The bankers of Piñera’s most profitable trust

Among the phrases that they posted on their website as a presentation, the Altis partners chose the writer Mark Twain and the photographer Sergio Larraín. But also an investment icon, the tycoon Warren Buffet. “High diversification is only required when investors don’t understand what they’re doing,” the chosen quote read. At Altis, an investment bank created in 2016 by Tomás Müller Sproat, they believe in this predicament. Diversification, they say, is not an attribute in itself or a dogma. You have to manage the risk, they believe in Altis, but the portfolios do not only have that objective. And in that diversity of purposes is where they have added clients.

After 15 years since its foundation, Altis -whose name alludes to the sacred precinct of Zeus-, the firm has participated in several transactions, represents the money of a dozen high-net-worth families, distributes funds to investors in the region and has ventured into at private equity.

Altis was one of the companies that also managed the money that Sebastián Piñera Echenique delivered in trust, via Bancard Inversiones, to three general fund administrators, in 2018. He had done the same in 2010, but Altis was not there, but rather BTG, LarrainVial, Bice and Moneda. In March 2018, Bancard repeated with BTG and Moneda, but added Altis, which received liquid resources of US$209 million. Ten days ago, Altis held an end-of-term accountability for him. Unlike its competitors, Altis returned more than was entrusted to it: a portfolio of assets made up of shares in six funds managed by Wellington Management for US$268 million. 27.7% more in dollars. The money delivered to BTG fell, in pesos, 12.5% ​​in four years and that of Moneda, 8.5%. But they had more limited management mandates for Chilean assets and are compared, for example, with a 16.5% drop in Ipsa in the same period. Altis, on the other hand, had to invest abroad. And he did it successfully. In pesos, the increase was 72.5%, but the exchange rate influenced that, which rose from $602 in March 2018 to $805 on March 11, 2022. Competitors relativize the success of this management. In the same period, reflects a report by Compass Group, the MSCI ACWI index, which replicates the global stock markets, returned 80.27% in pesos.

Altis and its competitors charged Bancard 0.55% of the value of the initial assets, a figure considered low for four years of management, according to an experienced investment manager. Another nuance: in high amounts like these, lower commissions are charged. Altis received $692 million for his work.

Behind this result is a manager made up of thirty people and controlled by four partners: Alejandro Puentes, Tomás Müller Benoit, José Gabriel Palma and Jorge Tagle.

Alexander Bridges

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Alexander Bridges

The first two had worked in the late 1990s and early 2000s at Bancard and interacted with an active Sebastián Piñera in business, following passing through the Senate and prior to their presidential candidacies. Puentes was Bancard’s finance manager. “Since these mandates are blind, the key is trust,” says a local manager. And Altis partners knew their client. And his client knew Altis.

Origin and expansion

Tomás Müller Sproat was an emblematic executive in the local financial world. He comes from the Citicorp quarry of the 1970s; he was at Banco Osorno in the 1980s; and founded IM Trust in the middle of that decade. He sold it in 2005 and a year later he created Altis. His son, a commercial engineer from the University of Finis Terrae, accompanied him to the nascent investment bank. A year later, he invited Alejandro Puentes, with whom he met at Bancard. In 2010, the founder of Altis was appointed by Piñera as ambassador to the United Kingdom, where he spent four years. That diplomatic assignment was the beginning of his departure from Altis. He no longer has a stake in the company, which is divided into similar parts by the four partners, who are involved, in turn, in the four business areas.

The first is corporate finance. It was the origin of a small financial boutique. In that area, they participated in the sale of Farmacias Ahumada, then controlled by José Codner, to the Mexican company Saba, in 2010 and in the transaction that ended up transferring the Johnson’s chain to Cencosud, in 2011, for example. And more recently, they were the investment bank of Moneda Asset, in its merger by absorption with the Brazilian Patria Investment, six months ago. In this operation, Alejandro Puentes and Jorge Tagle traveled to New York to participate in the negotiations and served as counterparts for Patria and JP Morgan, their financial advisor. In Altis they account for more than 40 transactions. “They are very good professionals,” says an intermediary who has worked with them.

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The second business area is a derivation of the first, it was created in 2010 and is in charge of Puentes: wealth advice to high-income Chilean families, but with a particular orientation: they act as the family office of their clients and manage all of their liquid assets. Altis has a dozen such large clients.

One of his clients explains it this way: they are families that have accumulated large amounts of money following a special liquidity event, such as the sale of a company, and instead of creating their own family officeThey chose to outsource that job. This is the case of José Codner, who worked with Altis in the sale of Farmacias Ahumada and commissioned them to manage his assets.

The second area is linked, in turn, with the third. Altis distributes international funds in Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico, for institutional clients, and for this it has alliances with global administrators such as Wellington and Vontobel. This area is led by José Gabriel Palma, a lawyer with an MBA from Babson who previously worked at Carey. Piñera’s ending inventory of assets was fully invested in Wellington funds, an option that was expressly stated in the portfolio management mandate.

A competitor says that Altis is not an active fund manager and defines it more as an orchestra conductor who chooses and negotiates with international managers for his clients. It is ratified by the executive of a high-net-worth family that works with Altis. “They are not counterparts of families. They are the advisors of the families and they are the counterpart of the global managers”, he explains. “You’re not going to have them on the phone trading stocks,” describes one of his clients.

Due to their relationship with their clients, several Altis partners also participate in company directories. Puentes is in Mall Plaza, where Tomás Müller Jr. is also. The Müllers are shareholders, but Altis advised on the company’s IPO. He is also in Vitamina, the network of kindergartens controlled by the Chilean Alejandro Bascuñán, an operation that Altis advised. Puentes, today the group’s general manager, has also been in other family companies that he advised, such as Pesquera Landes, owned by the Fosks, or Imagina, a real estate company owned by the Calderón family. And before reaching Altis, he led the family office of the Eblen family, former partners of Piñera in Lan, whom he met through his work at Bancard. Jorge Tagle, a former executive of the Luksic group, has been director since 2015 of another family office: Megeve, the vehicle controlled by the Solari Donaggio brothers.

The latest line of business private equity, which Altis calls principal investment. Created in 2016, Claudio Inglesi, another ex-Quiñenco, was added to this business as an independent partner. So far they have developed three businesses. The first was the Coseche automotive company, which they later sold in 2019, a business that was profitable, but did not return what they expected. The second is Blue Express, a courier that they bought Carlos Heller in 2019 and that multiplied following the pandemic. The last one was made in 2021: Talana, together with Endurance. In addition, they are participating in a real estate project multifamily and in various private loans.

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