Saturday 31st January 2015
NEWS TICKER FRIDAY, JANUARY 30TH: Morningstar has moved the Morningstar Analyst Rating™ of the Fidelity Japan fund to Neutral. The fund was previously Under Review due to a change in management. Prior to being placed Under Review, the fund was rated Neutral. Management of the fund has passed to Hiroyuki Ito - a proven Japanese equity manager, says Morningstar. Ito recently joined Fidelity from Goldman Sachs, where he successfully ran a Japanese equity fund which was positively rated by Morningstar. “At Fidelity, the manager is backed by a large and reasonably experienced analyst team, who enjoy excellent access to senior company management. While we value Mr Ito’s long experience, we are mindful that he may need some further time to establish effective working relationships with the large team of analysts and develop a suitable way of utilising this valuable resource,” says the Morningstar release - The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) today released a list of orders of administrative enforcement actions taken against banks and individuals in December. No administrative hearings are scheduled for February 2015. The FDIC issued a total of 53 orders and one notice. The orders included: five consent orders; 13 removal and prohibition orders; 11 section 19 orders; 15 civil money penalty; nine orders terminating consent orders and cease and desist orders; and one notice. More details are available on its website - Moody's Investors Service has completed a performance review of the UK non-conforming Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS) portfolio. The review shows that the performance of the portfolio has improved as a result of domestic recovery, increasing house prices and continued low interest-rates. Post-2009, the low interest rate environment has benefitted non-conforming borrowers, a market segment resilient to the moderate interest rate rise. Moody's also notes that UK non-conforming RMBS exposure to interest-only (IO) loans has recently diminished as the majority of such loans repaid or refinanced ahead of their maturity date - The London office of Deutsche Bank is being investigated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), according to The Times newspaper. Allegedly, the bank has been placed under ‘enhanced supervision’ by the FCA amid concerns about governance and regulatory controls at the bank. The enhanced supervision order was taken out some months ago, says the report, however it has only just been made public - According to Reuters, London Stock Exchange Group will put Russell Investments on the block next month, after purchasing it last year. LSE reportedly wants $1.4bn - Legg Mason, Inc. has reported net income of $77m for Q3 fiscal 2014, compared with $4.9m in the previous quarter, and net income of $81.7m over the period. In the prior quarter, Legg Mason completed a debt refinancing that resulted in a $107.1m pre-tax charge. Adjusted income for Q3 fiscal was $113.1m compared to $40.6m in the previous quarter and $124.6m in Q3 fiscal. For the current quarter, operating revenues were $719.0m, up 2% from $703.9m in the prior quarter, and were relatively flat compared to $720.1m in Q3 fiscal. Operating expenses were $599.6m, up 5% from $573.5m in the prior quarter, and were relatively flat compared to $598.4min Q3 of fiscal 2014. Assets under management were $709.1bn as the end of December, up 4% from $679.5bn as of December 31, 2013. The Legg Mason board of directors says it has approved a new share repurchase authorisation for up to $1bn of common stock and declared a quarterly cash dividend on its common stock in the amount of $0.16 per share. - The EUR faces a couple of major releases today, says Clear Treasury LLP, and while the single currency has traded higher through the week, the prospect of €60bn per month in QE will likely keep the euro at a low ebb. The bigger picture hasn’t changed, yesterday’s run of German data was worse than expected with year on year inflation declining to -.5% (EU harmonised level). Despite the weak reading the EUR was unperturbed - The Singapore Exchange (SGX) is providing more information to companies and investors in a new comprehensive disclosure guide. Companies wanting clarity on specific principles and guidelines on corporate governance can look to the guide, which has been laid out in a question-and-answer format. SGX said listed companies are encouraged to include the new disclosure guide in their annual reports and comply with the 2012 Code of Corporate Governance, and will have to explain any deviations in their reporting collateral. - Cordea Savills on behalf of its European Commercial Fund has sold Camomile Court, 23 Camomile Street, London for £47.97mto a French pension fund, which has entrusted a real estate mandate to AXA Real Estate. The European Commercial Fund completed its initial investment phase in 2014 at total investment volume of more than €750m invested in 20 properties. Active Asset Management in order to secure a stable distribution of circa 5% a year. which has been achieved since inception of the fund is the main focus of the Fund Management now. Gerhard Lehner, head of portfolio management, Germany, at Cordea Savills says “With the sale of this property the fund is realising a value gain of more than 40%. This is the fruit of active Asset Management but does also anticipate future rental growth perspectives. For the reinvestment of the returned equity we have already identified suitable core office properties.” Meantime, Kiran Patel, chief investment officer at Cordea Savills adds: “The sale of Camomile Court adds to the £370m portfolio disposal early in the year. Together with a number of other asset sales, our total UK transaction activity since January stands at £450m. At this stage of the cycle, we believe there is merit in banking performance and taking advantage of some of the strong demand for assets in the market.” - US bourses closed higher last night thanks to much stronger Jobless Claims data (14yr low) which outweighed mixed earnings results. Overnight, Asian bourses taken positive lead from US, even as Bank of Japan data shows that inflation is still falling, consumption in shrinking and manufacturing output is just under expectations. According to Michael van Dulken at Accendo Markets, “Japan’s Nikkei [has been] helped by existing stimulus and weaker JPY. In Australia, the ASX higher as the AUD weakened following producer price inflation adding to expectations of an interest rate cut by the RBA, following other central banks recently reacting to low inflation. Chinese shares down again ahead of a manufacturing report.” - Natixis has just announced the closing of the debt financing for Seabras-1, a new subsea fiber optic cable system between the commercial and financial centers of Brazil and the United States. The global amount of debt at approximately $270m was provided on a fully-underwritten basis by Natixis -

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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