Monday 8th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: February 8th 2016: SimCorp, a provider of investment management solutions says Vescore AG, a Swiss asset manager with $14bn in assets under management, has completed the implementation of SimCorp Dimension. Other divisions of the Vescore group will migrate to SimCorp Dimension in phase 2 of the implementation project, so the whole business will then operate on an integrated platform, designed to support modern, internationally active asset managers as they realize their growth potential. Frank Häusgen, senior sales & account manager at SimCorp says: “Vescore is another example that the ‘Investment Book of Record’ (IBOR) is so much more than a buzzword.” - S&P Capital IQ and SNL has rebranded as S&P Global Market Intelligence. The division’s new name is a strategic move forward as part of the integration of the two previously separate businesses, S&P Capital IQ and SNL Financial, under parent company McGraw Hill Financial (NYSE: MHFI). The businesses originally combined following the successful completion of the SNL Financial acquisition by MHFI on September 1, 2015. MHFI also recently announced its intention to rebrand at the corporate level as S&P Global, subject to shareholder vote in April of this year - RPMI Railpen has announced three new appointments to the in-house investment team for the Railways Pension Scheme. Sweta Chattopadhyay has joined as senior investment manager of the Private Markets team, joining from Adveq, a global alternative investment firm. Matthias Eifert has also joined the £22bn pension scheme from Macquarie Securities, and will take up the role of investment manager focusing on fundamental equity analysis and managing concentrated equity portfolios. Meanwhile, Tony Guida has joined the Alternative Risk Premia team at Railpen as an investment manager, from EDHEC Risk Institute - BCA Research, a provider of investment research, says has partnered with FiscalNote, a technology startup building a platform for analysing government risk, to integrate US policy data and analysis onto BCA’s digital platform BCA Edge. The collaboration will enable investors to factor in today’s complex regulatory landscape into their investment strategies and better understand how individual companies and industries are impacted by legislative actions, to identify alpha generating investment opportunities. The agreement with FiscalNote follows BCA’s collaboration with crowdsourced financial estimates platform Estimize to incorporate earnings and revenue estimates data on the BCA Edge platform - BroadSoft, Inc. (NASDAQ: BSFT), a global unified communication software as a service (UCaaS) provider, has acquired Transera, a provider of cloud-based contact center software for small-medium business (SMB) and large enterprises. The acquisition positions BroadSoft to lead the fast-growing Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) market, while enabling service providers to offer a comprehensive cloud contact center portfolio with minimal new investments, rapid time-to-market, and seamless integration with BroadSoft's BroadWorks and BroadCloud solutions. BroadSoft believes that Transera's omni-channel (voice, email, chat and social) and analytics-driven cloud contact center software will enable businesses to optimise operational efficiency, strengthen financial performance and improve the business outcomes of customer interactions. "Today's acquisition brings together the leading cloud unified communications provider with a pioneer redefining contact center performance through omni-channel and big data analytics," says Michael Tessler, chief executive officer, BroadSoft. "The multi-billion-dollar contact center market is ripe for cloud disruption, and we now offer service providers a single stack solution with the flexibility to scale from SMB to large enterprise." "Cloud is rewriting the rules when it comes to how businesses can deliver a superior customer-engagement experience through simplicity, on-demand scalability, and advanced analytics," adds Prem Uppaluru, chairman and chief executive officer, Transera, who will assume the role of General Manager and Vice President of BroadSoft Cloud Contact Center - Singapore state-fund Temasek Holdings’ wholly owned investment arm Vertex Venture Holdings’ fourth Israel fund has been oversubscribed by as much as 50%, and is set to see its final close at $150m, according to Singaporean press reports. In the meantime, Temasek says it is set to close a new fund, Red Dot, also worth up to $150m to invest in mature Israeli high tech firms - Wealth manager Charles Stanley says it has appointed Vicky Casebourne and Elizabeth Feltwell as intermediary sales managers. Feltwell joins from The Ingenious Group and will work with financial advisers, solicitors and accountants across Scotland, Northern Ireland and London. Casebourne joined Charles Stanley in 2011 as a trainee investment manager from Brewin Dolphin. She worked as a central investment product specialist, assisting intermediaries with in-depth product analysis before moving to an intermediary sales manager role - Thin and thinner news from Asia today as Chinese New Year celebrations take over from worries about falling stock markets. The focus today is all on Japan: the Bank of Japan released the notes backing its decision to introduce negative interest rates (see news story below). Japan's Nikkei Stock Average rose 1.1%, but is still down 12% from the beginning of the year and is still at 12.8 times this year’s earnings according to S&P Capital IQ. Thailand's SET was up 0.4%. India's Sensex is up 0.1% (essentially flat), while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 ended down 0.01%. Other markets in Asia were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday. The pace of the US Federal Reserve’s tightening on monetary policy still hangs heavy on the market, as last Friday’s jobs figures showed a 151,000 increase in jobs while insurance claims for joblessness stayed flat overall on the previous month. Contrast that with slower and still slowing growth in China, a nervous monetary policy from the PBOC, which is being steered rather than steering markets, still volatile crude oil prices (which can only get worse not better as inventories continue to rise), a collapsing market in Brazil, concerns about NPLs at Indian banks, and the threat of ever looser monetary policy in Europe and you can see why investors are running on empty. Crude oil prices remain sharply lower compared with several months ago, but the pace of falls might be easing. New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in March traded at $30.86 a barrel, down three cents from the previous close. The words rock and hard place come to mind this week as the US Federal Reserve will have to steer a delicate monetary course. On the one hand an increase might help cool the economy (but that won’t help US stocks); but if it says that the reason it doesn’t raise rates is because of worries about the global outlook, it will shake investor confidence in the markets and trigger another round of sell offs. The other key trend has been the steadily appreciating US dollar. The US dollar has risen since Friday, factoring in perhaps the possibility of an additional rate rise. The dollar was at ¥ 117.28 in late Asia, up from ¥ 116.82 late Friday in New York. The euro was at $1.1139, down from $1.1160. We’ll find out midweek, as Federal Reserve chair Yellen will testify before Congress on the progress of monetary policy on Wednesday.

