Saturday 30th April 2016
NEWS TICKER: Central bank policy is still dominating the trading agenda, even though most analysts believe that the Fed will, if it does move, move only once this year and will raise rates by a quarter of a percent. The statement of the US FOMC was terse and most likely signals extreme caution on its part, though there is a belief that hawkish voices are rising in the committee. The reality is though that the US economic growth story is slowing. Many think the June meeting will spark the uplift. Let’s see. The US dollar is continuing to lose ground across the board after data showed the US economy expanded at its slowest pace since the second quarter of 2009, according to the BEA, which FTSE Global Markets reported on last Friday. GDP increased at a 0.5% annualised rate - versus an expected 0.7% - after rising 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2015 as personal consumption failed to boost growth in spite of low gasoline prices. Central bank caution makes sense in that context, however timing will be sensitive. If the central bank moves in the autumn it threatens to unbutton the presidential elections; but the reality is that mixed data will emanate from the US over this quarter which will make a June decision difficult. It’s tough being an FOMC member right now. The Bank of Japan meanwhile signalled its intention to stay the course this week with current policy, which discombobulated the markets. The Japanese markets were closed today for a public holiday, so it won’t be entirely clear if the market will suffer for the central bank’s decision. Certainly if fell 3.61% yesterday and is down 5% on the week. so the omens aren’t great. Of course, the pattern that is well established of late is that as the market falls, the yen appreciates. The yen was trading at 107.14 against the dollar last time we looked, compared with 108 earlier in the session, having at times touched 111/$1 yesterday (the lowest point for more than 18 months) The month to date has seen a rise in both the short term and long term volatility gauges. Coinciding with the rise, Nikkei 225 Index Structured Warrant activity has also significantly picked up. Nikkei 225 Structured Warrants showed increased activity with daily averaged traded value up 33% month-on-month. The Nikkei 225 Index Structured Warrants had significant increase in trading activity year-on-year with total turnover up by 6.8 times. – ASIAN TRADING SESSION - Australia's ASX 200 reversed early losses to close up 26.77 points, or 0.51%, at 5,252.20, adding 0.3% for the week. The uptick today was driven by gains in the heavily-weighted financials sub-index, as well as the energy and materials sub-indexes. In South Korea, the Kospi finished down 6.78 points, or 0.34%, at 1,994.15, while in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 1.37%. Chinese mainland markets were mixed, with the Shanghai composite dropping 7.13 points, or 0.24 percent, at 2,938.45, while the Shenzhen composite finished nearly flat. The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 12.42 points or 0.43% lower to 2862.3, taking the year-to-date performance to -0.71%. The top active stocks today were SingTel, which gained 0.26%, DBS, which declined 1.03%, NOL, which gained closed unchanged, OCBC Bank, which declined 1.00% and CapitaLand, with a 0.63% fall. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained 0.60%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index rose 0.49%. Structured warrants on Asian Indices have continued to be active in April. YTD, the STI has generated a total return of 1.3%. This compares to a decline of 4.9% for the Nikkei 225 Index and a decline of 6.3% of the Hang Seng Index. Of the structured warrants available on Asian Indices, the Hang Seng Index Structured Warrants have remained the most active in the year to date with Structured Warrants on the Nikkei 225 Index and STI Index the next most active – FUND FLOWS – BAML reports that commodity fund flows went back to positive territory after taking a breather last week, supported again by inflows into gold funds. “The asset class is currently the best performer, with year to date % of AUM inflow at 15%, far ahead of all other asset classes. Global EM debt flows reflected the bullish turn of the market on EMs, recording the tenth consecutive week of positive flows. On the duration front, short-term funds recorded a marginal inflow, keeping a positive sign for the last four weeks. The mid-term IG funds continue to record strong inflows for a ninth week. But it looks like investors have started to embrace duration to reach for yield, as inflows into longer-term funds have recorded a cumulative 0.8% inflow in the past two weeks,” says the BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research team – GREEN BONDS - Banco Nacional de Costa Rica is the latest issuer with a $500m bond to finance wind, solar, hydro and wastewater projects. The bond has a coupon of 5.875% and matures on April 25th 2021. Banco Nacional will rely on Costa Rican environmental protection regulations to determine eligible projects. This is the fourth green bond issuance in Latin America, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI). Actually, Costa Rica is one of the global leaders in terms of renewable energy use. In the first quarter of 2016 it sourced 97.14% of its power from renewables. Hydro's share alone was 65.62%. – SOVEREIGN DEBT - After coming to market with a 100 year bond last week, the Kingdom of Belgium (rated Aa3/AA/AA) has opened books on a dual tranche bond; the first maturing in seven years; the second in 50 years, in a deal managed by Barclays, Credit Agricole, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Natixis and Société Générale. Managers have marketed the October 22nd 2023 tranche at 11 basis points (bps) through mid-swaps and the June 22nd 2066 tranche in the high teens over the mid of the 1.75% 2066 French OAT – LONGEVITY REINSURANCE - Prudential Retirement Insurance and Annuity Company (PRIAC) and U.K. insurer Legal & General say they have just completed their third longevity reinsurance transaction together, further evidence that longevity reinsurance continues to be