Avantgarde finance - STEP Program Manager Application

I. Applicant information

Address - Avantgarde Finance, 12 new fetter lane, London, EC4A 1JP
Website - https://avantgarde.finance/
Contact - Christopher Taylor
Title - COO
Country - UK
Email - info@avantgarde.finance
Twitter - @avantgardefi

II. Applicant Details

1.Please describe your company

Avantgarde is a crypto native asset management, advisory and research firm, specialising in asset liability management, R&D, special situations, risk monitoring and on-chain diversification strategies. Avantgarde has conducted work for leading protocols including Uniswap, The Graph, Arbitrum, Nexus Mutual, Paraswap, Enzyme and others. DAOs leverage Avantgarde’s combined expertise in protocol development and asset management for developing strategies to improve treasury sustainability.

2.Please give a bio of key team members and their relevant experience. Also mention the name and bio of the point of contact that will engage with Arbitrum DAO if selected. References are encouraged

Mona El Isa (Risk Management & Investment Committee) | monaelisa.eth | Twitter | Linkedin

Mona is Founder and CEO at Avantgarde. She also founded Enzyme, the first on-chain asset management protocol on Ethereum in 2016. Mona is a Board Member to KR1 Plc and served on the Board at Near Foundation for five years before stepping down last September. As a former star-trader at Goldman Sachs, Mona was promoted to Vice President by the age of 26 and made the “Top 30 under 30” list in Trader Magazine in 2008 and Forbes Magazine in 2011 after profitably trading the 2008 and 2011 crashes. She moved to Geneva-based macro fund Jabre Capital in 2011, before deciding in 2014 that the future of finance lay in blockchain technology.

Ainsley To, PhD, CFA Linkedin

Ainsley is Head of Asset Management at Avantgarde. His background is on the buyside, including roles at investment consultant Stamford Associates and more than a decade as Head of Multi-Asset at Credo, where he oversaw the selection & monitoring of third party funds, and was featured in Citywire’s Wealth Manager Top 100 in 2019. In crypto, prior to Avantgarde Ainsley has also held crypto research roles at Messari and digital asset prime broker Genesis. Ainsley is a CFA charterholder, and holds a PhD in Finance from EDHEC Business School, where he published research on crypto asset pricing.

Gabriel Rocheleau Linkedin

Gabriel leads DeFi R&D at Avantgarde, focusing on the meticulous research and analysis of DeFi protocols and emerging opportunities. With a solid foundation in Actuarial Sciences complemented by his vast experience in blockchain technology, he excels in his roles as a smart contracts developer, a full-stack developer and an Ethereum Core Developer. This unique combination of skills empowers him to offer essential technical insights, supporting the strategic investment decisions that drive Avantgarde’s progress in the DeFi space.

Spike Watanabe | Spikewatanabe.eth | Twitter

Graduated from University College London with a degree in Economics. Worked within the investment banking industry in a variety of financial institutions including investment banks, commercials banks, valuation consultancy firms and private equity. Scope of coverage included mainly private mergers and acquisition deals. Throughout investment banking career he covered deals with total value in excess of c. 2bnUSD. Was actively involved within blockchain markets since 2016 conducting research and running own investments. Current scope of responsibilities includes analysis and coverage of DAO governance.

3.Total team size: 7 + affiliated dev team (20)

4.Number of Years in Operation: 5

III. Applicant Performance

5.Past experience if any for performing each of the roles and responsibilities described in the appendix (Divide your answer into three sections corresponding to the 3 parts in the appendix).

The Avantgarde team has relevant previous experience as full time capital allocators to third party fund managers within traditional finance, including building & overseeing institutional grade investment and operational due diligence processes for selecting and monitoring external investment vehicles.

Cashflow and Accrual Monitoring

The team have previous experience with monitoring cash flows of external mutual fund structures within traditional portfolios, including the monitoring of 9 figure dollar allocations into US Dollar prime and government money market funds for large family offices. This included working with fund managers, fund administrators, and custodians in reconciling fund positions and dividend payments from underlying fund allocations.