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Mark Wiedman, global head of BlackRock’s iShares brand. Mark Wiedman, global head of BlackRock’s iShares brand. Photograph kindly supplied by iShares, November 2011.

20-20: Turning BlackRock's ETF fortunes

Thursday, 15 December 2011
20-20: Turning BlackRock's ETF fortunes Mark Wiedman’s appointment as global head of BlackRock’s iShares brand is a concerted effort to sharpen the focus of the consortium of exchange-traded funds launched by BGI in May 2000 that combines index fund-style diversification with the liquidity of stock trading. To date, iShares accounts for roughly half of the estimated $1.1trn in US-based ETF assets. While AUM continues to grow at a steady clip, competitors have gradually whittled away at the company’s domestic market share (currently around 43%). Can Wiedman buck the trend? David Simons reports. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/media/k2/items/cache/bd3eebf32e04c907d6d9fc42f4213df5_XL.jpg

Mark Wiedman’s appointment as global head of BlackRock’s iShares brand is a concerted effort to sharpen the focus of the consortium of exchange-traded funds launched by BGI in May 2000 that combines index fund-style diversification with the liquidity of stock trading. To date, iShares accounts for roughly half of the estimated $1.1trn in US-based ETF assets. While AUM continues to grow at a steady clip, competitors have gradually whittled away at the company’s domestic market share (currently around 43%). Can Wiedman buck the trend? David Simons reports.

During a recent earnings conference call, Laurence Fink, BlackRock’s chairman and chief executive, likened the recent run-up in ETF product innovation to the pre-crisis market for mortgage-backed instruments. BlackRock, said Fink, “needs to be very assertive as a firm” in order to prevent “a lack of disclosure on these products”.

To help address issues such as transparency—while also enhancing its ETF product line—BlackRock in September 2011 announced it had tapped Mark Wiedman, managing director in charge of corporate strategy, to serve as the new global head of  iShares, the ETF provider acquired by BlackRock as part of the 2009 buyout of Barclays Global Investors (BGI). Wiedman succeeds Mike Latham, who will continue as iShares chairman. Having served as an adviser to global financial institutions on balance-sheet issues at the height of the crisis, as well as heading up corporate strategy for BlackRock, Wiedman got a “crash course” in understanding clients’ problems and mobilising BlackRock’s capabilities in order to solve them. “I worked closely with iShares throughout the BGI integration and on iShares strategy work, so I stepped into the role with some familiarity with the businesses and the terrific leadership team,” says Wiedman.



ETFs appear to be still in their infancy, and have benefited from factors that include greater use of fixed-income and commodity-based products, increased uptake among fee-based advisers, as well as new product launches within the major exchanges. These conditions will likely pave the way for larger ETF fund allocations over the near term. Wiedman claims: “ETFs are one of the top two or three socially productive financial innovations of the past 40 years, with a value proposition that speaks to a galaxy of clients, from sovereign wealth funds to retail investors. ETFs deliver efficient exposure to global markets using the most democratic, transparent, and liquid vehicle yet devised.”

From the perspective of iShares, key growth drivers over the near term include fixed-income ETFs (which currently represent only a fractional amount of total outstanding bonds within the US), as well as equity income. Meanwhile, the potential for across-the-board ETF uptake exists in nearly every market around the world, says Wiedman.

Unifying US and foreign ETF platforms was a priority for BlackRock following the acquisition of iShares, and the ability to offer both US and European product lines to investors around the globe has been one of iShares’ greatest strengths to date.  “Some 15% of the assets in domestic ETFs are currently held outside the US and in Europe in 2011, we’ve seen over 15% organic growth, in part driven by buyers from Asia. As we look forward, our UCITS-compliant European product line could possibly become the de facto global standard,” says Wiedman.

The rise in ETF fund flows has coincided with a marked increase in product complexity, and, in some instances, has sparked concerns over opacity. For its part, the SEC continues to take a dim view of derivatives-based ETF products, compelling many providers to back away from such offerings.  

Wiedman notes: “We would call products that trade on an exchange ‘exchange-traded products’ or ‘ETPs’ while reserving the label ‘ETF’ for a sub-category that meets certain agreed standards of simplicity and transparency, including backing by underlying securities, rather than derivatives. We understand that regulators around the world will have different views. However, we believe that a standardised classification system could help regulators develop appropriate rules in each jurisdiction.”

The proliferation of so-called “cheap beta” ETF products—or, in some instances, ETFs that are totally commission-free—has had a dramatic impact on the business as a whole. Rather than attempt to compete on price, however, iShares has instead turned its attention toward product development, including active ETFs, which mimic the performance of hedge funds at a fraction of the cost. In August 2011, the company sought the SEC’s permission to launch a set of actively-managed equity ETFs, each based on proprietary BlackRock benchmarks.

“If there is a one thing I learned from my past experience at BlackRock, it’s that iShares will succeed by doing what we do best—not by playing on others’ terms,” offers Wiedman. “We are the sole global player competing against regional players in every market. No one can match our global presence, scale, or brand. Capitalising on that unique position is where our future lies.”

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