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CEO CHAT: Tina Byles Williams, FIS Group

Traders Magazine Online News, August 17, 2017

John D'Antona Jr.

Helping managers understand risk and reward.

Sounds simple enough? That’s the mission of Tina Byles Williams, Founder and CEO of FIS Group. The firm, which bills itself as a as a manager-of-managers, launched in 1996 and set out to find entrepreneurial managers that can find the opportunities in market segments where the potential risks and rewards are often misunderstood. In a conversation with Traders Magazine, Byles Williams discussed her business and approach to helping companies solve problems and make smarter investment and business choices.

Byles Williams told Traders Magazine that FIS Group was built on the foundation that diversity can be an alpha driver for investors.

“FIS Group has brought over 160 investment firms into its portfolios, 60 percent of which are women and minority-owned,” Byles Williams explained. “FIS Group has funded over 75 products offered by diverse firms. Among the boutique firms FIS Group has funded, 50 percent were recommended or retained for direct allocations by pension plan sponsors.”

Byles Williams founded FIS Group 21 years ago and has over 31 years of investment experience.  She is the chief investment strategist and portfolio manager for the firm's global equities product. As Chief Investment Officer, she chairs the firm's Investment Committee, overseeing all investment strategy, manager search and disposition decisions.  Prior to founding FIS Group, Ms. Byles Williams was a principal and senior consultant with the investment consulting firm WHP, Inc.

Before joining WHP, Byles Williams served as Chief Investment Officer to the City of Philadelphia's $2.5 billion Board of Pensions and Retirement.  Prior to her work with the Board of Pensions and Retirement, she was Chief Investment Officer for the $300 million Philadelphia Gas Works Pension Fund.  She knows the buyside intimately nd the challenged it faces when sourcing alpha.

In addition to providing early funding to managers, she added, through the FIS Ecosystem, FIS Group supports and develops the growth of entrepreneurial and emerging managers by addressing many of the development challenges they face. This ecosystem is built to provide networking, best practice guidance, coaching, access to a network of private operating capital providers and meaningful discounts for various investment management support services.

So where does she look for investment opportunities?

“We will source globally,” she began. “We look to find talented, lesser-known managers in frontier and emerging markets. We also like regional specialists – that’s a big part of our business.”

Byles Williams explained that at first FIS Group only looked for domestic opportunities, but as alpha became harder to source, the firm expanded globally.

“We now encourage looking overseas for opportunities,” she said. “The value proposition in these market segments is tremendous. In the last five years, we’ve focused on these strategies and boutique firms that can help in some of these liquidity-challenged markets.”

Also, part of her philosophy is to provide research – and not on particular securities but rather on the market structure and trends.

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