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Friday, April 09, 2021

What a Two-Year-Old Acquirer Is Hunting For

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

The team at a two-year-old acquirer is on the hunt for additional alternative strategies and other strategies that offer "new exposures for individuals."

Gregory David "Greg" Bassuk
AXS Investments LLC
Chairman, CEO
So says Greg Bassuk, chairman and CEO of AXS Investments [profile]. Acquisitions have been one of two parts of the puzzle at AXS (pronounced "access") since the beginning, Bassuk confirms.

"We formed AXS with really a two-part business model," Bassuk tells MFWire. "The idea was and is to grow aggressively by acquisitions ... and we launched the firm with a strong national distribution team day one."

"Organic growth from a traditional wholesaling model, combined with a very data-intensive marketing strategy, was sort of our view of the best path in this new world of asset management," Bassuk adds. "Our vision was, even from day one, we would never really be a startup ... We have selling agreements in place with over 300 B-Ds, and our fund family is available across all the major retail distribution channels."

Bassuk is specifically interested in "any strategies that are differentiated exposures" for individual investors and their advisors, as opposed to just "another large-cap fund." Liquid alts, like in AXS' latest pair of purchases one area that fits the bill, yet Bassuk notes that other areas (like ESG) are good fits, too.

The AXS team has already bought a dozen funds, and they now have about $700 million. Bassuk divides their deals so far into three categories: 1) fund adoptions where AXS keeps on the existing institutional asset manager as subadvisor; 2) lift outs, where AXS brings an existing PM team on board; and 3) fund adoptions where AXS takes over both the fund and the portfolio management. Looking ahead, Bassuk is also open to merging funds into existing AXS offerings or even developing strategies in-house.

"Our biggest focus is starting with, 'What are the strategy categories or asset classes where we think there's a hole in the U.S. retail market?'" Bassuk says. "We're aggressively looking to build out the product lineup."

Another key piece of the AXS puzzle is being "wrapper agnostic," says Bassuk, likening the approach to his time at prior firms. (Like some others at AXS, Bassuk is an IndexIQ alumnus.) The plan is for AXS to offer its strategies in many structures, including ETFs, model portfolios, mutual funds, and separately managed accounts.

"From a product standpoint, we've also established related but separate entities to be sources of thought leadership and education," Bassuk says. One example is the AXS Institute for Sustainable Investing, which they launched last year. 

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