gathering of who’s who in the alternative investment community.

Annual meetings are a gathering of who’s who in the alternative investment community. For investor relations teams, they can be a great hunting ground. So, understanding who is going to be at the meeting and knowing who in your network can provide an introduction is a very valuable tool. All of these things are easily captured in data but easily forgotten in our heads. That is where a CRM system built for private equity comes in and helps you act on network connections.

Every fund manager or investment firm needs fund management software. For those that are actively raising capital, chasing new deals, managing a portfolio, and communicating with investors, it’s absolutely a strategic advantage. Of course, the software needs to be used all year long, but it becomes evident just how beneficial it is during your firm’s annual meeting.

A traditional crm was built for general ‘customer’ scenarios

Software platforms have made the world a better place by making work a better place. Indeed the world is better off when people enjoy their jobs even marginally more, and workplace applications on big CRM platforms like Salesforce.com have done that and much more.

But the potential that platforms like these offer presents diminishing returns: once the platform provider has engineered too many industry specific components into its platform, its usefulness for other industries begins to be threatened, and with that so do the usefulness of the component tools built into the platform.

So it is with the CRM category that Salesforce.com has defined: it is generic enough to work for many industries, and yet still offers the potential for others to round off the edges and nail more vertically-oriented and extremely tailored software solutions.

Private capital markets are actually a great demonstration of this dynamic. Where generic CRM platforms simplify — appropriately so — to assume there’s a business, a customer, a sale, and service of that customer, there are a few industry-specific pieces that are missing.

Take for example, that investors become customers by investing through legal entities the GP raises. It’s a subtle but important nuance that just doesn’t make sense at a platform-as-a-service level (because it’s overly complicated for a simple one-time sale that many industries require), but which can easily be added without 10 years or software engineering. Once provided, the rest of the platform’s components become tremendously powerful again and you’re set to take over the world.

As a traditional CRM in our pillars methodology, these nuances must be present to properly account for investors in these legal entities, potential target companies and which are owned by these entities, the context of all interactions with these parties (as well as the appropriate overlap, ie co-investments), and how you’re arriving at finding these opportunities on both sides of the equation, such that you’re able to piece together what’s effective and what’s not. Not just because we say so, but because these are the very relationships and data that are key to the motivation behind a CRM in any industry.

It’s critical, too, that the valuable publicly-available information that helps to enrich CRM systems and save users painful steps of entering it themselves is fully-integrated at the platform level.

Again, look no further than the 3,000+ pre-built integrations that Salesforce.com — the creator of the CRM platform concept — has at a platform level to do so, and which only exists by way of holding just short of overly-specifying certain industry workflows that would present challenges to properly integrate.

Stakeholder reporting and communication (investor relations) draws on a range of datasets

The traditional “customer service” model of CRM systems once again makes overly-simplified assumptions about the customer relationship when applied to private capital markets.

In fifteen years I personally have yet to hear the terms “warranty” or “service call” in this market because it’s just not the same. But make no mistake, as uncomfortable as it may be to say aloud, customer service is more important now than ever and it’s constantly happening; the industry is, after all, considered to be a financial “service”.

As it turns out, that service is primarily information-based — it’s driven by data and takes the form of reports and analysis that drive decisions, and then end up again in investor-facing reports and analysis.

The foundational elements of a private capital markets CRM must be built such that they accommodate this data (like we discussed above), but so too that it can accommodate additional supporting data that investors (customers!) need in the context of service.

Oftentimes this supporting data — financial metrics and time-based values, for example — is believed not to meet the traditional definition of CRM and the natural thought is “well, better do this in Excel!”.

While I happen to believe Excel is still the greatest software application ever built, its introduction to this value chain we’ve discussed herein actually creates the problem many firms suffer from: key data needed to provide customer service (again: effectively the entirety of a firm’s reports and analysis) is now in disparate systems and detached.

Both of those dynamics are important and distinct: not only is this supplemental data disparate, but when brought together there is no logical association that can be made between the two data sets.

Allow me, then, to make the point very simply: not only can this financial and time-based value data (you may be thinking about is as “portfolio monitoring” or “accounting”) be a part of a CRM, it is arguably the most important part of a CRM because it’s at the core of what providing service to the customer entails — information that comes out of data!

Firms need a digital method to engage stakeholders (ie investor portals)

Investor portals are not new; in fact, for many of us — including myself — they conjure up horrifying nightmares in which we’re aimlessly guessing at folders to find the newest document we need.

So in lies the opportunity: not only have the portals we’ve come to hate not simplified the process of acquiring information, they’ve failed to create an entirely new experience that is “customer service” driven.

To be fair, this is not a B2C market where you’d be long out of business for not having focused on customer service and thus the customer’s technology-driven experience. But don’t expect to be around too much longer if you aren’t thinking about this shift.

Today’s institutional investors increasingly expect this same consumer-like experience, and a massive opportunity is being missed by not providing it. It’s not about providing them the experience they desire; it’s more about the ability to measure engagement that is had in return.

Put simply: what’s keeping the market from providing this experience is the availability of the information that’s required to create the service that provides the experience.

If you’ve hung in this long, you know that by focusing on your CRM, you have the data that’s required to manage the customer relationship and the technology-driven experience through which that information is shared to create a differentiated and opportunistic customer experience.

fund management software