Case Study: How a fund portfolio fueled investment opportunities for a family’s total portfolio
The Cervasio family’s wealth was generated by their consulting business, which is now operated by the third generation. Today, an established family office oversees the wealth in accordance with strategic objectives set by the family board.
- Client: The Cervasio Family Office
- Source of wealth: Consulting business
- Situation: Seeking an advisor for US private fund allocation
- CA relationship: Non-discretionary portfolio management
Through the family’s standing in the industry and regional community of business owners, the Cervasio’s family office (FO) began making direct investments years earlier, primarily in their home markets. Their approach emphasized relationship-driven dealmaking and a willingness to commit long-term capital to attractive growth opportunities. The family’s portfolio focused mainly on these direct investments—specifically those with a minority stake. They also maintained a small portfolio of private investment funds. While their primary interest remained in direct opportunities, they knew a more diversified fund portfolio could potentially provide more attractive returns and exposure to underrepresented sectors and geographies, and help them expand their connections to a broader set of general partners (GPs).
The family and the FO wished to expand their private investment portfolio to include a fund allocation that would complement their direct investments and globalize their investment exposure, beginning with the US. They knew they would need the help of a private investment firm with US expertise to augment their in-house resources, arrange fund manager introductions, advise on portfolio construction, and make manager recommendations. Another Cambridge Associates (CA) client recommended CA upon learning the Cervasio FO was seeking an investment firm with:
- Extensive experience and knowledge of the US private fund market
- Access to top-tier, deeply researched, manager opportunities and a reputation among GPs for having high-quality limited partner (LP) clients
- The ability to look holistically at the family’s total private investment portfolio and ensure that the US-focused fund mandate would complement and reflect their overall strategic goals and philosophy
- The flexibility to adapt to the needs of the family, its board, and its FO—both at the outset of the relationship and into the future
As a non-discretionary advisor, our ability to add value to the investment team overseeing the entire portfolio was as important as the fund-specific strategy we would build. Lucas, a Managing Director with CA, took lead responsibility for the relationship, overseeing a dedicated CA team that worked to support the goals of the family and its FO.
We understood the client had two objectives for the US funds portfolio: to complement the objectives set for their direct portfolio and to maximize returns. With that in mind, we proposed an initial US allocation with a growth equity tilt, as well as some venture capital and buyout strategies. To build out the portfolio, we recommended specific managers based on rigorous research and due diligence. Lucas then facilitated meetings between recommended managers and the client. As the client approved the managers and committed to funds, the family’s US portfolio began to take shape.
During the fund allocation process, CA’s investment insights, support of the FO’s broader mandate, and success in adopting the Cervasio’s investment philosophy helped establish the foundation for a decades-long partnership between the CA investment team and the FO.
Several years into the relationship—driven both by the results of the fund portfolio managed by CA and the desire for greater exposure to growth assets—the Cervasio family board decided to enhance and expand its portfolio strategy to incorporate co-investments alongside its managers. We advised the FO team on due diligence best practices to support that effort and discussed portfolio realignment options. Lucas was invited to present CA’s strategic recommendations to the board. His proposal to position the fund portfolio to be an important source of future co-invest opportunities was well received and subsequently adopted. From there, CA developed US fund manager replacement recommendations based on growth, return, and co-investment relationship potential. Drawing on our global manager network, CA also began introducing the client to select non-US fund managers that fit these criteria.
Our relationship with the Cervasio family has evolved into one of mutual trust and professional respect. Our non-discretionary role now goes beyond the original US fund mandate to include strategic guidance to the Cervasio board and serving as a de facto member of the family office investment team. Lucas and the Cervasio FO are currently engaged in discussions with the Cervasio board on a variety of topics, including ways to strengthen their ESG focus across the private investment total portfolio; resetting budget and commitment targets to align with allocations across direct investments, funds, and co-investments; building additional exposure to certain sectors; and opportunities to balance the total portfolio’s geographic and sector exposures.
The Cervasios engaged Cambridge Associates to advise them on a small part of their private investment portfolio that was not their main area of focus. As their portfolio developed, they ended up getting much more: a relationship conduit for their co-invest program; a growth engine for the rest of their portfolio; and strategic counsel on their broader investment efforts.
This narrative has been fictionalized to ensure anonymity, but is based on actual client work.