Editorial: Pro·vo·ca·teur

A letter from aiCIO's Managing Editor Paula Vasan on the new Provocateur section.

Pro·vo·ca·teur, [pruh-vok-uhtur]: Noun, a person who provokes trouble or incites dissension, as an instigator, fomenter, agitator, or rabble-rouser; also called ‘agent provocateur.’ 

The word, we think, very much jibes with the personality of aiCIO—a relatively young magazine, eager to spark strong discussion and debate within the institutional investor community. Our conferences in New York, London, and Sydney are a success in our eyes when there is at least one shouting match. We are eager to hear from readers disagreeing with angles we highlight in our news stories, and the reasons behind their strong opinions. In the same vein, we are delighted when readers email us with questions, asking for a particular whitepaper we highlight or expressing their enjoyment over stories, validating our efforts to provoke thought among the world’s largest investors.

It seemed natural, then, to create a new section of the magazine: Provocateur. These stories are titled by a single question. With multiple sides, they spark disagreement. By way of example, one issue we tackle in this inaugural section is the trend of asset managers competing with investment consultants, who are increasingly flocking toward the discretionary consulting space. In June 2011, NEPC revealed that amid growing client demand, the consulting firm was making its way into the field of discretionary consulting. Similarly, in March of this year, Rocaton Investment Advisors joined the outsourced CIO bandwagon, approving its first discretionary consulting client. “We need to be competitive,” Robin Pellish, Rocaton’s CEO, said following the announcement, acknowledging the generally low-margin consulting environment. The question: What will be the future of consultants and fund managers potentially fighting over the same turf—that turf being lucrative contracts with pension clients? Elizabeth Pfeuti, our London-based European Editor, writes, “Slight disgruntlement over a move by investment consultants to drive more revenue in the tough times of the financial crisis, when investors were afraid to move from their agreed portfolios, has turned into something altogether more bloody—and there’s no letup in sight.”

The new section is another example of our mission to seek your thoughts, opinions, and ideas—an example of our status as journalists and editors not to be removed and aloof, but to be in the trenches making sense of the investing landscape and having fun with it. Let this new section serve as a reminder to not sit back and take things for what they are, but to question, oppose, and criticize. So be a whistleblower. Call us with ideas and leads. And if you hear a viewpoint you disagree with at our conferences, stand up and—politely but with gusto—voice it. Just no shoe throwing, please.

–Paula Vasan