(Note: I wrote this post as a guest blogger for the STP Investment Services blog, but it appears that blog is offline and we received a request for the information, so I decided to post the information directly here.)
The What, Why and Who of the GIPS Standards
In this blog post, I give you some quick and simple answers
to the “what,” “why” and “who” questions that many people ask with respect to
the GIPS Standards.
What are the GIPS Standards?
The GIPS Standards are voluntary
global standards for the presentation of investment performance results to prospective clients. That the standards are “voluntary” and deal
with presentation to “prospective clients” are two of the most important
aspects of the GIPS Standards.
By voluntary, we
mean that investment firms may choose to comply with the GIPS Standards – or
they may choose not to. There is no
governing body that forces firms to comply with GIPS. Different countries may have various laws
that govern the presentation of performance results, separate from the GIPS
Standards. In fact, the GIPS Standards
require compliant firms to follow the law in situations where the law differs
from the GIPS Standards (in such a situation firms must disclose in their
presentations the manner in which the regulations differ from the GIPS
Standards). It should be noted that
locally, regulators may cite firms that have a false claim of compliance with
the GIPS Standards. Otherwise, with
compliance being voluntary, the GIPS Standards represent a form of self-regulation that the investment
industry has adopted on a global basis.
It is also important to consider what the standards are not.
The standards are not calculation
standards or reporting standards.
When we say that the standards are not calculation standards, we mean
that they are not an “A-to-Z” reference manual as to how the calculation of
performance must be done. Yes, it is
true that there are certain basic requirements for the calculation of
performance that must be met (covered in other chapters in this guide). At the same time, it is up to the firm
claiming compliance with GIPS to determine (and document) its policies and
procedures for establishing and maintaining compliance with GIPS – including
the calculation of returns, dispersion and other performance data. As long as the requirements of GIPS are met,
firms have a lot of leeway in defining how they perform the calculations. One of the most important aspects of the GIPS
Standards is that firms define (and
document) their policies as clearly and objectively as possible, and that
they apply their policies consistently. This supports two main objectives of the GIPS
Standards – fair representation and full
When we say that the GIPS Standards are not reporting
standards, we mean that the standards do not dictate the format of the firm’s
compliant presentation. The standards do
prescribe requirements and recommendations for the content (i.e., the
presentation elements) that must go into the composite presentation, and the
accompanying disclosures. It is up to
the firm to format this information. So
again, the firm has a lot of flexibility in creating compliant composite
presentations. Again, the ideals of fair
representation and full disclosure should be met.
What items must a firm show in a composite presentation?
This list is not exhaustive, but a quick summary of what
compliant firms must show includes:
The GIPS Standards promote the comparability of manager
performance across firms and across borders.
By requiring firms to show the same information, the prospect is better
equipped to compare managers and make an informed decision as to which manager
it should hire.
Why are there standards for performance presentation to prospective
- Generally, time-weighted returns (TWR) that
separate client contribution from manager results. For closed end real estate and private equity
funds, since inception internal rate of return is shown.
- Annual composite returns (a composite is the
aggregation of accounts managed to the strategy).
- A measure of the internal dispersion (i.e.,
range) of returns of portfolios within the composite.
- As a measure of risk, the variability (standard
deviation)of the composite’s historical returns.
- The amount of assets in the composite each year
and the number of portfolios in the composite
- The amount of firm assets each year.
- Disclosures about the firm and the given
composite designed to help the reader of the presentation understand the firm,
the composite, and the performance history being shown.
The GIPS Standards are a direct “descendent” of other
predecessor standards that were created in various local areas dealing with
presentation of performance results to prospective clients. The GIPS Standards, introduced in 1999, are global
standards that incorporate the best practices from the participating local
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there were several abuses
that were becoming commonplace as far as how firms presented their performance
to prospective clients. Some of the
typical problems were:
- Presentations that only showed the firm’s best
- Returns calculated based on unsubstantiated
- Annualization of partial annual periods
- Reporting/presentation of best performing
periods, omitting poor performing periods
- Comparisons of performance with either
low-return, or inappropriate benchmarks
- Calculations that did not segregate manager
returns from the client contribution
- Presentations created by marketing departments
that underplayed unfavorable data and highlighted persuasive elements
Because of these problems, prospective clients had
difficulty making informed, sound decisions regarding what investment manager
they should hire.
