Many firms are interested in becoming GIPS compliant, but are intimidated by the initial process of bringing their firm into compliance. As long as you know the steps to become GIPS compliant and understand the options you have to complete each step, this process is very manageable. The information provided here is intended to provide you with a high-level overview of the steps you must complete to become GIPS compliant.
Before holding your firm out to the public as a GIPS compliant firm, there are three main steps that must first be completed. Firms must:
- Document GIPS policies and procedures
- Construct composites that consistently follow these policies and procedures
- Create compliant presentations to show the results of each composite
Document GIPS Policies and Procedures
Firms are required to document how they comply with the GIPS requirements as well as any recommendations that the firm chooses to follow in a document known as the firm’s GIPS Policies and Procedures (“GIPS P&P”). This document acts as the firm’s internal representation of their GIPS compliance, and is intended to state the firm’s GIPS policies as well as describe the procedures the firm follows to maintain their compliance. Examples of items typically found in this document include:
- Firm Definition – GIPS is applied to your firm as a whole, not to a single product or strategy you manage. How your firm is defined for GIPS purposes is primarily based on how the firm is held out to the public, which may differ from the legal structure of your firm.
- Definition of Discretion –Discretion is defined differently for GIPS than it typically is for legal or regulatory purposes. You may have a discretionary contract for an account that you deem to be non-discretionary for GIPS purposes because of restrictions the client places on the implementation of the strategy. The “Definition of Discretion” section of your firm’s GIPS P&P should outline objective criteria for determining the discretionary status of accounts.
- Policies Regarding Books and Records – Firms must be able to support all information included in compliant presentations as well as support that their client assets are real. This section of your P&P can outline the types of records that are maintained and in what format/location they are stored.
- Calculation Methodology – While GIPS provides a framework for how to calculate performance, firms may have different methods for handling external cash flows, asset-weighting accounts, calculating dispersion, etc. The specifics of the methods used must be documented in the firm’s GIPS P&P.
- Composite Definitions and Rules – Firms must create policies to ensure that accounts are placed in the appropriate composite for the correct time period. The timing of the movement of accounts in or out of composites must be based on objective criteria that is outlined in this section of the firm’s GIPS P&P. Other optional rules, such as minimum account sizes and significant cash flow thresholds can also be documented here to keep accounts out of composites during periods where the intended strategy cannot be fully implemented.
- Error Correction Policies – Firms must create materiality thresholds that pre-determine the action required if errors occur in a compliant presentation. This section should include thresholds for all statistics as well as criteria for determining when errors in disclosures are material.
After the GIPS P&P is created, firms can use these policies to construct the composites defined in the policy document. To do this, firms must:
- Identify all of the accounts that meet the definition of a composite. In other words, group all accounts by strategy, but then remove accounts that do not meet the firm’s definition of discretion or that do not meet a composite-specific rule, such as a minimum account size.
- Determine the correct time to include each account as well as remove any account that closed, changed strategies, or otherwise caused you to lose discretion. Portfolios must only be included in composites for periods in which they were considered discretionary for GIPS purposes. This helps ensure that the composite results accurately represent the firm’s management of the composite’s strategy and does not include outside noise created from client-requested restrictions.
- Asset-weight the monthly account-level results for each account included in the composite to calculate the composite-level performance results.
- Calculate all required composite-level statistics (see the list below) that must be included in the composite’s compliant presentation.
Create Compliant Presentations
Compliant presentations act as the firm’s external representation of their GIPS compliance and must be provided to all prospective clients. Each composite has a separate presentation that includes all of the required statistics as well as the required disclosures. Statistics included in compliant presentations include:
- Annual composite performance (gross and/or net)
- Annual benchmark performance
- Number of accounts in the composite as of each year-end
- Total assets in the composite as of each year-end
- Total assets of the GIPS firm as of each year-end
- A measure of internal dispersion for each annual period
- Three year annualized ex-post standard deviation of both the composite and the benchmark based on monthly returns
Other statistics may also be required such as the percentage of non-fee paying accounts or the percentage of bundled fee paying accounts as of each year-end, where applicable.
Want to Learn More?
If you have any questions about how to become GIPS Compliant, we would love to help. Longs Peak’s professionals have extensive experience helping firms become GIPS compliant as well as helping them maintain compliance with the GIPS Standards on an ongoing basis.
Sean P. Gilligan, CFA, CPA, CIPM is the Managing Partner of Longs Peak Advisory Services, LLC. He has 20 years of experience in the investment industry and he specializes in GIPS compliance and investment performance consulting. Visit our website or contact us for more information on our firm and services.