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Fund distribution and market access in Europe

By Lorcan Murphy

Key messages of the Irish Funds seminars

The Irish Funds Seminars were held in Chicago on 11 March, Washington DC on 13 March, 2019, and New York on 14 March. Lorcan Murphy, Managing Director at ACOLIN UK, and Colin Vidal, ACOLIN Hugo, were on site and report on the essential points which were brought up for discussion. The event was aimed at informing participants about current topics on the fund industry, in particular discussing fund distribution and market access in Europe.

The seminar in Chicago focused on global macroeconomic trends, fund distribution and market access in Europe.

The panel discussion, chaired by Lorcan Murphy, was devoted to the question of what do you see as best practice in setting a distribution strategy for funds. Both, Anne Marie Thurston, Managing Director at Nuveen and David Skelding, Principal at Spokes Advisory guided the audience through setting expectations, starting with a very defined scope, maybe one or two countries, and one or two client segments.

When asked what did setting up distribution of UCITS in Europe for CBIS look like, David Skelding walked the audience through the CBIS strategy which was to create products that appealed to Catholic charities and foundations, and hence they targeted countries with a base of such organizations, like Italy. Sales were relationship based, and slow but steady.

The questions of “What is the US NRC Market?” “How is it changing?” “What are the key issues, such as platform access, that managers face when trying to develop this client segment?” were also lively discussed. Anne Marie Thurston talked about the 3,000 brokers in the US wire houses that focus on Non-Resident Alien clients, who may be nationals of South America for instance, but want to have a relationship with a bank or broker in Miami or Houston, as they like the Dollar, and they like the security of these organizations. US managers whom have UCITS have successfully targeted these advisors raising hundreds of billions of dollars in assets under management in their UCITS funds.

Finally, the question arose as to what Link Fund Solutions see as trends or current issues in distribution of funds in Europe. Paul Nunan, Managing Director at Link walked through the results of the recent survey by the Central Bank of Ireland. He gave insight into the latest industry statistics and emphasized the size and strength of the Irish funds industry.

Unlike the Chicago seminar, the seminar in Washington DC focused on international regulatory trends, the growing importance of ESG investing and information on fund structures and distribution in Europe.

Dan Forbes from DMS ran a panel that comprised Joe LaRocque, Managing Director at Legg Mason, David O'Flaherty, Commercial Director at Intertrust Group and Lorcan Murphy. While they acknowledged that there is a huge variety of US managers active in the European market, it was agreed that there are common themes that all non-EU groups grapple with both at a planning stage and on an ongoing basis:

  • At first instance the European market can appear disjointed and intimidating to non-European managers.
  • Many managers of all shapes and sizes struggle with the chicken and egg approach to marketing in Europe, you need to be fully set up to get assets, and yet without assets it is hard to get fully set up with distributors.
  • If they do proceed to explore Europe they will then need to answer questions as to (i) what type of investors they target (e.g. Institutional, Retail, Family Offices (ii) what countries to target (iii) what type of wrapper they put their strategy in (e.g. UCITS, AIF, Managed Account) (iii) whether to build or buy infrastructure (iv) and how they should distribute the product (e.g. captive platform; third party; in-house – combination).
  • As if that doesn’t all seem complex enough, we have the overlay of Brexit which will certainly impact on traditional routes to market via UK based placement agents, disrupt marketing activities into and out of the UK, and require changes to existing UK centric investment management infrastructure

It was agreed that it is key to target those clients your home market products work best for. Product design and management was also noted, as well as the importance of learning what the market wants and to deliver that.

With respect to the various issues emerging from these events, ACOLIN is well-positioned to offer solutions and assist asset managers who are not certain of how to navigate the perceived opaqueness of the European market.

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