a vehicle for UK insurers seeking relief from pension liabilities exposed to longevity risk. “This latest transaction builds on our relationship with Legal & General and solidifies the platform from which future business can be written,” explains Bill McCloskey, vice president, Longevity Risk Transfer at Prudential Retirement. “It's also a testament to our experience in the reinsurance space and our capacity to support the growth of the U.K. longevity risk transfer market.” Under the terms of the new agreement, PRIAC will issue reinsurance for a portion of Legal & General's bulk annuity business, providing benefit security for thousands of retirees in the UK. PRIAC has completed three reinsurance transactions with Legal & General since October 2014 – VIETNAM - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services has affirmed its 'BB-' long-term and 'B' short-term sovereign credit ratings on Vietnam. The outlook is stable. At the same time, we affirmed our 'axBB+/axB' ASEAN regional scale rating on Vietnam. The ratings, says S&P, reflect the country's lower middle-income, rising debt burden, banking sector weakness, and the country's emerging institutional settings that hamper policy responsiveness. Even so, the ratings agency acknowledges these strengths are offset by Vietnam's sound external settings that feature adequate foreign exchange reserves and a modest external debt burden. The country has a lower middle income but comparatively diversified economy. S&P estimates GDP per capita at about US$2,200 in 2016. “Recent improvements in macroeconomic stability have supported strong performance in the sizable foreign-owned and export-focused manufacturing sector (electronics, telephones, and clothing). This strength will likely be offset by weaker domestic activity as the impetus to growth stemming from low household and company sector leverage is hampered by weak banks and government enterprises, and shortfalls in infrastructure. We expect real GDP per capita growth to rise by 5.3% in 2016 (2015: 5.6%) and average 5.2% over 2016-2019, reflecting modest outlooks for Vietnam's trading partners. Uncertain conditions in export markets and the slow pace in addressing government enterprise reforms, fiscal consolidation, and banking sector resolution add downside risks to this growth outlook – RUSSIA - Russia's central bank held interest rates steady at 11% today, in line with expectations, although it hinted that if inflation kept on falling it would cut soon. Last month, the bank held rates steady, warning that inflation risks remained "high" and that the then oil price rise could be "unsustainable." However, the decision came at a time of renewed hope for Russia's beleaguered economy and the country's oil industry with commodity prices showing tentative signs of recovery. The central bank noted that it "sees the positive processes of inflation slowdown and inflation expectations decline, as well as shifts in the economy which anticipate the beginning of its recovery growth. At the same time, inflation risks remain elevated." Yann Quelenn, market analyst at Swissquote explains: "The ruble has continued to appreciate ever since it reached its all-time low against the dollar in early January. At that time, more than 82 ruble could be exchanged for a single dollar note. Now, the USDRUB has weakened below 65 and even more upside pressures on the currency continue as the rebound in oil prices persists. The outlook for Russian oil revenues is more positive despite the global supply glut. Expectations for increased oil demand over the coming years and the fear of peak oil are driving the black commodity’s prices higher – MARKET DATA RELEASES TODAY - Other data that analysts will be looking out for today include Turkey’s trade balance; GDP from Spain; the unemployment rate from Norway; mortgage approvals from UK; CPI and GDP from the eurozone; CPI from Italy; and South Africa’s trade balance – FTSE GLOBAL MARKETS – Our offices will be closed on Monday, May 2ndt. We wish our readers and clients a happy and restful May bank holiday and we look forward to reconnecting on Tuesday May 3rd. Happy Holidays!

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Raising the stakes in fund administration

Wednesday, 08 February 2012
Raising the stakes in fund administration The financial crisis has created new business opportunities for European fund administrators, the green eye-shade bean counters who crank out valuations and account balances for everything from UCITS-qualified mutual funds to hedge funds and private equity vehicles. Lower market values have clipped asset managers’ revenue, forcing them to re-examine costs and focus on their highest value-added skills in research, trading and portfolio management. They are hiring fund administrators to take over middle office tasks, including risk management reporting and compliance, which used to be handled in-house but were never the managers’ core competency. It’s a win for both sides: the managers get an essential service at lower cost thanks to the administrators’ economies of scale, while the administrators book incremental revenue at higher margins than their core business, reports Neil O'Hara. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/media/k2/items/cache/1fcc20496540a7e06827d47c4b246d7d_XL.jpg

The financial crisis has created new business opportunities for European fund administrators, the green eye-shade bean counters who crank out valuations and account balances for everything from UCITS-qualified mutual funds to hedge funds and private equity vehicles. Lower market values have clipped asset managers’ revenue, forcing them to re-examine costs and focus on their highest value-added skills in research, trading and portfolio management. They are hiring fund administrators to take over middle office tasks, including risk management reporting and compliance, which used to be handled in-house but were never the managers’ core competency. It’s a win for both sides: the managers get an essential service at lower cost thanks to the administrators’ economies of scale, while the administrators book incremental revenue at higher margins than their core business, reports Neil O'Hara.

