Traffic Light Key:
Strategic Planning for the Future
Board Retreat: My thanks to the Board for your strong participation in the February 26-27 Retreat.The conversations during the retreat advanced all of our objectives. Discussions centering on membership “smart growth” deepened our appreciation of the complexity of membership recruitment, engagement and retention. Many ideas and insights were generated that have immediate practical application as well as longer-term organizational and board development implications. Delineation of management and board roles regarding membership was advanced as well. Final comments by board members and management reinforced the value of dialogue and the importance of continuing to make time at board meetings for strategic conversations that build the board as a community of leaders. Martha Summerville's summary of the Retreat and Next Steps will be distributed this week.
Management Team Retreat: PPI management will conduct a facilitated, two-day (off-site) planning retreat March 21-22. This retreat will focus on key issues of 2015-2017 Strategic Plan and Vision implementation.
During the coming months, the team and I will be working on a memo to the Board outlining our perspectives on thought leadership. This topic will be an area of strategic focus of the July Board meeting in Cambridge.
Winter Roundtable Feedback: Reaction to the Winter Roundtable program content was generally positive, although I was struck by several comments made by participants regarding content and agenda structure. An email received this morning from Dave Neal from FutureFund in Australia sums it up well:
I did enjoy the Winter Roundtable. For what its worth, I thought the breakfast session for the funds was excellent and could have productively been much longer. I also thought the guest speakers over dinners/lunches were excellent. To be honest I thought most of the other sessions were a little disappointing – insufficient insight from the panels and not enough sharing of views and perspectives from the funds.
I also wonder about about the balance between commercial providers and funds – I need to get better at managing my position in the room clearly but for example I was on a table with 7 fund managers and no other funds on the Thursday evening. Given that I had flown to the other side of the Pacific to talk to other funds, and there was little opportunity to do that outside of the meals, that was disappointing.
Clearly we have work to do in terms of striking the right balance on several fronts, including content, agenda flow, encouraging dialogue, much better nurturing of first-time attendees and member prospects, and managing the size of attendance at the roundtables. I take these imperatives very seriously, and we will be working during the coming days to make the necessary adjustments and improvements. In a word, I get it.
The Winter Roundtable Insights Report will be available to PPI members within the next two weeks.
Summer Roundtable: Planning for the Summer Roundtable in Cambridge, MA is already well underway. While holding true to the Program Committee's desire to focus on tail risks, we are tweaking the theme slightly to provide a broader range of risk-related topics, to appeal to a wider range of PPI members. Against the backdrop of a volatile global investment environment, we regard this first east coast roundtable as an opportunity to engage a host of new institutions in the pension and endowment community as speakers and as participants.
Asia Programs: In the wake of my recent visit to Hong Kong, we formed a consultative group of PPI members to build the 2016 Executive Seminar and Asia Roundtable agendas. This group held its first preparatory conference call last week to consider topics and themes for these programs. During the coming months the consultative group, along with the Program Committee, will inform management on the direction of the October programs.
Registration Refinements: This week we will roll out a revision to PPI's program registration process intended to ensure transparency, fairness and balance as we pursue PPI's smart growth strategy. Most members will not experience a drastic change to the registration procedures. We will however, be adhering strictly to them to manage the size of program attendance, and thereby preserving the intimacy of the program experience.
Senior Program Director: We will conduct interviews this week in San Francisco with the finalist for the senior director of Programs and Knowledge. Assuming that all goes smoothly, I hope to move to the final stage of consideration of this candidate without delay.
Recruitment: Coming out of the 2016 Winter Roundtable and the related board activities, we invited Apollo Global Management to commercial membership in PPI. Approved for Friend of PPI membership were: Sandra Haas, SMH Management; Varel Freeman, Executive Advisor, European Bank of Reconstruction and Development; and Susan Carter, former President and CEO, Commonfund Capital. Citing financial difficulties, Loomis Sayles, declined our invitation to renew. They remain supportive of PPI and wish to be invited back to membership in 2017.
Under the leadership of new Co-Chairs Else Bos and Sheila Patel, the Membership Committee discussed at our recent meeting plans for outreach for the upcoming Summer Roundtable. In addition to Stephen Blyth, CIO, Harvard Management Co., and Kim Lew, co-CIO, Carnegie Corporation, we plan to invite a number of the prominent endowments such as Yale, Tufts, Boston College, MIT, and others. The committee also identified Universities Superannuation, ABP, and Norges Bank Investment Management as priorities for invitation. In response, I will travel to Europe in April to engage a number of the prominent European pension systems. This trip will also include a stop-over in New York, Boston and Washington, DC for meetings with our current members and prospective participants in the area. We will rely on your recommendations of key contacts in the EU, the US and Canada, that you believe would be good fits for the Summer Roundtable.
Systematic Member Management: Management has put into place a ‘net flow scoring system’ to support membership recruitment, improve our current member retention, and to measure the overall health of our membership. This system assigns a point value to each stage in a PPI member's lifecycle. Organizations that commit to membership, attend consistently, speak occasionally and renew annually, add higher values to the score. Organizations that do not attend consistently and have not contributed add no point value, and members that drop reduce the score. This simple tool will provide a more systematic, analytical approach that will be monitored carefully and inform our engagement strategies.
Membership Mapping: Recognizing that PPI’s network is part of the foundation of our sustainability and success, management has established a project to ‘map’ the relationships between and within our membership as well as the relationships between members and select prospects. The map is built with a powerful software tool to visually demonstrate the relationships. It will assist our thinking in the formation of affinity groups, program content, and prospective member selection.
Communications & Technology
Branding: In the last update to the President’s Dashboard, I reported on some hurdles that Bob Burlingame of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman encountered in the process to register "Pacific Pension & Investment Institute," "A Powerful Perspective," and the sphere logo design. Bob recently reported the good news that the measures he took to address the hurdles were well received. If there are no further hurdles and no opposition from interested parties, we should see completion of the registration process sometime in the summer.
PPI App: We released two new features to the Winter Roundtable app, "Submit a Question" and "Messages," which offer new ways for participants to interact with one another and with speakers.
With "Submit a Question" a participant can post a question regarding each of the session topics. Existing questions can be up-voted if a participant feels it is important to address. This will not replace the live Q&A, however. We think this feature would work best in preparation for a roundtable. As people review the recommended reading and reflect on the agenda, they can queue up their questions, and speakers can be better prepared with their remarks. While available in the app, no one used the Submit a Question feature this time.
"Messages" is the new direct private messaging feature that was released during the first evening of the Winter Roundtable. Due to the private nature of this feature, we do not know if anyone used it. In his announcement of the new feature in the Activity Feed, Mark was careful to remind participants that PPI's no-marketing policy and Chatham House Rule apply to the app experience.
For the Summer Roundtable, our team is working on Channels as an app platform for affinity groups, subsets of PPI members/attendees, so that they can communicate, organize and share in smaller groups based on common interests.
Annual Report: Mark is working on PPI's 2015 Annual Report. Our Bylaws require the distribution of the report to our members to be done by the end of April, but we are aiming to have this completed by the end of March.
Virtual Program Technology: Mark is negotiating with iCohere regarding the use of their web-based platform for learning, which includes secure webinars, multimedia content libraries, discussion forums and other communications tools.