Art by Cristian Tundera

The construction of a Buyer's Guide is an inherently frustrating process. Transparency is the goal, and yet transparency is not always viewed as the friend of growing or shrinking businesses—especially ones as competitive as investment outsourcing firms. These businesses, rightly so, want to put their best face forward—but this often can mean that less-than-stellar data is conveniently unreported. Frustrating, indeed.

With that said, we'd like to thank all the firms that made an honest effort toward providing data this year. More so than last year, many of the firms included in this list were willing to share their successes and failures in numerical form. Why this is, we're not sure—but we hope it bodes well for the future of this growing industry, and for our sanity.

But we have miles to go before we sleep (to paraphrase Robert Frost—although he probably wasn't referring to investment outsourcing when he penned his famous poem). Consider this list the second mile in a journey of undetermined length. After all, we have promises to keep. Or something like that.

Methodology

Building on experience from a year's worth of data collection, our aim was to make the 2013 Guide simpler, yet at the same time more relevant to users and potential users of investment outsourcing—discretionary outsourcing in particular. To that end, we condensed the questionnaire from 33 questions down to 12 this year, and have presented the vendors in what we believe to be a vastly improved format. To collect the data, we sent a web link to a total of 83 known or suspected investment outsourcers (discretionary and non-discretionary), and ended up with 29 providers (four more than in 2012) that are both a) in the Outsourced CIO (OCIO) business, and b) willing/able to disclose certain aspects of their OCIO assets and clients. We were quite strict in our definition of discretionary outsourcing: For the purposes of this Guide, we have defined it as an instance where the "outsourcing manager has full discretion to select and replace managers without prior client approval." A few managers balked—pointing out that investment outsourcing is not just about the hiring and firing of managers. While we do not necessarily disagree, the purpose of our Guide is to be simply a starting point for a conversation about the nuances of a particular vendor's offering.

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