Jim Vos found opportunity in the midst of inefficiency. In 2006, he—and four other co-founders—spotted an opening for a well-resourced alternatives research and advisory firm. “We wanted to create a firm with the industrial strengths of the largest funds-of-funds, but with the client empowerment objectives of the top consulting firms,” he says. Ten years later, Aksia counts some of the most sophisticated institutional investors as its clients, including Hartford HealthCare, Sunsuper, the WK Kellogg Foundation, and the New Mexico State Investment Council. The firm’s coverage ranges from private credit to liquid alternative strategies, but on hedge funds, Vos is of one opinion: “The industry needs to perform better.” Right away, the CEO can name three immediate problems the industry needs to rectify—starting with high fees. While there has been some progress to fix the issue, “it’s not enough,” Vos says. The hedge fund industry also needs to address the asset-liability mismatch risk and the need for less liquid fund terms, he continues. Finally, Vos takes issue with netting, especially product proliferation where managers place those often hidden risks with the investor—not with the manager.
At Aksia, Vos’ focus is still on efficiency—the firm functions with a compact staff of 114, most of whom work in portfolio advisory and due diligence groups. “I love the teamwork and group problem-solving across institutions,” Vos says. “Any given workflow can involve a number of professionals at a client and at Aksia working informally as one team and being creative. It’s just fun—I wouldn’t want to do anything else.” —Sage Um