Clients are demanding more from administrators in their traditional role. Philippe Ricard, head of asset and fund services at BNP Paribas Securities Services, says investors and managers now insist on independent pricing of OTC derivatives and other illiquid securities. Valuations have become more frequent, particularly for managers that have launched UCITS-qualified funds employing investment strategies similar to their principal hedge funds.
As a result, BNP Paribas built ample processing capacity and has long been able to handle short positions as well as long.  “The incremental cost of higher volume is very limited because of our design,” says Ricard, who notes that other fund administrators may not be so fortunate.
The cost varies among clients depending on their own systems capabilities, too. If a manager uses a distributor that cannot send subscription and redemption information electronically, or the client does not use BNP Paribas’s tools for work flow, then the administrator bears higher costs for which it will charge—provided the market is receptive. “It is important to create incentives for efficiency,” says Ricard.  “I will offer the best rate for an efficient client, one willing to improve with us. For a less efficient client, I will provide a fee structure that shows the difference between what it pays now and what it could pay if it were more efficient.”
Administrators are no longer prepared to absorb the incremental costs of more frequent valuations, greater transparency, independent pricing verification and other services that have increased their workload. The bundled pricing of yore has given way to a menu of services from which clients can choose what meets their particular needs.
“When a client says it wants to go from weekly to daily pricing, the answer is, ‘Of course, but there is a cost implication’,” says Hans Hufschmid, chief executive officer of GlobeOp, a fund administrator that handles $173bn of fund assets worldwide.  “All the administrators are becoming more disciplined about pricing.”
While clients and investors have driven most recent changes, the European fund management industry also faces a slew of new regulations that will take effect over the next few years. The new rules typically do not apply to administrators per se, but the proposed rules will affect their clients. In early January, for example, BNY Mellon hosted a workshop on the EU Solvency II insurance regulations in London—and found the session jammed with fund managers, who do not normally attend such events.
“Managers want to understand what data the insurance companies will demand from them,” says Frank Froud, head of EMEA, BNY Mellon Asset Servicing in London.  At the time of going to press, Froud was in the last stages of his tenure in this role at the bank. His role has now been assumed by Hani Kablawi, the bank’s Middle East expert.
“When the companies have worked out what they need, the managers will ask us for detailed solutions,” says Froud. The job is tailor-made for fund administrators, who have enormous capacity to manage and massage wholesale data and deliver the results in whatever format their clients, or regulators, require.
The regulatory onslaught includes UCITS IV and the proposed Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD), which Anne Deegan, managing director of SEI Investments Trustee & Custodial Services (Ireland), expects to ramp-up demand for risk management reporting. SEI, which has $250bn under administration worldwide including $60bn in Dublin, has a deep commitment to technology that gives the firm a competitive edge. “We need to offer clients timely risk–management reporting so that they can comply with AIFMD,” says Deegan. “We are keeping a close watch on that.” UCITS IV tightened up corporate governance for funds, including a requirement for close monitoring of OTC derivatives—and managers have asked their administrators to generate those risk reports, too.
Administrators are paying more attention to corporate governance in the aftermath of a recent Cayman Islands judgement that held two fund directors personally liable for $111m of losses at the Weavering Macro Fixed Income Fund. The case highlighted the risk for directors who serve in name only on multiple funds and routinely rubber-stamp fund documents presented to them without review. It emphasised the importance of maintaining proper books and records, too. “Administrators will have conversations with fund boards of directors to ensure there is clarity about what services are and are not being provided,” says Deegan. “It will require more monitoring of governance on our part.”
AIFMD as currently proposed would also impose a fiduciary duty on custodians to supervise not only their sub-custodians but even the types of instruments and markets in which their clients invest, a requirement that could extend to regulated funds under UCITS V. In effect, the rule would import the European depot bank model into the Anglo-Saxon world—and pricing would have to reflect the enhanced business risk.  “On a day-to-day, transaction-by-transaction basis, we will have to exercise oversight,” Froud says. “If that risk is transferred to the investment services organisations instead of the fund managers, we have to tool up for that and be rewarded for it.”
