How to Stand Out in a Sea of Annual Meetings

Once just a simple lunch and presentation, annual meetings have morphed into a critical event for General Partners (GPs). Typically taking place during November and April, these get-togethers used to focus solely on sharing current market insights, fund performance, and relevant investment decisions with Limited Partners (LPs). These days, while those topics are still on the agenda, there are several factors upping the ante when it comes to planning and preparation.

For starters, for some GPs, this meeting is the only time during the entire year when they see their investors face to face. Not to mention have access to a quorum of their investors for a specific amount of time. They’re also under pressure to strengthen their relationships with LPs, who attend an average of between 15 to 20 annual meetings a year.

Now that the majority of these meetings are virtual, there is more emphasis on making a connection through a camera. So in addition to communicating what needs communicating, the goal is now to make a memorable impression.

To stand out from the crowd of managers vying for LPs’ attention, GPs are putting much more effort into their annual meetings. Across Private Equity, the name of the game is engaging investors with more personalized communication on meaningful trends, insights, and of course, results. Below, we’ll dive into how GPs are using annual meetings as an opportunity to differentiate their brand and contribute to long-term ROI.

Increasing investor engagement

Rather than a meeting “everyone has to attend,” today’s annual meetings are being used as a strategic tool to offer an experience with real value. Of course, GPs are still covering returns, but the focus these days is on engaging investors effectively to bolster fruitful long-term relationships.

During a typical annual meeting, a GP will highlight portfolio companies, discuss investments that didn’t go well, and share long-term strategic goals. Firms offering a little something extra will host informal dinners with plenty of time for networking—and even some entertainment—to encourage those casual conversations that deepen relationships.

Of course, the LPs are still there for the numbers. To offer real value, you have to do more than update last year’s figures and explain what happened in the previous year. The Kap Group recommends developing meaningful content to share with LPs. Show—don’t just tell—what your team has been doing and what’s really behind the fund’s performance.

Simplify Planning for your annual meetings

When we asked General Partners and Limited Partners in Private Equity about annual meeting prep, we learned that 41% of survey respondents feel the pain of creating annual meeting presentations. What’s more, LPs will be sure to share the presentation with their colleagues, so the final document must be able to stand on its own—and put your firm’s best foot forward.

With so much at stake, demonstrating that you’ve already made sense of the data you’re reporting on is a surefire way to stand out. While everyone has received the quarterly reports, it’s a safe bet that hardly anyone has read them and had time to derive any meaningful insights.

Thankfully, today’s fund management software is designed to track and report on exactly the data you’ll need to prepare for your annual meeting. For example, knowing who from your firm has talked to annual meeting attendees—and what they talked about—can be invaluable for starting conversations with investors that lead to future investments.

But who has the time to cull Excel spreadsheets and calendars of activity to track meetings and calls in time for the annual meeting? Adopting a good fund management software tool like AIM not only reduces the chance of errors, it makes gathering this kind of information as easy as clicking a button. You can also save your team time by using the tool to build an up-to-date guest list out of a shared database, sending out save-the-dates and invites, and keeping invitees up to date on all of the upcoming activities.

LP Experience

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 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 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 — 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.

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