Helping 4Pines Lead the Conversation on Co-Sourcing in Fund Administration

How we worked with a leading firm to own a key industry conversation.

Fund administrators help the world’s private equity, venture capital, and alternative investment firms handle the accounting, reporting, and operations for the $23 trillion invested in private markets today. One in particular, 4Pines Fund Services, is directing the conversation around the pivotal issue of co-sourcing: an industry term for digitizing fund operations.

4Pines came to us with a vision of tapping into co-sourcing to help fund managers navigate tougher conditions and more disruption. We helped realize that goal through a methodical approach that started with open questions and conversations, moved to LinkedIn and press releases, and then evolved to generating stand-alone content and making media connections. We believe it’s an iterative process to lean into an idea that some may perceive “risky.” Today, we continue to work with 4Pines to hone their messaging on co-sourcing even further.

Why does co-sourcing matter? According to EY, 95 percent of private companies will consider outsourcing or co-sourcing tax and finance activities over the next two years. This means investment firms will increasingly need to decide whether to manage financial data through SaaS applications with the help of professional service firms or hire service providers that bundle that software into their engagements. General partners, or GPs, at investment firms that opt for co-sourcing will retain direct control and gain the benefits of collaborating with tech-savvy fund administration firms that will use the firm’s SaaS systems on their behalf.

Most incumbent fund administration firms are nervous about giving GPs direct access to software – perhaps justifiably. As 4Pines’ CEO and Co-founder Mike Trinkaus has pointed out, “When replacing a fund admin is as easy to accomplish technologically as turning off a license and turning on a new one, fund admins are much more motivated to perform at their best.”

Getting started

When we began to work with 4Pines, co-sourcing was not a widely used term in the industry, though it was a known approach – and, to some, a threat.

The 4Pines team had already seized on the unique, but technologically inevitable, model of fund administration that co-sourcing represents. They provide the most flexible solution for fund managers who want to outsource and gain the benefits of technology but also avoid the problems that arise when relocating their data to new service providers. With this approach, 4Pines works within their client’s platform but the client retains the license to the software and, therefore, continues to directly control their data.

This was not just a new approach. It was also one that others were shying away from – making 4Pines stand out all the more for leaning into it. But they had to tread carefully, introducing their capabilities while making it clear that they understood the many concerns of getting this shift right. Their co-founders, two of whom are the former CFOs of Portfolio Advisors and Commonfund, made this concern very clear to us. We needed to share a new idea, but to do so through a methodical approach that built on itself over time.

The process

When 4Pines opted to use technology developed by another client of ours, we wrote a press release and a series of LinkedIn posts about the new partnership. Though 4Pines’ leaders had previously been concerned that traditional marketing might alienate members of the finite and close-knit private capital community, they noticed how members of the ecosystem were responding to thoughtful LinkedIn marketing and wanted to try it themselves.

Social campaigns require diversified content that we worked with 4Pines to create, including press releases, webcasts, white papers, and other collateral. Mike Trinkaus wrote a call-to-arms on co-sourcing for Private Funds CFO. A sequence of four webcasts in 2023 featured Bob Chowaniec sharing how GPs can cross the co-sourcing chasm, James Rulli of Old City on the investor relations side of firm operations, prominent CFO thought leader Joshua Cherry-Seto joined, and James DiCostanzo of Allvue Systems. The series garnered press coverage and wider distribution on Spotify, Amazon, and Apple.

These efforts built buzz, audiences, and communities:

  • Engagement-per-post in terms of shares, reactions, comments, and clicks increased from 33 to 53
  • LinkedIn impressions increased, from 46,000 in 2022 to 85,000 through early November 2023
  • A browser search for “co-sourcing” and “fund administration” yields 42 results today (compared to five, a decade ago), with 4Pines’ media coverage and marketing collateral occupying most of the top results. No other fund administrator exhibits this degree of search authority for co-sourcing

Our success with LinkedIn showed we could help 4Pines reach target customers while building up impressions in the markets where 4Pines wanted to find larger clients: GPs overseeing more than $1 billion in assets.

Honing in

An A/B test with prospective clients further proved that 4Pines, backed by months of marketing and thought leadership efforts to explain co-sourcing’s benefits and 4Pines’ unique positioning on it, was indeed hitting home with clients. We sent out two sets of emails – one that mentioned co-sourcing and one that mentioned only outsourcing. The test showed that recipients opened and clicked on links in the co-sourcing emails 16 percent more frequently than those that only referenced outsourcing.

