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Meet our new head of investment strategy, Travis Fairchild

The former O’Shaughnessy Asset Management (OSAM) partner and portfolio manager has been with Vise for more than a year and led the design and implementation of enhancements to Vise’s platform.

We’re excited to announce the promotion of Travis Fairchild, CFA, to a new role as Head of Investment Strategy. Travis has more than a decade of experience in factor optimization and portfolio management. Previously a partner and portfolio manager at O’Shaughnessy Asset Management (OSAM), Travis was key in building the Canvas platform.

He has been with Vise for more than a year and has led the design and implementation of enhancements to Vise’s platform, which launched earlier this year. Travis’ leadership and depth of experience will be instrumental as Vise continues to rapidly grow and evolve.

We sat down with Travis recently to talk about his background, the new role, and what he and the team are most excited about building throughout the remainder of the year. 

Travis, what elements of your background inform the work you and the team do every day?

I have been working in the finance industry for over a decade now and I have a fairly unique background that is well suited for the trend toward custom indexing and custom portfolios. I have spent my career focused on factor portfolios, tax-aware investing, and tailoring portfolios for values alignment and ESG. Each of these is an important pillar at the heart of a custom portfolio solution.

One of the many things that attracted me to the position at Vise is my ability to use all that experience to help Vise build a unique offering for advisors.

As far as lessons, there are three key learnings that tie into my role at Vise and the offering we are building here:

1)  One size does not fit all. Investors have unique needs and those need to be represented in their portfolio. Personalization is the future of asset management.

2)  Technology makes most aspects of asset management better. There are some good asset managers and also some good financial technology companies, but not enough companies are combining the two to be exceptional at both. Vise is building world-class investment solutions and investing heavily in technology to perpetually make it a platform better and easier to use, and solve more pain points in the advisor’s business. This dedication to the technology side of the equation is what attracted me to Vise.

3) Asset managers are better when they partner with advisors, providing solutions that match their needs instead of just selling a product. This is like the old saying that “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” If all an asset manager offers is value portfolios, or dividend growth portfolios, or a specific type of ESG portfolio or one niche product, then they will try to convince every advisor that is what they need. It is better to have a flexible solution but stay agnostic to their use. For example, Vise has great value portfolios, but I am agnostic to whether a client uses them or if they want passive. With our tax optimization, reporting technology, ESG, and other offerings, we can still provide a lot of value to a passive investor.

Tell us about Vise’s investment capabilities. How are they built into the product?

The investment features at Vise are all built with customization and flexibility in mind. So, by design, some capabilities that may be a key feature for one advisor may not be used at all by another. Customization and investment capabilities inform the asset-allocation strategy or the single-stock strategy design to match the client’s exact needs. Everything can be fully tailored to the investor.

We have multiple approaches to matching the allocation to the needs of the advisor, whether it is based on the risk tolerance of the end investor, a desired equity/fixed-income allocation, a targeted value/goals-based approach, or even matching the advisor’s current model as closely as possible. 

The advisor can then choose what asset classes to invest using ETFs or custom single-stock strategies.

Within the single-stock strategies we consider preferences of active vs. passive, values/ESG, and unique tax considerations. All of the market inputs, advisor inputs, and client-specific inputs translate into one custom portfolio aligned to the end investor.

From there, Vise’s technology efficiently monitors the portfolios and manages the ongoing rebalances for the advisor. Our in-house trade builder technology will opportunistically rebalance to match this target portfolio and optimize the portfolio continuously. This technology allows us to transition accounts in tax- and cost-efficient ways and to monitor every bespoke portfolio daily for beneficial trade opportunities. 

What is Vise’s investment approach, and how is it informed?

When Vise increases the portfolio’s exposure to higher expected returns, we do so by using a multifactor approach that is unique to Vise. We use factors because there are decades of evidence to show their efficacy in improving return statistics of portfolios. 

We have made some improvements to many of the traditional factor signals that are proprietary to Vise. For example, our value metric has some modern updates to account for how companies have evolved to own a lot more value in intangible assets vs. tangible assets. We have also adjusted our approach to reduce sector bias that exists in many value portfolios.

All our active tilts are informed by both our investment advisory group, which is made up of leading academics, and also the research of our internal investment team. The advisory group includes esteemed economists Andrea Eisfeldt, Ph.D., Steven Grenadier, Ph.D., and S.P. Kothari, Ph.D.

What’s unique about Vise compared to other asset managers?

The integration of technology in what we do.

I view it as providing solutions as opposed to pushing a one-size-fits-all product or portfolio. I worked for a traditional asset manager for years and we had a finite set of portfolios. If the investor didn’t fit cleanly into something in that finite group, we couldn’t help them. 

Vise builds custom solutions to solve a much wider range of portfolio options. We don’t have to try to fit everyone in the same portfolio. And that’s how it should be. Investors have unique goals, different timelines/horizons, unique values, and unique tax situations, all of which change what the optimal portfolio and solution is for them. With the use of technology, we can better align portfolios with investor needs and create better outcomes.

What are you and the team working on this year that you think will be most exciting for advisors?

Improved customization (asset allocation, ESG, asset classes). One of the general focuses for Vise is improving customization. We are adding a lot more flexibility in the model asset allocation and the custom building blocks within those allocations, whether ETF or individual-stock strategies. We are working to add new asset classes and we are also expanding our values-based and ESG customizations.

Improved reporting is another focus. Both performance reporting and reporting to make even more clear the rationale for each rebalance that Vise executes on behalf of investors.

Vise has robust tax-optimization features today, but we are always working to improve these features further. Our research and quant teams are working hard to get some of these enhancements rolled out and further reduce tax bills for our investors.

One of the other exciting things for our current clients is they get to drive the next phases of our product development. We have teams that work with advisors to understand their pain points and how Vise can help solve them, making their jobs easier and our product better. We are making weekly improvements to solve advisors pain points, and the great thing is that once we are able to solve them with technology, every future advisor also benefits from that effort.

July 25, 2022