- Fe awards
As was highlighted at last month’s Jersey Finance Annual London Funds Conference, for which Funds Europe was a media partner, 2015 proved to be another strong year for Jersey’s funds industry, with business flows suggesting that the international funds community continues to respond well to Jersey’s approach to market developments.
Nathan Travell of Milestone Group examines the rise of multi-asset investment solutions and the need to break down the operating silos that constrain efficient delivery within institutions.
Erik Rubingh, head of systematic strategies at BMO Global Asset Management, discusses the benefits of style-based investing and its potential application for absolute returns.
Paul North, head of product management EMEA at BNY Mellon, looks at how custodians and service providers are responding to margining rules set to come into force this year.
Ligia Torres, head of emerging markets at BNP Paribas Investment Partners, discusses her firm’s core philosophy and investment strategies.
How does BNP Paribas Investment Partners approach emerging markets?
We firmly believe that consistent performance in emerging markets can only be achieved by having investment professionals based in those markets. Because our business model is not only to cover global clients, but most importantly to grow and service our domestic clients based in those jurisdictions, our business philosophy is much more locally focused.
How have emerging markets changed?
Emerging markets in the past had many similarities: poor foreign exchange reserves, large external debt, and some of the currencies were pegged to the dollar. Their debt was in dollars, there were high levels of inflation and their monetary and fiscal policies were poor, all of which translated into multiple crises. However, various countries have implemented reforms, such as de-pegging their currency from the dollar, deleveraging from dollar debt into local currencies and they were benefiting from growth. The search for yield brought international inflows and started to build foreign exchange reserves. Nowadays some emerging economies are stronger than their European counterparts.
What is the most widely held misconception about emerging markets?
That all emerging markets are the same. Nothing could be further from the truth, and this is even more the case these days. The international outflows from emerging markets that took place during recent years is largely attributed to investors treating all emerging markets in the same way. Just as there are emerging markets that should be avoided, there are also emerging markets that offer great value at present. In order to really understand emerging markets, you need to be on the ground
Which emerging market region is the most attractive?
The growth of Asian economies, even with a Chinese slowdown, will still be around 4.5%; you don’t have that level of growth in the Americas or Europe. If you need to invest, our view is Asia offers favourable, risk-adjusted returns.
What separates BNP Paribas Investment Partners from its international competitors?
We are in 16 countries and have the largest investment footprint on the ground of any asset manager covering emerging markets. We believe it is essential to be on the ground to bring value to clients.
At BNP Paribas Investment Partners, we adopt a three-dimensional approach. Selling local products to local clients, that’s the core of our business, and from there we can export products to international clients. The third dimension is to import global products such as European equities, for instance, into local emerging markets. Many global players only offer one of these dimensions, which makes them very vulnerable to short-term flows. Our asset base has been steadily growing over the past years as a result of the diversity of the business.
What’s the strategy going forward?
We will continue our strategy of building a strong domestic client base relying on high-quality local investment teams. This will enable us to be in an excellent position to capture the double-digit growth of local ‘investment savings’ through the distribution of our global products when some of these markets will open up. In addition, we will continue to offer our on-the-ground emerging markets expertise to global investors. After the past years of international investors withdrawing money from the developing world, we see them increasingly acknowledging the current opportunities in emerging markets.
Adeline Ng, head of Asia fixed income at BNP Paribas Investment Partners, sees positive fundamentals in the region’s bond markets.
Why should European investors consider Asia Fixed Income for their portfolio allocation?
The low interest rate environment is impacting the attractiveness of European fixed income instruments. This environment has prevailed since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). The current backdrop has the European Central Bank (ECB) committed to Quantitative Easing (QE) measures and various countries are cutting interest rates, so easy monetary conditions and low yields look likely to continue. The quest for yield has meant that European investors have had to explore outside the European fixed income universe. In the past, they would have done so in emerging markets but for two or three years, news flows have been negative. If an investor goes by fundamentals, they find that Asia ex-Japan’s growth is around the 6% level and Asia has been a beneficiary of the decline in oil prices, policies flexibility and stronger growth.
How about credit quality and default rate?
In the past 18 months, Asia enjoyed a stable to positive rating outcome, compared to developed economies and other emerging economies that were subject to downgrades. Currently, in the Asia universe, almost 80% of issuers have investment grade status. According to Fitch’s study on corporates from 1990 to 2014, Asia is the only regional block that had a zero default rate in its investment grade universe. In the high-yield space, we will close the year a touch below 3%. Historically Asia has a lower default rate in high-yield than other emerging markets: in 2003-05, 2007 and 2011, it was zero.
Given broad emerging market volatility, what differentiates Asia from its peers?
Its better growth rate, despite the global growth moderation. Also, its growth contribution is around 50% of global emerging market GDP. The defining line is in policy flexibility. This year, you’ve had rate cuts in Thailand, China, Korea, India and Taiwan, but real interest rates is still around the 5% level, adjusting for inflationary pressure, which means you still have room to cut.
Fiscal policy is also important: government debt and fiscal deficits are lower compared to both developed and broad emerging markets. This gives governments room to spend. There has been some spending in China and South Korea but by and large, you don’t have significant government spending across Asia.
Are you worried about the slowdown in China?
China’s slowdown was well guided in advance. The government had already hinted the new normal was 7%. The IMF’s forecast was for 6.5% -7%. The People’s Bank of China has been proactive in using various means of boosting liquidity via cutting lending benchmark rates, reserve requirement ratio and standing lending facility to cushion the growth moderation. China is also adopting a ‘pro-active’ stance in its fiscal policy: given its low government debt and high FX reserves, it has significant room on spending. Volatility in equities and currency may dampen sentiment but does not remove this flexibility.
What is the outlook for Asia credit bond markets?
Asia has positive fundamentals. Asian bonds give you 60-80 bps above their US and European investment grade counterparts, which are trading below their long-term average; Asian bond valuation are slightly higher than their long-term average. On the valuation angle, Asian bonds look reasonable. In terms of risk factors, oil spikes are unlikely to derail the situation. We also monitor currency, but finance ministers at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting re-affirmed their commitment to refrain from competitive devaluation and resist protectionism.