BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Eight of out 10 investors expressed satisfaction with their investment consulting relationship, speaking to the high value investors place in consultants to achieve their long-term investment goals, according to NEPC’s Investor Governance Pulse. In a survey of more than 200 institutional and high-net-worth (HNW) investors, a majority plan to maintain the same type of investor-consultant relationship over the next five to seven years.

As part of its Investor Governance Pulse, NEPC asked investors to identify the current engagement model with their consultant and how they expect their relationship to change in the coming years. The most popular relationship by far was the “Partner” engagement model at 45 percent of responses, indicating respondents value working collaboratively with their consultants to build their investment portfolios.

Investors value partnerships with their consultants across the board, a finding that was reinforced by institutional investors at pensions and endowments and foundations. Forty-six percent of public pensions, 41 percent of corporate pensions, and 37 percent of endowments and foundations anticipate working with their consultant as a Partner in the long-term.

While the Partner model ranks as the top preference now and in the future, some investors plan to leverage consultants as a Resource (19 percent) or Vendor (6 percent) in the future. Others will look to consultants to play a more active role, as an Advisor (17 percent) or a Manager/OCIO (15 percent).

While 80 percent believe their consultant engagements will remain the same, the other 20 percent believe their relationships will change. Twelve percent of respondents feel their relationship will evolve to require less involvement by their consultant, while 8 percent believe they will rely on their consultant even more in the future. Interestingly, compared to senior executives, board and investment committees, investment staff respondents foresee a higher likelihood of change in their consultant relationships.

“Given how much change we have seen in the consulting industry, we were really interested in the results. We expected the Partner model to be the most prevalent because there is no substitute for having a trusted and consistent partner on your side. We also recognize that client needs tend to shift over time and we are well-positioned to meet their evolving needs,” said Mike Manning, Managing Partner at NEPC. “Based on the data, it is clear that investors in different market segments have different needs and different expectations for the future.”

The greatest difference among investor types is their use of the Manager/OCIO model. Among corporate pensions, 26 percent are expecting OCIO relationships in the future. This represents a 15 percent increase in corporate pensions’ current use of OCIOs, foreshadowing a shift away from the partner and advisor model towards relationships with more direct involvement from third party fiduciaries. The data suggests a similar move towards OCIO in the defined contribution segment.

Similarly, 18 percent of endowments and foundations plan to leverage their investment consultant as an OCIO in the future, compared to just seven percent of public pensions.

The most differentiated market segment was healthcare which had one of the largest expected moves away from the Partner model. Unlike other segments, however, the respondents were split in the anticipated moves. About 14 percent indicated a shift toward a more self-reliant investment model, consistent with building out larger internal investment teams. At the same time, another 14 percent forecasted a move to the Manager/OCIO approach.

View the infographic here.


NEPC’s Investor Governance Pulse is a survey of more than 200 investors across healthcare, defined contribution, private wealth, corporate pensions, Taft-Hartley, public pensions, endowments and foundations, and insurance to develop a snapshot of the consultant-investor relationship in the next five to seven years.

For the purposes of this analysis, consultant-investor relationships are classified using the following terms:

Investment Manager: “My consultant or manager handles everything like an OCIO.”

Advisor: “I will make the decisions, but I almost always do what they recommend.”

Partner: “We work closely together to develop the investment program.”

Resource: “We use our consultant as a key source of information and perspective.”

Vendor: “We use our consultant only for specific tasks and to access their research.”


NEPC, LLC is an independent, full service investment consulting firm, providing asset allocation, manager search, performance evaluation, and investment policy services. We work with institutional investment programs and private wealth clients on both an advisory and discretionary basis. We service 366 retainer relationships, representing assets of $1.0 trillion1 with approximately $60.0 billion2 in alternative assets, from our offices in Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, Portland and San Francisco.

Learn more at

1 As of 12/31/2018, includes 51 clients with discretionary assets of $17.7 billion.

2 As of 12/31/2018

Read the online press release here.