Because of our background with Enzyme and having worked with other DAOs in the space we have accumulated a wealth of experience when it comes to DeFi reporting, cashflow tracking and reporting. We have the ability to automate processes where necessary and can very confidently tackle any on-chain challenges. Some examples of our on-chain work include working with oracles and on-chain NAV calculations, token valuation, reconciliation of accounts (or asset management performance), management & performance fee calculations and automation of processes (eg. reporting for on-chain funds and DAOs).

Underlying Asset Monitoring

Previously as institutional allocators to third party fund managers within traditional finance, members of the team have over a decade of experience managing segregated accounts of external asset managers for large institutional clients, including day to day monitoring at both the asset class and fund level. Within this experience, members of our team have also built institutional grade quantitative portfolio monitoring tools for breaking down risk exposures from portfolio holdings and returns data across multiple asset classes and fund universes.

The Avantgarde team also has a strong background in on-chain asset monitoring within DeFi. This includes monitoring of positions within our on-chain funds, monitoring assets for 3rd party protocols for factors which may lead to mispricing (eg., depegs, market depth, etc) and portfolio weights (rebalancing needs).

Operations and Counterparty Monitoring

The team have experience conducting operational due diligence both with centralised entities, including across fund manager service providers such as administrators, custodians, lawyers, risk management services. We’re also able to identify risk factors to monitor and set up internal processes to track and react.

Avantgarde have conducted operational due diligence on smart contracts as part of integration work for Enzyme, an on-chain asset management protocol that has been running since 2018 without being exposed to any significant exploits. Operational work on Enzyme integrations includes rigorous testing, including on fund flows and redemptions from vaults, and encompasses working with external smart contract auditors. Additionally, we have conducted operational due diligence and monitoring within the Ethereum node operator space, including service level agreements around slashing and forgone staking rewards for example.

On the interaction of smart contracts, legal fund structures, and fund management service providers, Avantgarde has a unique perspective in operating fund vehicles run on blockchain rails and the nuances in integrating smart contracts with legal contracts across the fund management stack.

6.Describe any conflicts of interest your entity, its investors or key personnel may have with any potential service providers selected under the program

We have a broad client base with both TradFi and DeFi players. We currently don’t see any conflicts of interest but we are happy to disclose any that may come up publicly as and when they do.

It is also worth highlighting the importance of an independent risk and monitoring function, which is often separate from investment teams who select allocations. Since Avantgarde was not part of the screening committee for the service providers, we feel we are in a good position to act in an unbiased way in monitoring the providers selected, and can provide an additional independent level of oversight beyond the opinions provided at the screening stage.

7.Under what situations would you make a recommendation for Arbitrum to withdraw its assets from a selected service provider to fulfil each aspect of the outlined scope in the appendix?

There are a wide variety of reasons for redeeming from a provider, and whilst significant material issues are often evident in net performance figures, in our experience more subtle issues from a risk perspective often require a mosaic of quantitative and qualitative factors to pick up before the fact. In our view, this is also likely to be the case in monitoring for the STEP program - whilst we have no visibility into the final service providers which will be selected, within the money market fund fund categories (which is where the underlying strategies of many of the applicants belong) there is little performance dispersion because of the tight constraints of money market fund regulation on eligible securities, weighted average life, weighted average maturity, and liquidity.

As program manager we would look to develop a holistic forward looking view based on other factors that could impact the repeatability of past performance, including: deviations in portfolio exposures, turnover in key personnel, irregularities at the smart contract level, data inconsistencies between centralised sources, relevant changes for the provider at the firm & regulatory levels, amongst others. A key point is that no single indicator is a silver bullet, and we believe a significant part of effective monitoring is in being able to identify the causes for material changes - crucially, effective monitoring requires the ability to differentiate between 1) the inherent noise that is present in all aspects of external portfolio surveillance, and 2) genuine signals that arise when incremental uncertainty becomes significant enough to warrant action.

There may also be other exogenous factors to consider for withdrawing from a project, such as diversification considerations at the overall level or where a project’s alignment with the Arbitrum ecosystem evolves in a way that is not consistent with the longer term goals of the STEP program.

