How to Comply with the 2020 GIPS Standards

Matt Deatherage, CFA

April 23, 2020

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A new decade is upon us and with the new decade comes a series of new requirements in terms of investment performance reporting for firms and asset owners that elect to claim compliance with the GIPS standards.

Many organizations have elected to adopt the 2020 edition of the GIPS standards early and have already put a solid foundation in place for the updated requirements; however, many organizations have not. The adoption deadline for all compliant organizations is rapidly approaching, so if your organization has not begun this conversion, now is the time to get started.

What is Changing and Why

It has been over a decade since the last edition of the GIPS standards was released, and quite frankly, the industry has changed since 2010. As the industry has evolved, CFA Institute has released a number of Q&A’s, guidance statements, and interpretations on how the changes in the industry impact the standards.

Ten years of updates have resulted in a vast repository of information needed to obtain the guidance required to comply. Having so many different resources for guidance (the 2010 GIPS Handbook, separate guidance statements, the Q&A database, and the GIPS Help Desk) has made managing the requirements of GIPS a pretty daunting task; thus, one of the goals of the 2020 standards is to centralize all of the updates that have come out over the past ten years. The 2020 GIPS standards consolidates many of the concepts previously addressed in guidance statements and Q&A’s, allowing the new provisions and explanation of the provisions to serve as the primary source that firms, asset owners, verifiers, and consultants can look to for guidance.

Additionally, the 2010 standards were heavily focused on composites and the traditional definition of prospective clients. Using this as the main framework is not always applicable to organizations that primarily manage pooled funds or asset owners that do not compete for business or report performance to prospective clients. To address this, CFA Institute set out to make this new edition of the standards more applicable to pooled fund managers and asset owners. These updates were designed to make claiming compliance easier and more relevant for these types of managers, while not creating additional burdens on organizations that are already compliant with GIPS. This goal is evident in the new format of the provisions, which separately focuses on requirements for investment firms, asset owners, and verifiers.

In addition to the separation of pooled funds and composites, the guidance is broader on when organizations may present money-weighted returns instead of time-weighted returns. This change now allows the decision to be based on the investment vehicle structure and who controls the timing and amount of external cash flows, rather than limiting money-weighted returns to certain asset classes. This is a welcomed update in the industry as many organizations were frustrated by requirements to calculate and present time-weighted returns when this type of return was not the most meaningful representation of how they managed their investment strategies.

How the 2020 GIPS Standards are Organized

For ease of use and navigation, the 2020 GIPS standards is broken out into three different groups of tailored provisions – firms, asset owners, and verifiers. Each containing specific requirements and recommendations applicable for that type of organization.

As an organization claiming compliance or working to become compliant for the first time, you will need to determine whether the set of requirements for firms or assets owners is applicable to your claim of compliance. The primary distinguishing factor is whether your organization competes for business and manages external money, or reports to an oversight board and manages internal money. The answer to this determines which set of tailored provisions should be followed and sets the framework for how the standards will apply. 

Where to Start – GIPS Compliance Updates

Regardless of whether you are excited for the updates to the standards, they are coming and will be required for all firms and asset owners claiming compliance with GIPS. The new requirements take effect once your GIPS Reports (formerly called Compliant Presentations) present performance information that is inclusive of the period 31 December 2020.

There is a lot of information available and dissecting everything that has been released can be overwhelming. For organizations that have never claimed compliance, the good news is that the new standards are more applicable and easier to adopt than they were previously.

For most organizations currently claiming compliance, what’s great is that the new standards do not require a lot of changes, rather they mostly provide optional procedures that you may choose to adopt if you find it beneficial to do so. However, some firms will require more work.

At Longs Peak, we have created the following questionnaire designed to help you determine if converting to the 2020 GIPS standards will require more than a few minor tweaks. This list does not include all changes, but includes the top ten material changes that may require a project plan to implement the required changes by the effective date of the 2020 GIPS standards.

Answering “Yes” to any of the following questions means your organization may require more than a few quick tweaks to implement the 2020 changes:

GIPS 2020 Checklist 

  1. Does your firm have limited distribution pooled funds (i.e., private funds that are not regulated under a framework that would permit the general public to purchase shares in the fund without a one-on-one presentation)?
  2. Has your firm created single account composites for pooled funds solely for the purpose of meeting the GIPS requirement of having every discretionary, fee-paying portfolio in at least one composite?
  3. Does your firm have multi-strategy portfolios (e.g., balanced portfolios where the equity and fixed income segments each could be represented as standalone strategies) where you would like to carve-out the individual strategies into their own composites?
  4. Does your firm have portfolios where actual transaction costs are unavailable (e.g., wrap accounts or other bundled fee arrangements) and you would like to estimate transaction costs to show gross-of-fee returns without labeling the returns as supplemental information?
  5. Does your firm have portfolios where your firm controls the amount and timing of external cash flows (other than for private equity or real estate) and you would like to present money-weighted returns rather than time-weighted returns?
  6. Does your firm have real estate or private equity composites?
  7. Does your firm include theoretical performance (e.g., model performance) as part of a GIPS report?
  8. Does your firm follow the Advertising Guidelines to claim compliance with the GIPS standards outside of your GIPS Reports?
  9. Does your firm currently update your GIPS compliant presentations more than 12 months after the year ends?
  10. Does your firm have advisory-only assets or uncalled committed capital you wish to present in your GIPS Report?

Although the intent is for the adoption of the standards to be more relevant, many organizations find themselves asking “where do I even begin?” The great news is that you don’t have to figure this all out on your own.

At Longs Peak, we have spent countless hours familiarizing ourselves with the new standards and have helped all of our clients begin to adopt the changes. We know what issues come up and how to navigate the changes required.

As a consultant, we do not have independence requirements like your verifier, so we can actually help you implement many of the 2020 changes required for your organization. If you do not already work with a GIPS consultant, now may be a good time to consider hiring one, especially if you lack the resources needed to get this done by the deadline to convert to the 2020 GIPS standards.

Contact us if you do not wish to read through all of the requirements and recommendations to identify what actions are required for your organization.

Finally, if you would like to read more about what changed and why, we have summarized the main changes to the GIPS standards in GIPS 2020 What’s Changing and What you Should Do.