…The RFP model has major advantages for asset owners: Providers do most of the work (in theory) and it builds in protection against underhanded contracting. It’s the implementation that needs—and takes—a lot of work.
“Modernizing the RFP process is certainly something that took longer than I expected it to, and longer than I would have hoped,” New Jersey’s former pension investment chief Tim Walsh told CIO in an exit interview. Asked what he wished he’d accomplished during his acclaimed three-year tenure at the $74 billion fund, improving RFPs was number one.
Among RFP reformers, OCERS’ Girard Miller is in one camp. More questions, more customized, and an explicit warning that “boilerplate and canned responses will not make it into the semi-finals.”
Ariana Amplo, a former investment consultant for what’s now Greystone Consulting, is in the other camp. Amplo launched start-up InHub in 2013 to centralize RFPs on an online platform, streamlining the endeavor for all involved. Providers can auto-populate stock answers for RFPs based on InHub’s template, and asset owners can answer questions and read proposals from a tidy hub.
The best RFPs, she says, “balance customization with respect for providers’ time. You have to include custom questions, but keep it reasonable.” And investment consultants’ commercial product is portfolio guidance, Amplo points out. “You can’t ask for unlimited amounts of free advice.”
As for the OCERS RFP, she says, “I’ll be interested to see how many firms respond.”