A consistent theme heard from advisors and other professional investors looking to invest in liquid alternatives is the need for more education. And that is exactly what JV Events Group looks to provide in its upcoming one-day conference: Investing in Liquid Alternatives.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with both Don Friedman, founder of JV Events Group, and Rick Lake, the conference chair – our conversation is in the Q & A below. As the co-founder of alternative investment firm Lake Partners, and portfolio manager of the multi-alternative ASTON/Lake Partners LASSO Alternatives Fund, Rick has been a long-time proponent of alternative investment education and the use of liquid alternatives in diversified portfolios. With this focus, Rick has had a significant role in crafting the agenda for the conference, and ensuring it maintains a focus on education.
Utilizing his background of establishing and managing the successful events business for ETF.com, Don has created a unique event that will bring advisors and leading investment practitioners together for a full day of learning.
Each session will be led by experienced portfolio managers and investment experts in the related subject matter. And outside of staff from the focused list of sponsoring organizations, attendance at the event is restricted to financial advisors and other professional investors such as family offices and institutional investors. DailyAlts readers who meet the above attendee criteria will receive complimentary registration by clicking here.
I wanted to create an event where there is the opportunity for interaction, dialogue and real learning for advisors and institutional investors. This event brings all that together.
~ Don Friedman, founder of JV Events Group
Keynoting the conference is Joel Greenblatt, Managing Principal and Co-CIO of Gotham Asset Management and advisor to the series of Gotham Funds. In his presentation, Greenblatt will dig into long/short equity investing and explain how it can provide investors with a smoother ride in the equity markets. In addition to the keynote presentation, the conference will cover key investment categories with sessions on each of the following topics:
- Overview of liquid alternatives
- Global macro
- Long/short equity
- Arbitrage and event driven strategies
- Private equity
- Managed futures
- Non-traditional fixed income
- Volatility driven strategies
- Portfolio construction
In addition to providing education, the conference has been accepted by the CFP Board for 9 CE credits, while IMCA has accepted this conference for 9 hours of CE credit towards the CIMA®, CIMC® and CPWA® certifications.
Attendees will also receive a complimentary copy of Joel Greenblatt’s The Little Book That Still Beats The Market & The Big Secret For The Small Investor.
Q & A with Don Friedman and Rick Lake
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Brian Haskin: Don, why don’t you tell me about the upcoming conference and how it’s different from the other industry conferences that are already available for advisors and other investment professionals?
Don Friedman: Sure. I’m glad you mentioned the word “industry,” because I think it’s important to note that our event is actually not an industry event. We are not trying to bring the industry together and talk about how great liquid alts are. Our focus is on the strategies and portfolios offered by various alternative managers, and how to incorporate those strategies into client portfolios. So I think our event is a fantastic deep-dive, due-diligence opportunity for professional investors.
I would also add that our speaking faculty consists entirely of portfolio managers, c-level executives, portfolio strategists, and analysts of liquid alternative funds. This event is for professional investors only, and when I say that, I’m specifically referring to financial advisors and institutional investors. If you’re a hedge fund or a mutual fund or ETF issuer who’s not sponsoring the event, you’re actually not eligible to attend. I also think it’s important to note that our program is developed by investment and fund managers: we believe a high-level agenda, with high-level speakers, and high-level professional investors, leads to a totally differentiated, high-level event.
Brian: So to me it sounds like it’s much more educationally focused than other events that might be in the marketplace.
Don: Yes, I would say so. We also offer 9 CE credits, and as a result, each session will be 50 minutes long. Our broad array of topics will encompass the spectrum of liquid alternative strategies. Each session will give attendees an opportunity to take a deep dive with leading fund managers, concluding with an opportunity to question managers directly. We want the audience to be super engaged.
Brian: Rick, you’re the chair of the conference and you’ve obviously been working in the alternatives and liquid alts space for quite some time. You have the ASTON/Lake Partners LASSO Alternatives Fund (ALSOX/ALSNX) that you advise and have been running for a number of years, and it was an early mover to the space. How have you worked with Don to make this event different from other events?
