2018 Knowledge Brokers New Guards

Matt Mullarkey

In his role as Head of Americas Advisory at Aksia, Matt Mullarkey specializes in helping institutional investors with alternative investments. And because he has walked the walk, he can talk the talk.

The knowledge broker has spent seven years as an investment advisor with Aksia and has first-hand knowledge as an asset allocator. Before joining Askia, Mullarkey worked as an investment officer and portfolio manager for the Absolute Return Strategies Group of the New York State Common Retirement Fund.

“It’s critical to have an understanding of your client’s situation,” he said, “Having sat in a similar seat, I’m very empathetic to the challenges they face and am aware of the advantages that they hold.”

Mullarkey supervises a 10-person team but is not cloistered in a corner office; he also consults with clients directly. In the expected low-return environment, he is helping institutional clients position their alternatives program.

“Everyone’s problem is the same, where do you invest from here?” he said. “You’ve had a wonderful bull market run. Nearly all assets appear at their peak.”

Mullarkey said it is a challenging time to be a chief investment officer or on the investment staff of an institutional investment organization because of the difficulty of picking the right alternative investments to balance expected lower returns in traditional asset classes.

“You really need to be thoughtful and judicious about making  decisions,” he said. “It’s important to not ‘reach’ for returns.”

According to Mullarkey, compelling investment opportunities can be found in a variety of places, from private credit to hedge funds. “Within private credit, investors should spend time in less-crowded areas, like specialty finance or niche real estate credit strategies. On the hedge fund side, we like strategies that either avoid the relentless efficiency of liquid and electronic traded markets or strategies that operate in retail-dominated trading environments like Asia,” he said. While hedge funds have been criticized, he said managers are increasingly willing to work with investors to resolve concerns like high fees and a lack of transparency in the investment process, a positive trend for the industry.

Direct lending investment strategies have also become popular among institutional investors because they can provide returns above core fixed-income strategies without injecting an excessive amount of risk. “Some of these private and direct-lending strategies produce a moderate income, but certainly are an improvement above what traditional fixed income is providing,” he said.

US direct lending investment strategies can provide unlevered returns in the range of 6% to 7%. Mullarkey didn’t have the typical finance background in building the early part of his career. He was deputy chief of staff for the New York City Council, an assistant comptroller for the New York State Comptroller’s Office, and chief of staff to a congressman. He later received his CFA designation as he moved to the world of investment.

Mullarkey graduated from The State University of New York at Albany with a BA in History and completed a Master of Urban Planning from New York University, Wagner School.

By Randy Diamond

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