TieCON East: Trends in Investment Research and Due Diligence.

My colleague Scott Lichtman took some detailed notes on the TieCONEast panel last week on "Trends in Investment Research and Due Diligence".

Podcast is here.


Graham Field, Managing Director, AQ Research (Moderator) Graham is the Managing Director of AQ Research, which provides quantitative global analysis of the accuracy of sell-side research. Graham established AQ Research in 1998, having worked as a financial journalist since 1987.

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He was editor of Asiamoney and of the International Tax Review, as well as presenting business programmes on BBC radio and television.

Graham’s books include Economic Growth and Political Change in Asia (1995), Japan’s Financial System: Restoration and Reform (1998) and Euroland: The Future of Europe’s Capital Markets (2000). He is a graduate of Cambridge and London Universities in the UK

Susan Oh, Director & Senior Analyst, Merrill Lynch Susan’s responsibilities include manager research and the analysis of hedge funds.

She is also the portfolio manager of the Merrill Lynch Event Driven Fund. Her focus is on invested managers as well as identifying new funds.

Prior to joining MLIM, Susan was a Senior Analyst at Tremont Capital Management.

At Tremont, she conducted due diligence on hedge funds and strategies to make strategic recommendations to the Investment Committee.

Her other experience includes Citco Group Ltd. and Smith Barney, Inc. Susan was a hedge fund analyst for Citco and an Institutional Sales Assistant at Smith Barney in the hedge fund group.

Dave Furneaux, Founder & Managing General Partner, Kodiak Venture Partners Prior to Kodiak, in 1996, he co-founded Furneaux & Company, LLC, a seed stage high technology venture investment company.

He was the founding investor and active Chairman of the Board of Extreme Packet Devices (acquired by PMC-Sierra) and Philsar (acquired by Conexant).

He also was a founding investor, Vice President of Business Development, and member of the board of Skystone Systems (acquired by Cisco Systems), a founding investor in Solidum Systems (acquired by IDT) and an early investor in Telica Systems (acquired by Lucent).

At Kodiak, he was an active early investor in AuroraNetics (acquired by Cisco Systems), Watchfire and Raza Microelectronics.

Gregory Locraft, Vice President, MFS Investment Management Gregory Locraft is the Vice President of MFS Investment Management and a Portfolio Manager of the $2billion MFS Capital Opportunities Fund and related portfolios. Mr. Locraft joined MFS in 1998 as a research analyst.

He became a member of the Large Cap Growth Portfolio Management team in October 2003 and was named Portfolio Manager of MFS Capital Opportunities Fund in December 2005.

Previously, he was a Senior Consultant for Kaiser Associates, Inc. Prior to that, he was a Financial Consultant for Smith, Barney, Inc. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History from Williams College and an M.B.A. from Harvard University.

David Teten, CEO, Nitron Advisors Bio…

Scott Lichtman’s notes: Furneaux: $700M under management. 8 partners. investing throughout the northeast, and also some emerging markets. 50% of investments are with people we invested in before.

As a Private Equity firm, we are constantly communicating to our managers to find depth in companies.

The average time from startup to IPO is 8 years, from IPO to acquisition is 6 years.

To pick the right companies, combine analyst inteligence (awareness and insight) with due diligence. Locraft: Good researchers are leaving sell-side and traditional buy-side & going where there’s a piece of the action.

Teten: Gave overview of Nitron Advisors’ business model. Quoted prominent industry CEO, who said, "If you’ve been in research > 5 years, you’re not a good stock picker." Locraft has 45 analysts.

Average hold on a stock in the market is 11 months. 40% of trading volume is from proprietary desks.

They compensate staff to think long-term, which they define as 3 years.

They usually only invest in companies with >$500M in assets. MFS is a $170B firm with $2B in Greg’s fund.

"The level of scrutiny we’ve undergone at MFS has made us take a whiteboard approach to the P&L." MFS is concerned about raw trading costs.

Susan Oh: Our area invests in all major strategies: long-short equity, relative value driven, CTAs, global macro.

She focuses on event-driven.

Due diligence starts with an on-site visit. We look at management, firm, infrastructure, risk management, operations. red flag: concentrated investor base.

Such investors may have preferential rights…which could hurt smaller investors.

Field: What is the quality of sellside analysis information? Do you compare internal analysts with sell-side? Locraft: Yes analyst compensation is based on stock picking results vs. sell-side recommendations.

We use AQ’s competitor, Starmine. Field: What if your analysts aren’t that good? Locraft says there are certainly cases where some analysts are better than others, and therefore some of our analysts by definition aren’t top of field.

MFS will pay accordingly for specific sell-side analysis in these cases.

But we recognize the disadvantage of information being disseminated to all parties at the same time via FD. David Teten: How do you measure ROI of research? Oh: One hedge trader I knowwill only buy research when it’s contrarian to the general street consensus.

Locraft: ROI on a good analyst’s picks is enormous so massive it’s not worth measuring.

Dave Furneaux: the early stage challenge for PE/VC investors these days is that there is more money than opportunities.

This means for any evident investing opportunity the returns are lower due to increased competition for investment dollars.

So the key is to find an investment idea others don’t know about or appreciate.

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