Investment Consultants Are Bigger — and More Influential — Than Ever Before

New research from Coalition Greenwich shows that more than 85 percent of U.S. institutional investors work with a consultant, a statistic that has trended upward in recent years.


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Advisors to pension funds, endowments, foundations, and other asset owners have never been as popular — and as large — as they are today.

New research from Coalition Greenwich shows that more than 85 percent of U.S. institutional investors work with an investment consultant, a statistic that has trended upward in recent years. Among public pension funds, leaning on a consultant is even more common, with 95 percent of those polled employing at least one.

“There are more and more asset owners and institutional investors working with consultants,” said Todd Glickson, head of investment management at Coalition Greenwich, by phone. “I also think there’s been a good bit of consolidation in the consulting and OCIO space. Those with scale are begetting scale.”

To find this data, Greenwich interviewed 708 individuals from 575 tax-exempt funds in the United States that managed pools larger than $150 million between February and November 2023.

An increasing number of these organizations are funneling their business to the 20 largest investment consultants in the country. A decade ago, in 2014, the top 20 investment consultants had a market share of about 66 percent of institutional client relationships. Today, it’s 85 percent.

“The benefits are that the biggest consultants work across the globe, can bring scale, guidance benefits, and price point benefits,” Glickson said.

The primary function of consultants is to aid in the manager selection process. With an ocean of options available, allocators need help narrowing down their pool of potential general partners. This is especially the case for mid-size allocators, who may have an investment staff (rather than outsourcing their pool of assets) but aren’t large enough to source managers on their own.

According to Coalition Greenwich, more than 70 percent of respondents said they use consultants to find new or existing managers for their mandates. Roughly half of them said recommendations from consultants are the primary drivers for identifying potential managers.

Respondents also tap consultants for help with the fee negotiation process with these managers, the survey showed. At minimum, these allocators lean on their consultants to provide benchmarked fee data. In some cases, according to Coalition Greenwich, consultants negotiate on an allocator’s behalf.

“When we look at the data, the largest 20 have 85 percent of those client relationships,” Glickson said. “That means that those 20 have more bargaining power than they ever had before.” In other words, he added, a consultant may have four different clients who need something slightly different from the same asset manager. Regardless of whether the clients may be investing via a fund, a separately managed account, or a collective vehicle, the consultant may be able to negotiate lower fees on their behalf.

Once invested, two-thirds of institutions will use their consultants to provide ongoing oversight of their investment managers.

Greenwich also polled its survey respondents on the services provided by their consultants, and then used those responses to calculate itsGreenwich Quality Index. In 2023, these top consultants are CAPTRUST, Graystone Consulting, Segal Marco Advisors, Angeles Investment Advisors, Asset Consulting Group and Mariner Institutional (formerly AndCo Consulting).