You say: “Can you jump?” We say: “With joy!”

New client needs created opportunities to grow alternative investment services

Throughout Kaufman Rossin’s 60th anniversary year, you’ll see viewpoints in this space from firm members sharing how our Joy at Work culture translates into our commitment to client relationships and service.  In the case of Kaufman Rossin Alternative Investment Services, I’d say it went in the opposite direction.  Our commitment to client relationships and service led us down exciting new paths, creating joy for our team.

We started small, in 1988.

I sold a $250 accounting software engagement to a Miami firm with just two employees – but they were bigger than they looked.  They were the U.S. rep office of a large Latin American financial services firm.  They had many large financial institutions as clients and specialized in emerging markets.  Ultimately they formed a U.S. broker-dealer as well as an investment adviser and brought in high-end New York brokers and managers with ties to South America.

In 1993, that small Miami firm managed a portfolio for a well-known Industry Player.  The Player wanted monthly accounting reports of their portfolio, and we were hired to prepare them.  They really liked what we were doing and needed similar help during the 1994 Latin American banking crisis.  So in the spring of 1994, we sent 15 professionals to help their bank find all its clients’ assets and provide a smooth transition in the wind down of the investor balances.  They said, “Can you jump?”  We said, “With joy!” 

Our friends scattered – which created more opportunities.

After that partnership broke up some years later, each member started their own operation.  Many of their employees did the same.  As they spread out, our work spread out with them.

We helped them in many different ways.

  • One member hired us to audit a fund based in Curacao, but the books were in such chaos that we had to redo them. Since we couldn’t audit our own work, we were then hired to do the monthly reporting, jumping into a new line of service… Portfolio Accounting.
  • Others managed assets in the Bahamas, and we would travel there monthly to help with the accounting and prepare compiled financial statements
  • Some created new funds and asked us to provide the full accounting, calculate fees and issue weekly net asset value (NAV) reports– another new request… Fund Accounting.  We worked with our Praxity affiliate to create an entity for this work and built Lotus templates and work programs to help us manage our workflow.  This fund’s accounting became the prototype of what became our NAV template and work program.

They said, “Can you jump?”  We said, “With joy!” 

New services, new fund types, new ways to serve kept coming.

In the fall of 1999, I travelled to New York for a hedge fund conference; I cold-called the attorney leading the event and asked to meet her before the conference to learn about her practice.  She was intrigued with our boutique operation and referred us to a large wealth manager in Connecticut who was launching their first pooled investment vehicle.

Then on a whim she gave our name to the board of a large multi-strategy asset management firm, which was interviewing several global administrators.  On a cold and rainy day, we flew to New York to present to the board and told them we were there to answer their difficult questions, like how to move their fund from South Africa to Bermuda and then to the U.S.  Apparently they liked our answers, because later that day the attorney called us and told us we impressed them so much they wanted to hire us.

Miami remains our joyful HQ, since Jim Kaufman and Jay Rossin established their CPA firm in 1962.

Over the decades, we’ve kept jumping to meet clients’ needs.

As time passed and the industry changed/ matured, we evolved with it.

A few examples:

  • We began to serve energy funds, which led to the development of our investor services practice, licensing in Cayman, and opening an office in Dallas.
  • We opened an office in Boston to establish a Northeast presence and take advantage of consolidations in the industry that freed up local talent.
  • I visited clients in California, cold-called every potential referrer in the San Francisco market and found enough demand to open an office there.
  • Our Regulatory reporting offering (Form PF, Form PQR, FATCA/CRS) evolved in response to a greater regulatory environment and client needs
  • Clients needed customized reporting, and we were able to respond.
  • We developed and enhanced our client portal, for more flexibility and functionality
  • Recently, we’ve focused on services to meet the specific needs of private equity and venture capital funds.

It’s in our DNA to take care of employees and clients.

As we continued to meet the needs of our clients, Kaufman Rossin Fund Services grew. We had 135 employees in 7 offices, with Assets Under Administration (AUA) in excess of $30B. In 2016, an opportunity presented itself to sell the organization and allow all Kaufman Rossin employees to benefit from the proceeds. We chose to sell to a firm we felt would provide a good opportunity for both employees and clients, but two years later that firm was sold to a larger, less well-aligned firm.

When our non-compete agreement ended, both former employees and clients were asking us – can you jump back in? With a perceived gap in an industry that deserved high quality client service and expertise, we said “with joy!” And we were back in the fund administration business as Kaufman Rossin Alternative Investment Services.

Technology brought even more joy to our people and clients.

The Ivory Coast office opened in 2013.

When needs outgrew our infrastructure, we added resources to build top-notch technology.  When technology became available, we acquired best-of-breed solutions to meet demand, make processes more manageable for our teams, and differentiate us from the competition.  When we needed to get more work done overnight without overworking our U.S. staff, a team leader from Ivory Coast established and staffed an office there, giving us access to talented professionals in a different time zone.  This was an early example of a philosophy that became even more powerful with the pandemic shutdown in 2020.

During the shutdown, we all became more accustomed to the joys of remote working.  We could collaborate across the world, meet with clients on other continents any time that suited, and provide the high-touch client service we were known for, without physical offices in every market.  We still love to travel to meet in person, and to connect with industry colleagues and friends at conferences.  But now our real estate strategy is different: where should we be, to create the best experiences for all our clients?  We’ve closed some offices and opened others.

Our office in Gurgaon, India

Most recently we expanded our overseas operations by establishing a new entity and offices in India.  The talented and committed professionals who’ve joined us there find our Joy at Work culture a refreshing change from other U.S. companies they’ve experienced.

What’s the next challenge?

Over the decades, as our relationships grew and needs shifted and expanded, we’ve assembled an amazing group of professionals to meet demand.  The team is strong, versatile, and full of diverse people and talents.  All share the same commitment to discovering new ways to help our clients, and improving everything we offer.

The most fun I can imagine is collaborating with my innovative partners and staff to solve a problem we’ve never seen before.  Ready to create that kind of joy for me and my team? Bring it on!

Keith Sharkey, CPA, is a Managing Principal at Kaufman Rossin Alternative Investment Services, LLC, a full service fund administration provider.