Welcome to our asset management marketing focus
This week’s round up brings you multiple fund partnerships, Gina Miller vs the FCA, Bitcoin ETF possibilities, and Peter Gabriel on blockchain.
Movers & Shakers
Is now ➜ Head of Digital Marketing at Unigestion
Was: Head of Digital at Carmignac
Kurtosys expresses their best wishes to all starting in their new positions.
Website Spotlight: Westwood
Another neat edition to our updated 50 Best-Designed Websites Gallery is the effort from Westwood Holdings Group, an investment management company based in Dallas. However, despite not maintaining a completely maverick streak like their base city’s namesake basketball team, their more regimented site is a beautifully designed offering.
However, the Maverick’s blue and white colour scheme does bleed into the company’s branding, and a pleasing-to-the-eye selection of colours across their web pages. The use of white space between the various blocks on the home page is exemplary, which nestles calls to action to the site’s investment capabilities alongside insight links towards the bottom of the page.
One of Westwood’s signature standout design moments is the top toolbar which, whilst hidden away at first, expands to become a beast of a module, housing all of the site’s sub-pages into one handy menu; from insights to products, and rather usefully, a featured article. The trademark blue scheme is extended here, and a typeahead search functionality offers high UX to site browsers looking for specifics.
On the product pages, we also like how the block layout from the main page has found its way here too, to filter investment strategies. When toggling through these filters, the relevant searches pop up as bold buttons, making the fund search interactive. The fund pages comprise a large amount of information, but we’d perhaps like to see more animation for charts rather than static images.
Then again, this site has a ‘mobile first’ design and looks great on such devices, as well as being generally easy-to-navigate, and multi-language options which make it into other great sites. Slam dunk.
Funds in Focus: Queens’ College Cambridge ETF Portfolio
Different week, different strategy. So, for this week’s fund news, here’s a divestment plan put into place by one of the prestigious Cambridge University’s entities: Queens’ College.
A wide divestment strategy from Queens’ starts here with a self-managed portfolio of ETFs which is looking to completely exclude any extractive and carbon-intensive industries. This comes as a result of increasing pressure on the University of Cambridge (certainly in the public eye as an influential institution) to divest assets in fossil-fuel related companies. Students, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Caroline Lucas of the Green party have expressed their concerns. Elsewhere, Queens’ College itself recently adopted the MSCI ACWI SRI ex Energy ex Materials ex Utilities Index. It’s fairly self-explanatory; including companies from the MSCI ACWI SRI index, but without energies, materials and utilities industries.
It’s interesting to see a divestment plan, made up with a selection of ETFs, in collaboration with other services companies. Whilst the portfolio is managed by the college, the ETFs are taken from State Street Global Advisors, leaders in equity sector ETFs, and the portfolio has been constructed by consultant firm ElstonETF.
The portfolio will aim to continue to deliver investment returns and a diversified selection without compromise. Head of research at ElstonETF, Henry Cobbe states that “our custom ETF portfolios can be designed to enable a targeted approach to delivering on investment objectives subject to relevant constraints and preferences.” Head of Wealth for State Street ETFs, Edward Malcolm, has expressed the gratitude in seeing the company’s sector ETF being used in an “innovative way”.
Interesting developments in fund-related news from the world’s top universities, I’m sure we’ll see.
Firm in Focus: Schroders
One particular asset management firm has been piling pressure on its contemporaries in the race for fintech friendship, as noted by the Financial News.
Earlier this year, in March, Schroders set up a unique accelerator programme called Cobalt, which gave nascent startups the chance to work with the company for a year, in-house. As reported, Schroders has already begun to work with Qwil Messenger – an instant messaging service for businesses – which has become the first fintech to join the programme.
Innovate Finance – the government body for fintech – has expressed a keen need for asset managers to join in with fintech partnerships, and going the extra mile once again is Schroders, who are now in advanced talks to become a member of Innovate Finance. The initiative, comprising of around 250 members, acts as the UK’s main trade association for fintechs, but very few asset managers are involved.
Perhaps this news may prompt other asset managers – unfortunately considered one of the main industry laggards in digital adoption – to make the step towards strategic partnerships with fintechs, whether it being to better automate digital services or meet regulatory requirements. In the midst of an unprecedented heatwave, hopefully the involvement of AMs will begin to hot up here too.
On the subject of partnerships, we can continue to mull over one of the investment world’s longer-running pairings: that between French private equity investment company Ardian and VolcomCapital from Chile.
The Chilean firm has worked with Ardian for some time now, acting as the placement agent for the Parisian investment outfit in Latin America, and by launching feeders, which has happened again here, hence this news being reported by Citywire’s Americas division.
