Date of Last Revision: February 21, 2014
SumZero is the leading on-line community of buyside investment professionals with approximately 9,000 members. Membership is exclusively restricted to buyside investment professionals (defined as hedge fund, private equity, and mutual fund investment professionals). Typically, members are portfolio managers or analysts, and SumZero offers a special membership for compliance professionals to monitor the activities of the employees of their firms.
SumZero members gain admission to the site through an approval process following either the recommendation of an existing member or an application to SumZero by the prospective member or such prospective member's firm. In each case, SumZero considers each prospective member based on the representations made by or on behalf of the applicant, and follows up if further information is needed to determine whether membership qualifications are satisfied.
SumZero operates on a simple, reciprocity based system. By submitting investment content, an analyst or portfolio manager gains access to the submissions of the entire community. SumZero's principal feature is its Idea Database, which it believes to be the largest non-proprietary database of buyside investment content in the world consisting of thousands of detailed, fundamentals-based investment write-ups with an average length of nearly 2,000 words. For examples of SumZero investment write-ups, please visit www.sumzero.com/news.
Unless otherwise agreed by SumZero, by submitting one investment pitch every six months, an individual SumZero member gains access to the entire database of investment write-ups. While the Idea Database is the most popular feature of the site, SumZero also has a Models Database (where members contribute detailed financial models on specific companies) and a soon to be launched Estimates Database (where members provide a detailed set of forward estimates on specific companies). An investment firm or an analyst can participate in as many or as few of these features as desired, but they only gain access to the content for the feature to which they make contributions.
Investment firms, and their portfolio managers, compliance officers and other professionals, are rightfully concerned about the divulgence and use of their proprietary research both on and off the web. SumZero's value proposition is straightforward: by submitting a limited amount of proprietary research, a buyside professional or firm gains access to the research of thousands of other buyside professionals and investment firms. Furthermore, a member obtains the critique of other members, providing an opportunity to refine the member's initial thinking and hearing what others think may be missing in the member's analysis. SumZero's founding principle is that the selective, limited sharing of investment research in an exclusive, closed-end community is in the fundamental economic interest of each member and such member's firm.
Despite the benefits of sharing ideas, Investment firms, and their portfolio managers, compliance officers and other professionals must have a mechanism to monitor the work of their analysts and other professionals online. As a result, SumZero enables compliance officers (or other senior professionals with a comparable role and responsibility) to:
SumZero maintains a multi-prong approach to address this critical issue:
Of course, none of these steps prevent the inclusion of material, non-public information or other market manipulation and all members must be vigilant and exercise care in accessing or using information. All members must comply with their own firm's compliance policies and procedures and with applicable law. If a member believes they have identified information that may be material, non-public information (at any time, or if judged with hindsight) or other activity or information that may give rise to market manipulation, such member should contact SumZero immediately.
SumZero is sensitive to its members' compliance obligations, but does not provide compliance services or advice. SumZero has made its platform available to compliance officers and other senior professionals with a comparable role and responsibility so that they may monitor the activities of members and fulfill their firms' compliance obligations.
Members are reminded that they have agreed to comply with their firms' policies and procedures, and such policies and procedures may affect the timing of the posting or updating of information, may require pre-approval of any posting, may prohibit certain specific information being disclosed, may require specific additional disclosures (relating to conflicts of interest, not advertising services or otherwise), may prevent acting as a group or otherwise in concert with other investors in a company, may require retention of e-mail and other records etc. SumZero is not responsible for the compliance of individual members or firms with applicable law.
SumZero revolves around the twin principles of transparency and accountability. Fundamentally, SumZero believes that members of the community will be in a better position to assess the quality of information and the compliance efforts of the community if firm names are included. In addition, members can confirm whether a firm is registered with any regulatory agency and whether there are relevant disciplinary matters publicly disclosed about the firm. Compliance officers can be comfortable that including their firm's name will not be constituted as solicitation of investment: all SumZero members upon registration must represent that they are professional investors and that they acknowledge that the investment content on SumZero is solely for research purposes and in no way represents a solicitation.
SumZero does not provide investment advice but enables like-minded professional buyside investors to share their investment ideas. The definition of an “investment adviser” under U.S. federal law includes a specific exception for “the publisher of any bona fide newspaper, news magazine or business or financial publication of general and regular circulation.” SumZero has structured its website with the intention of satisfying this exemption as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lowe v. SEC, 472 U.S. 191 (1985). For example, the ideas that are posted are generic ideas, much like one might find in other publications, rather than personalized investment advice and any follow up or input is also posted for general review by members. SumZero reminds members that they are expected to publish disinterested commentary and analysis, not promotional material, and SumZero ensures that posts remain available, which is intended to discourage short-term thinking or “touting” of investment ideas.
SumZero is presently available in the U.S. and is not available in any state or other jurisdiction where it is not permitted, or where SumZero would be required to be licensed or registered in order to offer the services of the platform.
Each SumZero member is responsible for his or her own analysis of the compliance obligations applicable to such member under U.S. law, state law, non-U.S. law and any other applicable law. Members are not expected to provide personalized investment advice on the SumZero website, and may be entitled to the same publisher exemption that SumZero enjoys. In the wake of recent legislation, firms that manage at least $100 million in assets in the U.S. (or $150 million if exclusively in private funds) are expected to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as investment advisers and do not need to become registered as a result of their participation on SumZero. Firms that fall below such thresholds may be subject to regulation in the states in which they do business.
No. SumZero is a community of buyside professionals sharing investment content in a closed-end community of other buyside professionals. No corporate insiders or non-buyside professionals are allowed into the community, which reduces the risk that material non-public information may be disclosed. Moreover, as described above, members agree to comply with their firms' policies and procedures and with applicable law, and members are required to agree specifically that they are not sharing material, nonpublic information.