Setting expectations

At the Global Custodian New York Awards dinner on 29 November, Maitland received an Editors’ Choice award for innovation in client experience. Global Custodian spoke with Frank Ferrara, senior client relationship manager at Maitland, about the firm’s approach to onboarding and relationship management in its private equity fund administration business.
By Joe Parsons

GC: If we break down the client experience into three areas – onboarding, day-to-day experience and experience of exceptions – are there any particular industry challenges that Maitland handles differently from its peers?

Frank Ferrara: Maitland distinguishes itself by taking a unique approach from day one. Before we onboard a client, we will have already undertaken a detailed scoping of the client’s needs. In phase one, we learn what they need and what they want; not just what Maitland can provide. From there, we embark on a journey that results in a partnership atmosphere. We prepare a project plan that maps everything from onboarding to year end deliverables. We begin capital call, distribution notice, and investor portal customisation so that, when the time comes, we can deliver a seamless, straight through automated process.

GC: At what point does the client relationship management function start from a Maitland perspective? Is it before the client has formally signed up?

FF: Absolutely. Our business development team typically handles initial client contact, but once we’ve established that both parties pursue partnership, we immediately bring our client relationship managers onboard. Relationship managers spearhead the process at the beginning and remain on board through the life of the fund. I like to describe client relationship managers as bus drivers. They may make stops along the way to allow different team members like onboarding, ops, and investor services on and off the bus, but at the end of the day the driver remains. It’s important for clients to establish consistency and feel comfort knowing they have a single point of contact for all their needs.

GC: So, the client sees the relationship manager driving the bus. On your side, how integrated are the relations between the different teams that get on and off the bus; in other words, the part that perhaps the client doesn’t see?

FF: To maintain an intimate knowledge of the client’s activity, relationship managers spearhead weekly calls with the client, as well as separate internal calls to discuss client deliverables and sentiment. How much the client doesn’t see is entirely up to them. The client dictates the level of interaction – connecting with the delivery team as frequently or infrequently as they want. Some want to work directly with the fund accountant, others choose to rely on the account manager. Then there are others who just want one single contact –  the relationship manager – to handle all communication. Given the varying scale of interaction a client wants with the team, we must be a well-integrated unit –which can only emerge through constant collaboration and communication.

GC: Is there a typical way that PE clients like to handle those relationships?

FF: Most PE clients like knowing there’s a relationship manager involved at all levels from beginning to end. Private equity funds differ from hedge funds in the sense that they are very high touch. Every limited partnership agreement dictates the functionality of the fund and how that fund communicates information to the investor. Because of that, it is very much a hands-on experience and is the reason a lot of PE funds have only just begun outsourcing to third-party administrators. In order for PE fund managers to get comfortable turning to us, ‘people’ are pivotal. For Maitland, it means ensuring our people are well-versed in how we manage the daily operations to become a valued extension of the fund manager’s team. All providers have some form of technology offering, but it’s the people behind the product that are the differentiating factor. That’s what makes Maitland special.