Are You a Thought Leader?

A version of this post appeared on LinkedIn.

Given the headwinds that many hedge fund managers are facing today — performance versus industry benchmarks, scrutiny over fees, and what has become an increasingly crowded and competitive playing field — it is more important than ever before to stand out with a differentiated offering.

While many firms have traditionally sought to fly under the radar and focus on their track records and producing profits — which we agree will always be the foremost measure of success — the hedge fund industry has evolved, and institutional allocators are increasingly entrusting their capital to managers that have pristine reputations, strong brands, and original investment ideas.

If you are sitting on the sidelines, you may be at a disadvantage.

The reality is that unique points-of-view and thoughtful insights are complementary to generating alpha and play a vital role in strategically positioning the firm over the long-term. “How come I’ve never heard of you guys?” isn’t the first question you want to receive from an allocator or prospective investor.

So, what does it take to become a recognized thought leader? It’s a straightforward process that begins with identifying the proper content and homing in on the themes and attributes that strategically align with the DNA of your firm.

To arrive at the best results, we recommend engaging in a series of internal discussions whereby management should debate a number of key questions. For example:

  • How do we want to be perceived in the marketplace?
  • What makes us different and what do we want to be known for?
  • What are our brand attributes and what do we stand for?
  • What are our areas of specialization and where can we stand out in helping to educate and inform key stakeholders?
  • What are the topics and industry issues where the firm has a license to lead?

Once these types of questions are considered and answered, firms can then begin to think about how best to deploy externally through a variety of communications channels, whether it be via media, targeted conferences or events, op-eds or authoring research that articulates insightful viewpoints.

The key in terms of how you activate is to be selective and deliberate with respect to what you’re trying to achieve and who you are seeking to influence. With the right approach and strategy, you can strike the right balance of raising your profile with maintaining exclusivity and not being seen as overexposed.

In the end, there are a few different routes you can take based on your appetite for visibility. However, one thing is clear. Those that don’t create a successful thought leadership strategy — or entertain the idea — will have a much harder time raising their profile and will inevitably get lost in the shuffle. If you want to create a brand and build a firm that leaves behind a legacy, developing and implementing a thoughtful communication strategy will be a critical component to achieving these objectives.

Mike Geller is executive vice president & head of Alternative Asset Management in New York.