A Platform to Democratize Alternative Investments

Eileen Duff is managing partner and head of distribution for iCapital Network, where she is responsible for sales, relationship management and investor relations supporting the RIA, broker-dealer, private banking and family office communities. Prior to joining iCapital, Eileen was head of alternative investments, North America at Credit Suisse, where she built and oversaw the origination and distribution functions for private equity, hedge funds, managed futures, real estate and other key alternative asset classes. Previously, Eileen was with Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette where she was responsible for global marketing in the private client group. She is a graduate of University of Delaware and holds FINRA Series 7 and 24 licenses.

I spoke with Eileen on April 27 at the Morningstar Investment Conference.

What is your background? How does iCapital fit in to the landscape of advisor solutions?

Thank you for the opportunity. Prior to joining iCapital II ran the alternative investments platform for Credit Suisse Private Banking. I was at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette prior to CS . I got involved in alternatives initially in 2003, when I built out the CS alternatives platform, and ultimately led a team that was responsible for sourcing, originating, structuring and delivering alternatives to CS advisors and high-net worth investors.

Credit Suisse was an early equity investor in iCapital Network, and I was introduced to them in 2014. At that time, I made a strategic decision to leverage iCapital to bring efficiency and scale to the platform that I was managing. When CS ultimately decided to exit the U.S. private banking business, we sold a part of the Credit Suisse alternatives platform to iCapital. After the sale closed, I joined the iCapital team along with a number of my colleagues.

At iCapital our mission is to democratize the alternative investment asset class by bringing the highest quality alternative investments to a broad array of advisors and their investors.

By alternatives, we are talking private equity, venture capital and hedge funds.

Exactly – those vehicles across all the relative strategies, whether it’s real estate, buyout, different private credit opportunities or relative hedge-fund strategies. Traditionally these are products that have been available to qualified purchasers, those who have $5 million in investable assets in limited partnership form. We have just expanded the platform to include certain alternatives that are available to accredited investors, with a goal of democratizing the asset class, bringing on products that will allow more investors and advisors to participate.

Bob: How much capital from the advisor side is on your platform now?

We are currently overseeing about $2.3 billion in assets. We have over 1,600 registered users on our network, which is comprised of RIAs, family offices, individual qualified purchasers, broker-dealers, independents and the like. In total, that network of users oversees about $1.7 trillion in investable assets.

We look at that as our goal: How do we capture a percentage of those assets?

What is the advisor appetite for alternatives now?

It’s interesting. The appetite is fairly strong, probably more so for private equity than for hedge funds. Obviously, we’ve seen a tremendous bull run in equities over the last number of years. As a result, it’s been difficult to position hedge funds. Conversely, people recognize that if they are willing to give up some liquidity there is the potential to get outsize returns, and more importantly, uncorrelated returns by accessing certain private-equity strategies.

While the appetite is high, there is still a fair amount of education that needs to be done and that’s where iCapital comes in.