AIF (Alternative Investments Forum) is an independent economic think tank focusing on institutional investment policy.
It treats alternative investment strategies as tools that institutional investors can use to achieve their investment objectives with tolerable levels of risk. To that end, it brings many of the world’s leading investment minds together with the owners of its largest pools of capital for a free exchange of investment ideas and information. AIF strives to be an objective investor resource that explores theory, research and experience to further sound investment decision making. Its mission is to foster education, communication and information exchange among institutional investors globally to help them achieve their investment objectives.
- Alternative Investments are defined by AIF to be all investments other than “traditional” long-only investment strategies applied to publicly traded equities and fixed income investments, and cash and cash equivalents. They include: direct and indirect investments in private equity (including buyout and venture capital); hedge funds; real estate; infrastructure; and commodities and other real assets.
- Institutional Investors are defined by AIF to be the ultimate owners of all large pools of capital (generally greater than than $1 billion in assets) throughout the world who invest in alternative investments, including: pension plans (public, corporate and union); sovereign wealth funds; endowments; foundations; insurance companies; health care organizations; and family offices.
AIF understands that alternative investment allocations do not occur in a vacuum; rather, they occur in the context of the overall portfolio. That is why AIF Roundtable sessions start with a “top down” discussion of overall portfolio construction and rebalancing, including the use of asset allocation modeling and risk management tools, and then drill down to the different “asset classes” and investment strategies that may be utilized by investors to achieve their objectives (recognizing that even similar investors by size or type can have very different objectives and desired means of achieving them).
AIF focuses on the communication and discussion of investment ideas rather than on the reporting of investment industry news (although current trends and recent developments inform the discussion). It does so by structuring and facilitating discussion forums in person and online in which leading alternative investments professionals and investors exchange views and information. Through these forums, AIF:
- Exposes investors to a broader range of investment ideas.
- Furthers best practices among investors by aiding in their strategic planning, asset allocation, manager selection, and risk management processes.
- Enables investors to monitor what their peers are doing.
- Educates investors through an Online Library of Applied Research Webinars, research and reading materials that are recommended by AIF’s Academic Board and session summaries of Roundtables that are prepared by session leaders.
AIF delivers content in person through educational roundtable discussion forums (Roundtables). The Roundtables focus on topics that are of greatest interest to investors at the times the Roundtables are held. They typically start with an investor-only session devoted to portfolio level issues, particularly those of asset allocation and risk. That session is followed by separate asset class level discussions that are devoted exclusively to investing in private equity, hedge funds and real estate and real assets. Often a separate session is devoted to trustee/board level issues. Participation in Roundtables is by invitation only.
- The Roundtables strive for an appropriate mix of institutional investors and asset managers by size, type and investment style. A leading consultant in the relevant asset class typically structures his or her Roundtable and serves as its moderator along with a leading “real world” academic, who is generally an AIF Academic Advisory Board member.
- Each Roundtable is limited to about 20 participants. Participants communicate on an equal footing as peer thought leaders (rather than through the more traditional, passive speaker/audience format). Only individuals with substantial investment knowledge are permitted to take a seat at the table. There is a strict prohibition against marketing of any sort. No press or service providers are permitted to attend. No tickets are sold. These conditions are imposed to help AIF achieve the purest and most extemporaneous exchange among institutional investors and their consultants, advisors and managers.
- The Roundtables are held regionally in locations that are convenient to investors. This is done primarily to accommodate investors’ schedules and travel restrictions. This flexibility enables AIF to include in the Roundtables investors that might otherwise not be able to participate in person.
AIF Applied Research Webinars (ARWs)
The ARWs showcase research deemed important by AIF’s Academic Advisory Board. That research is presented by preeminent finance academics in a form that is readily digested and acted upon by CIOs and their investment staffs. The ARWs complement the face-to-face AIF Roundtables and enable AIF to reach CIOs and their investment staffs globally in an efficient manner.
Brant Maller founded AIF more than a decade ago after serving on investment and investment advisory boards overseeing the U.S.’s three largest pension plans. Through that service, he came to appreciate the need for a neutral forum in which the world’s largest institutional investors — particularly those operating in public settings — could comfortably share best ideas, practices and information with one another to help achieve their investment objectives.
He serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Institute of Public Finance (NIPF), which is the educational foundation of the National Association of State Treasurers, and as the Chair of the NIPF’s Investments and Pensions Track. In 2015 he helped to create the nation’s first Certificate in Public Treasury Management program in collaboration with the NIPF and Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business.
He has served: as Finance Chairman and Executive Committee member of the New York State (NYS) Democratic Committee; as a member of the NYS Common Retirement Fund Real Estate Advisory Committee (which has a statutory veto power over certain investments proposed by the NYS Comptroller) under two NYS Comptrollers and as the Co-Chair of its Policy and Process Committees; on the California Controller’s Advisory Council on Investments; and as the Chairman of the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government New York Alumni Association.
He received a joint M.C.R.P.-J.D. degree from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government-Boston University Law School and an undergraduate B.A. degree cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. He has practiced investments law for decades and repeatedly been ranked as a leading lawyer by professional publications, including Best Lawyers in America, Chambers Global, Chambers USA, and SuperLawyers. He is Of Counsel to the international law firm of Winston & Strawn LLP.
Josh Lerner is the Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Investment Banking at Harvard Business School, and head of the Entrepreneurial Management unit. He graduated from Yale College with a special divisional major that combined physics with the history of technology. He worked for several years on issues concerning technological innovation and public policy at the Brookings Institution, for a public-private task force in Chicago, and on Capitol Hill. He then earned a Ph.D. from Harvard’s Economics Department.
Much of his research focuses on venture capital and private equity organizations. (This research is collected in three books, The Venture Capital Cycle, The Money of Invention, and Boulevard of Broken Dreams.) He also examines policies on innovation and how they impact firm strategies. (That research is discussed in the books Innovation and Its Discontents, The Comingled Code, and the Architecture of Innovation.) He co-directs the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Program and serves as co- editor of their publication, Innovation Policy and the Economy. He founded and runs the Private Capital Research Institute, a nonprofit devoted to encouraging access to data and research about venture capital and private equity, and serves as vice-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Investing.
In the 1993-1994 academic year, he introduced an elective course for second-year MBAs. Over the past two decades, “Venture Capital and Private Equity” has consistently been one of the largest elective courses at Harvard Business School. (The course materials are collected in Venture Capital and Private Equity: A Casebook, now in its fifth edition, and the textbook Venture Capital, Private Equity, and the Financing of Entrepreneurship.) He also teaches a doctoral course on entrepreneurship and chairs the Owners-Presidents-Managers Program and executive courses on private equity.
Among other recognitions, he is the winner of the Swedish government’s Global Entrepreneurship Research Award. He has recently been named one of the 100 most influential people in private equity over the past decade by Private Equity International magazine and one of the ten most influential academics in the institutional investing world by Asset International’s Chief Investment Officer magazine. He currently serves as Vice Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Investing.