Like all EU directives, UCITS V and the AIFMD will be subject to local interpretation when each member state enacts legislation to implement the directive. The directive language could change, too—the custody banks are lobbying hard to eliminate or water down the fiduciary obligations—but William Slattery, head of European offshore domiciles at State Street Corporation, worries that in its current form the directive could ratchet-up systemic risk.
Slattery is responsible for a business that administers $600bn—half in regulated funds and half hedge funds—in Dublin, and another $350bn of regulated funds in Luxembourg. He points out that if depositaries are held liable they may feel compelled to require clients to abandon a particular market at the first sign of trouble, whether it is the financial distress of a local sub-custodian or a political threat to the legal environment. The herd mentality almost guarantees that if one leading player pulls the plug, others will follow—triggering a stampede for the exits.
“It could create serious systemic instability in either individual or multiple markets,” says Slattery. “Almost no economy is spared the potential threat.”
The markets have a poor track record of evaluating events that are highly improbable but devastating, which are almost always underpriced relative to the havoc they cause. Black Swan events occur in the financial markets with a frequency that belies their statistical probability, too. “They are only supposed to happen once in 1,000 years,” observes Slattery, “but we have had 1987, 1994, 1998, 2000 and 2008.”
Unlike State Street and BNY Mellon, GlobeOp is not a custodian and would not be directly affected by the proposed fiduciary liability. Nevertheless, the firm has a well-deserved reputation for being able to handle OTC derivatives and other complex investment products, a skill that has attracted sophisticated clients whose investment strategies rely on these esoteric instruments. Hufschmid dismisses the very notion that custodians could take fiduciary responsibility for hedge funds. “Administrators can perhaps ensure that instruments and assets are priced independently, that reconciliations are independent and so on,” he says. “It is one thing to take on fiduciary responsibility if you can monitor it completely, but it is naïve to think a custodian bank can supervise a hedge fund.”
The ability to handle anything a hedge fund wants to trade comes at a price to the client: GlobeOp fees run about 12basis points (bps) on average, compared to the industry norm of 6bps-7bps. Net margins are nowhere near double those of its competitors, however; the cost of administering complex instruments is higher than average and Hufschmid says the firm’s clients are “very demanding—the most demanding set of clients you can imagine in any industry anywhere.” The forthcoming shift to central clearing of most OTC derivatives will have a disproportionate impact on GlobeOp relative to its competitors but Hufschmid does not foresee any difficulty in making the transition. GlobeOp already uses DTCC’s matching service for credit derivatives trades, which operates like a clearing house but without the central counterparty guarantee. “One of our core competencies is fully functioning data pipes to all the different service providers: data vendors, exchanges and other trading venues,” says Hufschmid. “It will be just another pipe for us.”
All the major players are preparing for central clearing of OTC derivatives, of course. Clive Bellows, country head, Ireland, at Northern Trust, which administers about $300bn in assets in Europe, has clients who expect clearing to go live during the fourth quarter of 2012—and he will be ready to support them. It requires a significant incremental investment in technology to handle the substitution of a central counterparty, but it also simplifies valuation and improves transparency. “It’s a fantastic idea. It will solve a lot of the issues surrounding OTC derivatives,” says Bellows. “It will go a long way to commoditising the funds that invest in derivatives and make it easier for fund administrators to move up the value chain.”

The ever-increasing demands for technology capacity and capability tilt the playing field in favour of large administrators who already operate on a global basis. The required investment is driving industry consolidation, too. For example, Northern Trust bought Bank of Ireland’s security services business last year, which added $100bn in assets and the ability to service exchange-traded funds. The business was sound—clients have begged Northern Trust not to alter the legacy client service ethos—but lacked scale, and the Bank of Ireland no longer had the balance sheet strength to support it.
Northern Trust also bolstered its ability to service hedge funds when it picked up Omnium, a $70bn administrator that was sold by Citadel, a Chicago-based hedge fund. “The bigger providers who already have good technology in place, the resources to continue to invest and a strong balance sheet, will be the winners,” says Bellows.
Acquisitions have become the easiest way to bring in new clients in the current environment. The more middle office functions fund administrators perform, the deeper they are embedded in clients’ infrastructure and the harder it is for clients to contemplate a change. “A huge amount of our growth does come from our existing clients,” says Bellows. “Without a doubt, the number of managers looking to change providers has decreased. It is done only as a matter of last resort.” In fact, the best new client opportunities do not even originate in Europe: they are non-EU fund managers seeking to set up UCITS funds in Europe—which is why Bellows’ sales team now pitches primarily to managers in the United States and Asia.
In today’s European fund administration market, the global leaders stand to inherit the earth—and the meek to be swallowed whole.

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