8.Please list any experience your firm has in working with decentralized organisational structures

Avantgarde has worked with leading protocols including Uniswap, Apecoin, The Graph, Arbitrum, Nexus Mutual, Paraswap, Enzyme and others. DAOs leverage Avantgarde’s combined expertise in protocol development and asset management for developing strategies to improve treasury sustainability. Avantgarde has been involved with Arbitrum’s Treasury & Sustainability Working Group since the early stages, including the production of a study focusing on how traditional asset classes, accessed via real world assets, can reduce risk within DAO treasuries which played a role in the evolution of the STEP program to where it is today - link.

9.What is the value of assets monitored by your entity?

Provided by email

10.Can you explain how risk management (investment and operational) is being done for assets under monitoring?

Avantgarde currently performs risk management from a number of perspectives. On it’s asset management strategies, the investment thesis for each holding is reassessed on a continuous basis to ensure the quantitative and qualitative factors for inclusion have not materially changed. This includes monitoring flags on key on-chain and off-chain risk metrics. A few of the metrics which are deemed time critical have pre-trade approval when they hit certain thresholds, enabling action to be taken on the position when triggered. Other metrics flag major changes that require further investigation, in conjunction with other data analysis or by speaking to related project teams. The team will also monitor related social channels such as twitter and discord for related announcements and changes to protocols. Where applicable, periodic reviews with underlying project teams are performed, including refreshing qualitative or proprietary information that is not available on-chain to ensure documentation is up to date.

11.Describe the content, format and preparation process of performance reports. This should include details of interest earned and status of total assets. Provide a sample if available.

Reports should be tailored based on the portfolio/product. The content of the report will be dependent on the specific product. Typical performance reports for money market related products will include: yield over multiple horizons (1 day, 7 days, 30 days), fund and firm level assets under management, portfolio breakdown by major asset types (such as overnight repo and treasury bills), breakdown by maturity buckets, weighted average life, weighted average maturity, daily and weekly maturing assets as % of the fund, and token prices by major price sources. The reports and corresponding updates to the Arbitrum governance forums should also be customised to include requested information from the foundation and DAO community, such as total interest earned.

IV. Applicant Pricing

12.Provide a copy of your standard contract, or one similar to what is being proposed here.
Provided by e-mail

13.Comprehensive pricing breakdown inclusive of the full scope of services requested
Provided by e-mail

14.Terms of fee payment such as upfront vs monthly costs
Provided by e-mail

15.Approximate percentage of your annual budget that this service contract would constitute ? (eg: if annual expenses are $100 and the proposed contract is $10, then 10% is the answer).
Provided by e-mail

V. Appendix: Roles and Responsibilities of STEP Program Manager

  1. Cashflow & Accrual Monitoring: Enable the Arbitrum Foundation to easily ensure that the Arbitrum Treasury receives timely payments or accruals. If payments are delayed or incongruent with stated rates, Arbitrum can take appropriate action (e.g. inquiry, divestment, etc). Specific functionality includes:
  • Initial capital contribution and redemption tracking
  • Track and notify interest accrual or payment amounts for each investment
  • Ensure expected interest accrual or payment frequencies match service providers’ documentation
  1. Underlying Asset Monitoring: Validate that service providers are investing in expected underlying assets and risk exposures. If nonstandard assets are being included in a provider’s portfolio, Arbitrum will be informed and can take appropriate action.
  • Report on service providers’ underlying assets and reserves
  • Provide portfolio statistics and risk analytics
  • Report % of product AUM that pertains to Arbitrum’s investment
  1. Operations & Counterparty Monitoring: Aggregates nonquantitative information to regularly inform Arbitrum of key structural information and material document changes and administer redemption tests.
  • Collate service provider financial and audit reports
  • Track underlying service provider changes (e.g. custodian or broker changes, change in 3rd party auditors, change in onchain addresses used for flow of funds)
  • Track material changes in provider terms
  • Administer Redemption Tests (i.e. “Fire Drills”) to test for provider redemption timeliness.
  • Communication with the DAO on the governance forum for questions pertaining to the program
  • Any other duties that may arise which are necessary for success