Rick Lake: As background, my firm, Lake Partners, has been involved in alternative investment consulting for over 26 years. We have been researching and investing in liquid alternatives for over 16 years, managing our LASSO® Long and Short Strategic Opportunities® portfolio of alternative mutual funds, which we launched on December 31, 1998. And as you noted, for 6 years we’ve served as sub-adviser of a mutual fund dedicated to liquid alts, the Aston/Lake Partners LASSO Alternatives Fund, which has earned “4 Stars” from Morningstar.
For all these years, I’ve hoped to find an intensive event that offered the opportunity to study and learn from accomplished portfolio managers in each sector of the liquid alternatives world. Eventually, I realized that it was time to create that type of educational opportunity. So I was fortunate enough to work with Don to put together an intensive full-day educational program covering the entire spectrum of liquid alts, and then conclude with a session on how to put it all to work in portfolio construction and asset allocation. It’s those elements that really make it different.
Brian: Given your experience of working with advisors, family offices, institutions and others, where do you see the greatest need for education? Is it with understanding the products, how they work and their risks, or more along the lines of portfolio construction and how to put it all together?
Rick: I believe professional advisors and allocators considering or using liquid alternatives can benefit from education and thought leadership across three dimensions. First, they can benefit from a deep dive into how each of these strategies work: what the nuances are, what the risks may be, and how the current environment impacts them. The second educational dimension comes from the richness of learning face-to-face from accomplished, specialized fund managers—specifically how they go about their portfolio management process. How are their portfolios evolving in a world that’s transforming rapidly, what are the unique sources of returns and risks in these portfolios, and how are those changing? The third educational area is the practical, nuts-and-bolts of portfolio construction and asset allocation. How do you integrate alternatives and liquid alternatives with traditional assets? And what may be the optimal mix for a given type of client, portfolio, or risk profile? The conference seeks to provide an educational experience across these three broad dimensions.
Brian: Is this conference meant to address all of those and be a one-stop shop for that education?
Rick: Yes, exactly. In effect, we’re putting together our dream syllabus: in-person manager perspectives, intensive strategy reviews, and practical applications, coupled with perspectives on how changes in world markets impacts these strategies.
Brian: That will be a good opportunity for investors and advisors. Don, a lot of asset managers spend a lot of time educating advisors. Is this conference meant to do the same thing, or is it really going to be product agnostic and more strategy focused?
Don: Our conference is going to be strategy-focused, as well as a due diligence opportunity. We’ll cover the gamut from long/short equity and alternative fixed income to global macro, managed futures, arbitrage, and event-driven strategies. We’ll examine volatility not just as a phenomenon but also an investment opportunity. And we’ll look at investing across the liquidity spectrum in private equity. And, as Rick said, we’ll wrap it up with a session on asset allocation and portfolio construction with liquid alts.
Rick: With a speaking faculty of prominent portfolio managers, the conference should benefit advisors in multiple ways. Each session will seek to offer both a sophisticated perspective on the opportunities and risks in a strategy, as well as a due diligence opportunity on actionable investment ideas. The conference provides a comprehensive program for advisors researching or investing in liquid alternatives.
Brian: So what about some of the speakers you have lined up to speak? It sounds like you have actual portfolio managers speaking. Maybe you can touch on a couple of the highlights.
Don: Yes, our speaking faculty is a key differentiator between our program and other liquid alts programs. We have 18 speakers on the schedule. Portfolio managers dominate the roster. They will be joined by select thought leaders focused on analysis and allocation in the liquid alts space, from CAIA, Merrill Lynch, Invesco and Envestnet. Examples of the speaking faculty include Joel Greenblatt, the co-CIO of Gotham Funds, who will be discussing long/short equity investing.
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Rick: Joel also teaches at the Columbia University Business School, and his firm has rapidly become one of the largest long/short equity managers in the liquid alternatives space.
Don: Tom Clarke from William Blair and Tam McVie from Standard Life will discuss global macro investing.
Rick: Standard Life runs some of the largest liquid alts funds in both the US and Europe.
Don: David Baker from Perella Weinberg, along with Roy Behren and Michael Shannon from Westchester Capital Management will cover arbitrage and event driven strategies.
Rick: Westchester was an early pioneer in liquid alts. Their Merger Fund is among the largest alternative mutual funds, with one of the longest track records.