Key events in the history of performance standards development:
Peter Dietz’s seminal work, “Pension Funds: Measuring Investment Performance,” was
published, introducing what came to be known as the time-weighted return.
- Late 1960s:
the Bank Administration Institute published return calculation guidelines
based on Dietz’s work.
Financial Analysts Federation created the Committee for Performance
Presentation Standards (CPPS). Key
recommendations from their report:
- The use of time-weighted return was recommended.
- Presentation of performance gross-of-fees was
- The report recommended the inclusion of cash in
- Construction and presentation of asset-weighted
composites was recommended.
- 1990: The
Association for Investment Management and Research (AIMR) board of governors
endorse the AIMR-PPS.
- 1993: The
AIMR-PPS is published.
- 1997: 2nd
edition of AIMR-PPS published
- 1999: The
first edition of the GIPS Standards was published.
- 2005: The
second edition of the GIPS Standards was published.
- 2010: The
third and current edition of the GIPS Standards was published, going into
effect on January 1, 2011.
Guidance Statement on Alternative Investment Strategies and Structures issued
Exposure draft for the Guidance Statement on the Application of the GIPS
Standards to Pension Funds, Endowments, Foundations and Other Similar Entities
To whom do the GIPS Standards apply?
The GIPS Standards are voluntary standards that may be
adopted and complied with by any
investment firm with discretion over assets. This includes all of the traditional asset
classes (cash, equities, fixed income) and alternative asset classes
(commodities, private equity, real estate, hedge funds). The GIPS Executive Committee has recently
introduced a document clarifying that
pension funds, and other managers of managers, can claim compliance with the GIPS
Standards. While the GIPS Standards
are commonly followed by managers seeking institutional clients, there are also
a large number of retail investment managers that claim compliance with
How does compliance with GIPS benefit managers, beyond being hired?
Compliance with GIPS can benefit investment firms in many
- providing track record transparency and the
ability to have a full/fair review of performance results for internal purposes
- creating a framework within which the manager’s
firm can document the decisions made and the justification behind them when a
new scenario occurs in the performance processing and/or investment operations
of the firm
- allowing a better process for ensuring the
marketing literature reflects the underlying information
- promoting an improved reputation due to the
recognition of GIPS compliance
How does the existence of GIPS benefit investors?
Some of the benefits of GIPS for investors include:
An enhanced ability to compare the performance
of strategies among managers
The improved likelihood that investors can
understand the information in managers’ presentations and the data behind it;
thus, they are able to ask relevant questions to enhance their understanding of
What is Verification and How Does It Add Value for Investment Firms?
Verification is the use of an independent third party to
test an investment firm’s claim of compliance with the GIPS Standards. Verification tests two things,
specifically. First, it tests whether
the firm has complied with all of the composite construction requirements of
GIPS on a firm-wide basis. Secondly, it
tests whether the firm’s policies and procedures are designed to calculate and
present performance in compliance with the GIPS Standards. Firms that claim compliance with GIPS are not
required to be verified, but for investment managers seeking institutional
business, it has become a de facto requirement.
Most institutional investors will inquire as to whether managers they
are considering a) claim compliance with GIPS, and, b) have been verified by an
independent third party. Managers are
often eliminated from consideration if they have to answer no to these
questions. Thus, establishing and
maintaining compliance with GIPS, accompanied by verification by an independent
third party are essential to investment managers seeking to grow their
I hope this post helps give you an introduction to the GIPS
Standards and the concepts of compliance and verification. If you have any questions on these topics,
please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.