Managed solutions: key to avoiding conflicts of interest

Mar 31, 2014 @ 4:06 pm

Mary Deatherage
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Mary Deatherage
The overwhelming majority of investors want to 'do it right;' managed solutions can help.

Say this for Mary Deatherage – ask her for an interesting story about how she uses managed solutions and she doesn't disappoint.

Mary has been with Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management since 1986. She and her team manage close to $2 billion in assets and provide financial planning, asset allocation, manager selection, estate planning and tax strategies. Her almost three decades with the firm mean she can casually relate an anecdote involving one or a number of clients from her impressive roster, in this case government Cabinet members.

They're often involved in policy and regulatory planning, she noted. This leads them to place their assets in blind trusts to avoid potential conflicts of interest – or even the appearance of potential conflicts of interest (think recent campaign controversies with candidates who didn't understand the rules). Yet Mary, managing director, private wealth advisor, portfolio management director and senior investment management consultant of the venerable firm (wow), said blind trusts are not as prevalent among politicos as one would think.

“You often hear about blind trusts, but in actuality the reporting is onerous,” she explained. “Government officials want to do it right, but it can be very confusing, and they certainly don't want to deal with ethics committees.” Managed solutions are one option – and a good one, at that.

In addition to Beltway insiders, many of her clients are part of top management at public companies, commonly called 144 employees, named for SEC Rule 144 covering the selling of restricted securities. Other examples of folks who need to maintain independence from investing decisions are: C-level executives, company board members, partners at large law firms, senior accountants at auditing firms or even members of investment committees.

“They always have to be cognizant of potential conflicts of interest,” Mary said. “I have a client on the management committee of a large, publicly-traded company. She has to be extremely careful about the investments she makes. For instance, she could never buy holdings in her own company. The same goes for the stocks of competitors. Very often, she has to make sure not to buy one particular holding. If she grants us discretion, using separately managed accounts allows us to restrict trades like that.” The alternative, Mary noted, is that executives like her client too often try to “audit America” by compiling lists of potential conflicts of interest to avoid. It can quickly get complicated; “what about subsidiaries, as well as mergers and acquisitions?” she added.

Again, something with which managed solutions can help.

“With our managed solutions, if we and our third-party investment advisors are given a discretionary mandate, we never buy individual securities on their behalf; rather, it's separately managed accounts, mutual funds or even managed portfolios of ETFs.” The recipient of awards and accolades too numerous to mention, you'd think Mary was born for the business, the product of top business schools and management programs.

Not quite.

Mary has her undergraduate degree in English, French and education. After teaching for five years around the world, she went back to school for a major in accounting and went on to do audit and acquisition work at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Amusingly noting that she eventually “saw the light,” she then joined Morgan Stanley, where she finds that her work combines her teaching skills and analytical abilities.

Thank goodness for that; she's now at the top of the industry and helping clients do what's right, fueled in part by managed solutions.

Thank goodness for that; she's now at the top of the industry and helping clients do what's right, fueled in part by managed solutions.

This profile appeared in the March 31, 2014 special supplement to InvestmentNews “Managed Solutions: Meeting today's challenges.” This supplement was written by InvestmentNews Custom Media with support from the MMI and partner firms. To download the full supplement, click here.”

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