Don: And we’ll have a session on alternative fixed income, with K.C. Nelson of Driehaus and Ty Powers from Hatteras.
Rick: Which should be of interest to advisors seeking additional sources of income for their clients or looking for ways to navigate a potential rise in interest rates.
Don: As you see from these examples, these speakers are portfolio managers of alternative funds, so they have real insights into how these strategies are managed on a day-to-day basis. We’re also extremely fortunate and grateful to have Rick Lake as our conference chairperson. Rick, as we mentioned, is a pioneer in the space. Having him spearhead the agenda and moderate our panel on asset allocation and portfolio construction is enormously helpful.
Brian: Rick, do you have anything to add to Don’s comments?
Rick: Our conference speakers are expert practitioners who run some of the largest and oldest liquid alternative funds, or who are pioneering new liquid alternative vehicles. I’m looking forward to the conference and to benefit from the collective wisdom of all these managers who are gathering together to speak in one place on the same day.
Brian: Don, I’m sure that your background with ETF.com is really helpful in your conference business. Tell me how you’ve utilized that experience set to bring this conference together.
Don: Yes, absolutely, it’s been a huge help. Not only for the last seven years was I the chief operating officer of the firm, I was also the president and co-founder of the events division, and prior to that I actually spent five years at a company called SRI where I ran the largest alternative conference in the world at the time. That is where I met Rick.
What I’ve learned is that it’s critical to put myself in the shoes of our audience, someone like a financial advisor. For example, I have to think about what would keep me up at night if I were an advisor? Would it make sense to put my clients in liquid alts products, and if so which funds and strategies should I put them in, and why? And how would I explain these products in a simple, straightforward way so my clients understand? We want to be sure we consider these types of questions when we begin to form the content for the conference.
The other main pillar of what I learned at ETF.com is to create a rock solid agenda that is entirely geared toward investor education. And the cornerstone to accomplishing this goal has been to have our programs developed by investment professionals. So those are really the two main takeaways from 13 years of being in the business, and both have been critical to the idea of starting JV Events Group and holding asset-class-based conferences.
Brian: Rick, you know advisors have a lot of different ways to learn about alternatives: webinars, white papers, etc. What’s the real benefit of coming to this event versus just doing a deep dive through one of these other means?
Rick: This event is unique in offering face-to-face time with leading portfolio managers across the entire spectrum of liquid alts. It’s an intensive one-day research and due diligence opportunity that provides a rich practical experience. I don’t think you can get that same experience, and particularly one that includes networking opportunities, through other methods.
Brian: I assume that the networking component is valuable from a learning standpoint as well.
Rick: Yes, it is. Advisors will be able to network with portfolio managers, and they’ll be able to network with other advisors and share their experiences, challenges and solutions to implementing liquid alts in client portfolios. There’s nothing like face-to-face discussion and education.
Brian: Right, interactive.
Rick: Face-to-face, interactive, in-person education. It’s a classic approach. It completes the type of learning advisors can do by reading, attending a webinar or doing online research.
Don: Another factor that we’re incorporating is the opportunity for attendees to meet one-on-one with the speakers. That will provide an additional opportunity for financial advisors and institutional investors to sit down with these fund managers and ask questions that may not have been answered in the main sessions.
Brian: That’s a great opportunity for even deeper dialogue. Moving to a different topic, Rick, what do you think stands in the way of advisors increasing their allocation to alternatives, especially liquid alternatives?
Rick: Advisors have tapped liquid alternatives as potential tools for risk management, additional sources of return, or diversification. The more advisors know about each strategy and each fund, and the more comfortable they are when speaking to clients about these investments, the easier it will be for advisors to incorporate liquid alts in a portfolio.
Brian: That makes a lot of sense. Just to wrap it up, is there anything else that either one of you want to add regarding the conference?
Don: I would just add that there will be an hour available for networking over breakfast, in addition to two 30 minute breaks during the day, lunch and a cocktail reception. So there will be ample time for everyone to meet peers and colleagues at the event
Brian: Good. Rick, anything else from the conference chairperson?
Rick: If you are an advisor or allocator who is eligible to attend, please join us for a great day of “Investing in Liquid Alternatives.”
Brian: Thank you both for your time.