2016 knowledge brokers

Fiona Trafford-Walker

Ask Fiona Trafford-Walker why investment consultants should exist and you’ll get a rather simple answer: “As long as you can do something useful, do it. If not, you should shut up shop and do something else.” The Pontiac GTO-driving consultant and her firm Frontier Advisors have never tried to be there for the sake of being there. “We want to build capabilities that clients can leverage,” she says. “We want to be an extension of their internal teams.”

To differentiate itself—and it certainly has with Trafford-Walker and CEO Damian Moloney leading the way—Frontier is relying on local knowledge, customization, and technology. There are no off-the-shelf solutions, Trafford-Walker says, and the firm has invested in a variety of software including investment research, manager databases, and asset allocation models—the same programs clients use. It’s about knowledge sharing. “We knew a long time ago that we couldn’t provide the general solutions that would eventually become internalized,” she adds. “The ability to specialize and provide the resources they need when they need them—that’s value-adding. We need to perform because clients need to perform.” There isn’t much future in consultants providing traditional manager research, according to Trafford-Walker. To evolve and stay relevant, she recommends debating complex ideas with the clients’ internal teams. “Clients want to hear ideas—even half-formed ideas!” she says. “It’s important for consultants to think on their feet, come up with snappy thinking and ideas, and debate them with the investors. If you have a group of smart people working together, you should get robust outcomes.” —Sage Um