Earlier this month, the Chilean market authority approved the VolcomCapital Mid Market Fondo de Inversión, targeting mid-market private equity buyout opportunities in Europe and North America. Ardian’s European buyout team looks into companies worth $290 million up to $1.75 billion, and its North American buyout strategy focuses on the industrial sector. The feeder can access investments through Ardian’s Chile Middle Market Primary Fund, giving Chilean nationals the chance to access buyouts in developed markets.
Only in June was it confirmed that Ardian was opening an office in Chile, with the Mid Market fund marking the partners’ first launch.
The LATAM investment market is one of irregular notice at AMMF, but there are sure-fire signs that this will change. The Latin American asset management world is second only to China in terms of growth at the end of last year. AUM surged 17% between 2016 and 2017, from $1.5 trillion to $1.8 trillion. China achieved a rise of 22% for comparison.
The growth rates in emerging markets has in fact proved many wrong that developed countries would be enjoying the lion’s share of asset management activity. You can read more about the results of the Boston Consulting Group’s 2018 Global Asset Management Report at Citywire Americas here.
“I guess MiFID II is back on the menu, boys!” a certain regulation-frenzied Orc might say.
That’s certainly the main course for this week’s regulation news, with an ongoing investigation into the FCA’s lack of transparency regarding the directive, and indeed the companies that may still not be adhering to its rules which, we may remind you, went into effect way back in January.
Gina Miller, along with her husband Alan, run wealth management boutique SCM Direct, and are certainly not shy of expressing their frustration with the fund industry. This time, the caped crusader-style duo have initiated a formal complaint to the Financial Conduct Authority for delaying to respond to a Freedom of Information request a couple of months ago. Gina Miller is bringing in Mishcon de Reya, the lawyers who led her famous case against the UK government on Article 50, citing the regulator being responsible for not acting in the public interest.
Amongst the Brexit insecurities, other financial regulatory matters still seem to be causing upset months and months after enactment, it seems.
Industry Insights: Public Enemy #1
Grapevine rumours are dangerous, but a new strategy report from Sanford C. Bernstein & Co is certainly adding some weight to pre-existing murmurings about Amazon Inc’s possible power as an asset-manager-of-sorts.
Bernstein analysts have identified that, even though there is no official evidence of Amazon preparing an asset management service currently, the tech monolith is in a prime position to do so. Given their customer base and trustworthy tech platform, there is a clear ‘edge’ that sets the Seattle firm as another form of competition for money managers.
Much like Alibaba’s setting up of a robo-advisory service, the possibility of the US e-commerce counterpart taking a slice of the pie should not be written off. Even more scaremongering could be noted due to Bernstein’s noting of a LendEDU survey where 37% of Amazon Prime customers would use a robo-advisor if one existed; remember that there are around 95 million Prime members in the US alone.
Whilst only speculation exists still, shaky knees in the industry will start to become even more precarious.
Elsewhere, we’ve recently released a snappy little video showing our favourite examples of website attestations within the industry, and exactly why we like them. Check it out below!
Crypto News: Yay or Nay for Bitcoin ETF?
The back-and-forth of Bitcoin ETF frenzy has been permeating the interwebs this week, with both hastened hysteria and disappointment in equal measure.
As CoinDesk so aptly puts it: Crypto Really Really Wants a Bitcoin ETF, and you can see exactly why over at that link; the SEC has been inundated with requests for a Bitcoin-linked exchange-traded fund after it opened a ‘comments period’. 250 comments had been made by investors, ranging from the genuine to the joke (as is so frequently a downside to the cryptocurrency space), and the SEC will now discuss whether this fund is a viable option going forward.
There’s been other positive news in the Bitcoin space however. Over at Global Coin Report, reportedly one of the world’s largest crypto-asset exchanges Coinbase has managed two challenges. Firstly, Coinbase acquired a $20 billion prime client. Secondly, along with other crypto-companies, it got its advertisements back on Facebook after a ban in January, although ICO’s are still prohibited on social media platforms.
But whilst it explained here that the SEC will have decided their course of action by 16th August, Bitcoin ETF enthusiasts will have to wait a little longer. Back at CoinDesk was the breaking news of the SEC delaying this date until September instead. Considering that prior ETF proposals (such as those from VanEck and SolidX) are yet to be decided, and chief investment strategist Michael Cohn from Atlantis Asset Management stating an approval would be “insane”, who knows what the future holds for these slightly rogue ETFs. To quote Billie Joe Armstrong, “Wake Me Up When September Ends”, and then we’ll see. Maybe.
…onto more complimentary musical fund matters, some notable names are also sticking up for blockchain technology. We’ve seen the case of ICO backing from Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Luis Suarez for example, and now Provenance, a British based blockchain startup looking to improve transparency of supply chains is receiving investment from the politically minded Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel. Who knew? This video also outlines the crypto interest from Paris Hilton and Katy Perry of all people, too. Celebrities and finance: always puzzling.
That’s all for this week, but be sure to check back soon for more asset management marketing highlights and fintech snippets from Kurtosys.