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"Don't be obnoxious", pension funds tell managers

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  • "Don't be obnoxious", pension funds tell managers

GLOBAL - Being targeted with sales pitches after 11.30pm when attending conferences and leaving "half an hour" messages on voice mails are just two of the 'don'ts' asset managers have been told to avoid as pension fund officials find them annoying.

At its Institutional Investors Congress in Vienna yesterday, the Opal Financial Group dedicated a whole session to investors' issues with asset managers, and evidence reveals there seemed to be a lot.

"Don't be too aggressive - for me this is a sign of desperation, as if you have to make this sale at all cost," said Luke Howe, executive director at the Chicago Park Employees' Annuity & Benefit Fund.

His colleague from the Arizona State Retirement System, Michael Viteri, clarified: "Being persistent is not that bad, but don't be obnoxious."

However, Penny Green, chief executive at Saul Trustee Company, urged managers not to "keep offering a product class we definitely said no to before, like structured products".

Apart from late night after-conference sales pitches, what Howe finds most annoying is the lack of client servicing with some managers after they were hired.

"I sometimes get the feeling I've been treated better as potential client than as a client," he commented.

Although the panel agreed many managers knew how to treat clients they stressed all the criticism was not unfounded but was based on actual experience.

"We get half an hour voice message on our answering machines which we obviously cannot listen to in full and it's the same with hundred page booklets sent by asset managers we never even heard of before," Howe noted.

"But some actually forget to give the most important information and leave their name and telephone number on our answering machine," added Chris Erwin, investment principal at Aon Consulting.

Giving the right amount of information at the right time and honesty were other major issues for the pension funds.

"Please report against the target, not the benchmark," Green told managers. "If we give you a target of FTSE All-Share +2 and you report against the FTSE All-Share we will notice! We are not stupid, we can count."

All speakers also agreed managers and consultants ought to be proactive with bad news such as economic changes influencing the performance or their lack of expertise in a certain field, just as they are proactive with good news.

When a member of the audience noted pension funds were also sometimes very bad at getting back to managers on whether or not they are interested in a product the panel noted decision-making processes in their funds were slower than with other investors.

Nevertheless, not giving an answer at all was "plain impolite" according to Green and she "apologized on behalf of any peers".

If you have any comments you would like to add to this or any other story, contact Julie Henderson on + 44 (0)20 7261 4602 or email julie.henderson@ipe.com

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