The A/B test was the impetus for the Definitive Guide to Co-Sourcing, a comprehensive document that explains co-sourcing to prospective clients and provides 4Pines with a foundation and roadmap for sales, marketing, social media, public relations, and other communications. The guide is now inspiring a new series of LinkedIn posts that feature new bylines, webcasts, and other content and, more importantly, is spurring more conversations with peers and prospects in the industry.

What’s next

4Pines came to us with a novel idea, and they weren’t scared to say something others wouldn’t or couldn’t. We worked with them to determine how to grow proven buy-in around it. Through intentional, clear ideas that built on themselves over time, we helped them reach the position they’re in today: the voice dominating the increasingly robust conversation on co-sourcing in private capital.

Want to learn more? Are you facing a similar challenge in your industry? We’d love to hear from you.


2023 was the year of Taylor – so, pay attention to make 2024 yours

I’ve been a Swiftie – albeit a less dedicated one than many – since my dad (shoutout) bought her first CD and played “Tim McGraw” and “Our Song” in the car on the drive home from a day of seventh grade. Like many others, I was hooked from the start on her lyricism and musical talent and, like any other angsty pre-teen kid, the feeling that the music truly “got” the feelings of love and heartache – even if I was only twelve.

Fast forward nearly two decades, and Taylor is an undeniable powerhouse not just of lyricism and musical skill, but of building a business and brand. Plenty of articles have been written, especially in the last year, about her insatiable fans, her economic impact, and, in TIME’s recent profilenaming her their person of the year, her ability to create a narrative almost without anyone noticing.

This last point is one that any good business should pay attention to.

Obviously a B2B enterprise is not the same as Taylor Swift. They aren’t dropping regular “easter eggs” to draw in new customers like Taylor does to market new albums. No company is blatantly or subtly calling out other entities or people that they have bad history with as Taylor does in many of her songs (looking at you, “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” “All Too Well,” “Look What You Made Me Do”). And very, very few companies have the complete authority over what they produce and how they do that in the way that Taylor does – they have to report to too many stakeholders.

But the way that Taylor builds a story that continues to iterate on itself is one that every business should emulate.

Here’s what I mean: in 2017, Taylor released Reputation, an album that was, for her, a complete diversion from her norm. It was angry, and threatening, and certainly no longer PG-13 in the way her past albums had been. Her albums always spurred conversation before, but this one prompted entirely new dialogues all around the same question: would this new Taylor be welcome?

Clearly, she was. Because she took a risk by being authentically mad– something most artists, to stay protected by their labels, can’t do. But it was one that her background in musical success, her already engaged fans (though nearly not at the level they are now), and the new industry backers that she had were more than ready for her to take. It queued up a new era (pardon the pun) of Taylor – one where fans knew she would continue to diverge from the “norm” that we’d expected. With every album since, she’s made a dramatic pivot, and fans, whether they like the new album or not, are always watching to see what she’ll do next.

To follow the Taylor formula, businesses need to figure out what risks they’re able to take and lean into them.

That doesn’t mean take a running leap towards them – it means building strategic buy-in over time, refining, and ultimately making the jump, which should really be little more than a large step, when all of the pieces are in play.

This starts, we believe, with being willing to say what others can’t or won’t say. Figuring out what that is often lies within a company’s founding principles but can often be buried by jargon and over-analyzing. It can also be stymied by pushing too hard, too fast to determine what exactly that key, provocative idea is. Uncovering bold thinking often takes a lot of time, and questioning, and testing – not just among your internal team, but also with advisors, and clients, and industry leaders – through earned and owned channels.

Taylor spent nearly a decade building a fan base, trying new approaches to music and songs (think of the shift that she made from country to pop), and slowly building buy-in until she could completely, through strategically, unleash herself.

It doesn’t have to take 10 years for a business to reach a point where they’re ready to lean into a bold idea. Some can do it in as little as a few months, while for others it may take up to a year. The key is this: businesses have to find partners that are willing to push them, and they have to be willing to think about their work through new lenses. This doesn’t mean changing what they do – but it does mean changing how they think and talk about it and being willing to publicly explore that shift with their colleagues and other industry stakeholders.

When it comes down to it, it’s as simple as business leaders having some conversations, working with their partners to turn those into new questions, and then asking those of themselves and the people around them.

Once they’ve nailed down an answer, it may be time to launch a new era (pun fully intended) of their own.