The market for Outsourced Chief Investment Officer (“OCIO”) services has boomed over the last decade. Today, OCIO assets under management are by some estimates nearly $1.5 trillion, 2.5 times the level of just seven years ago. What’s more, industry estimates are for double digit annual growth among endowments and foundations over the next several years.
Yet with this “mainstreaming” of OCIO services, why is it that fees and expenses of OCIO providers are so opaque and difficult to compare? The easy answer is that OCIO services vary widely, with little to no definition. Hire a manager to fill a single strategy mandate – U.S. equity for example – and it’s simple to understand the manager fee and associated fund expenses. But OCIO providers can use a myriad of investment structures to build a total portfolio, from simple ETFs, index funds and mutual funds, to privately placed commingled funds to single manager strategies and for some hedge funds and private equity, fund-of-funds.
Expenses can vary dramatically not just by asset class or strategy, but by fund structure as well, so it is important to understand how any prospective OCIO provider seeks to implement your policy portfolio – remembering that the devil is in the details.
Below are five key questions to ask an OCIO that can help you make apples to apples comparisons:
- What is included in the OCIO advisory fee? More specifically, are there “a la carte” services that the OCIO charges that are outside of the advisory fee?
- Does the OCIO receive any other compensation or is it limited to the advisory fee? This is most common if the OCIO allocates to its own proprietary products, or if it receives revenue sharing from managers or other platforms.
- How is the OCIO providing allocations to alternative strategies? For example, if the OCIO is providing such allocations via fund- of-funds structures, are the fully disclosed fees inclusive of the fund-of-fund provider as well as the underlying managers?
- How does the OCIO provider charge for private, illiquid strategies? That is, are you being charged fees on your committed capital, or only that which is invested? It makes a big difference.
- What is included in fund expenses? Is it just custody, or more inclusive of audit costs, performance reporting, etc.? Everyone pays these expenses, but they are rarely consistently disclosed.