Effective Oversight of RFP Groups

November 14, 2012 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are more than a calling card—they are an investment manager’s resume.

Yet investment consultants and many institutions are demanding that RFPs and related documents be turned around more quickly than ever. At the same time, the volume of documents that many RFP teams process has mounted.  

Cerulli Associates’ latest edition in The Cerulli Edge series, the Institutional Edition, says RFP managers need to manage proactively both volume and complexity to prevent volume and complexity from derailing their team. These groups must also continue to optimize efficiency.  

One of the most impactful methods of managing RFP volume is an effective qualification process, according to the Cerulli report. One RFP executive Cerulli interviewed indicated that after his firm put an RFP qualification process in place, the number of proposals declined 38%, but win rates escalated.  

The qualification process must fully vet potential mandates by asking questions such as: Does the firm have a competitive product that meets all of the qualifications set forth by the prospect? Is the investment strategy a core competency or a stretch? Does the firm have sufficient investment capacity in the strategy to manage additional assets? When the qualification process works, RFP teams report that they do not have to turn away documents because the sales force understands the importance of qualifying these requests upfront.

Creating a streamlined organization with a sufficient number of flexible and well-trained professionals is also key, Cerulli says. More than two-thirds (67%) of managers operate an RFP function that is performed by a centralized team solely devoted to RFPs. More than one-fourth (29%) of RFP managers surveyed oversee a centralized team that has a range of responsibilities beyond RFPs (e.g., marketing duties). Some RFP teams are responsible for updating consultant databases. Cerulli points out that investment consultant and other third-party databases play an increasingly important role for managers as they seek to secure mandates.  

Cerulli counsels RFP teams to set realistic timeframes when targeting a completion time for a document. RFP teams should operate at optimum, but not always maximum, speed. Three-quarters of firms target a one- to two-week turnaround time for RFPs. A much smaller group (25%) set a goal of three to four weeks for completing an RFP. Only half of the RFP groups that target one to two weeks for document completion achieve this goal 100% of the time, underscoring the importance of negotiating achievable deadlines, the report notes.  

Cerulli advises that one of the best means by which managers can get ahead of more complex documents and questions is to catalog the answers immediately after they have been developedand approved by compliance if needed. To take this step, managers must be equipped with the systems to warehouse and maintain the content. At this juncture, most managers have adopted third-party RFP software (e.g., PMAPs or Qvidian) or collaboration software (e.g., SharePoint), but some remain committed to their proprietary systems, typically built off a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.  

This research is from “The Cerulli Edge – Institutional Edition” and is available for purchase by contacting CAmarketing@cerulli.com.