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How Fund Channel is building an investment marketplace

Pierre-Adrien Domon, asset managersFund Channel CEO Pierre-Adrien Domon and head of business development Régis Veillet consider how fund platforms are evolving to provide best-in-class customer service and bespoke solutions for asset managers.

The European fund distribution landscape has evolved considerably in recent years. Despite the regulatory initiatives such as UCITS and AIFMD, which have facilitated cross-border distribution in Europe, fund markets remain quite complex and challenging areas for asset managers.

In such an environment, fund platforms such as Fund Channel work with fund providers to help reduce operational complexity and facilitate distribution.

Fund Channel and other platforms are crucial in connecting fund buyers and sellers by helping asset managers increase sales, and streamline distribution processes. Platforms are also improving their offering for client distributors with new features such as regulatory reporting, fund data, and flow information. Fund Channel focuses on both sides of the value chain, providing value-added services from smooth trade execution to analytics and market intelligence.

“Our clients like to think of ourselves as a marketplace,” explains Pierre-Adrien Domon, Chief Executive Officer of Fund Channel, a subsidiary of European asset management giant Amundi. “It is an important distinction because a marketplace is where fund sellers can meet fund buyers, and vice versa.”

However, only a few fund platforms can provide the breadth of coverage required by internationally focused asset managers.

Founded in 2005, Luxembourg-headquartered Fund Channel stands out as one of just four key platforms able to provide participants with global coverage and access to over 600 asset managers and 100 distributors.

Fund Channel offers a ‘one-stop shop’ service, providing innovative solutions to facilitate fund distribution, strengthen transparency and improve processes for asset managers and fund distributors.

With a dedicated and experienced relationship management team, Fund Channel offers clients an integrated and automated custody solution that segregates assets and maximises efficiency, creating greater value for asset managers. Meanwhile, its single-entry point for AML/KYC and Distribution due diligences helps to reduce transaction costs and operational risk.

Reducing complexity

As fund platforms help connect fund buyers and sellers, they have become increasingly important in the industry, assisting distributors in navigating the more complex distribution environment in recent years.

“Over the last few years, platforms have succeeded in making distribution easier and simplifying the complexity of the value chain for buyers and sellers,” says Régis Veillet, head of Business Development at Fund Channel.

“This has allowed platforms to capture more than 25% of the distribution of UCITS products, the main cross-border fund type in Europe, and are the fastest-growing fund distribution channel.”

Indeed, European platforms now account for around €3.7 billion in European assets under management, which could grow further in the years to come, says Fund Channel’s head of Business Development, Mr Veillet.

Another significant trend that could fuel further growth of the European platform space is the ongoing move towards open architecture and a greater range of funds and managers to choose from, says Veillet. Open architecture is an area where Fund Channel has been leading and is particularly important as more retail investors start to invest.

But as demand for a broader range of investment choices grows, fund platforms must evolve and grow. And this is where Fund Channel has been focusing.

Régis Veillet

More recently, this has seen further investment as asset servicing banking group CACEIS – co-owned by Crédit Agricole and Santander – announced it would take a 33.3% stake in Fund Channel. This partnership will allow clients to benefit from a more comprehensive offering of fund execution services. Following the deal, Amundi – one of the top global asset managers – will remain the majority shareholder.

The partnership with CACEIS is part of Amundi’s Strategic Ambitions 2025 plan, which aims to grow assets held on Fund Channel from around €330 billion to more than €600 billion by the end of 2025.

“This investment will be one of the levers that help realise these ambitions,” says Fund Channel’s Domon. “It is not just about growing the platform – that would be pointless without having the infrastructure in place to provide strong customer service.”

Strong customer service and top-of-the-range infrastructure is vital for clients and has been instrumental in Fund Channel’s approach in building strategic partnerships.

Fund Channel recently announced a tie-up with ABN AMRO to fully streamline the Dutch bank’s fund distribution services as part of its “one private bank” initiative to harmonise processes and create synergies for its private banks in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France. And in December, Fund Channel partnered with Belgian insurer Athora to act as its fund distribution platform, allowing it to centralise and simplify the management of its distribution activities.

Looking to the future

New investment in the business also allows Fund Channel to continue developing its offering for clients in an increasingly competitive operating environment and in an evolving regulatory landscape.

The marketplace concept, says Veillet, means offering “a whole ecosystem of solutions and services”, whether from Fund Channel or other third-party providers, to help make it as easy as possible for asset managers to distribute their funds.

In 2021, Fund Channel added fund-dealing capabilities to its offering for its clients, including order-routing, execution, and safekeeping services, appointing Jean Vaz as head of its fund-dealing team. As such, Fund Channel has been using cutting-edge technology to add first-class tools and new data-driven solutions for clients.

“Data analytics, for example, is helping asset managers understand what investors are buying,” says Veillet. “And the inclusion of ESG data collection and dissemination services, by Fund Channel, through multiple data providers and asset managers, supports reporting obligations under SFDR and the EU Taxonomy”.

Ongoing innovation and focus on clients’ needs are among the reasons that Fund Channel was ranked best institutional platform by more than 100 asset managers in May 2022, in a survey by the UK-based research firm Platforum. Asset managers specifically praised Fund Channel for its efficient processes, considering the effectiveness and efficiency of all services and systems; value for money, how asset managers evaluate access to distributors and commission-related services; and compliance support, relating to due diligence and advice on legal requirements. The recognition by Platforum is significant, says Domon, as it highlights how strongly we feel about providing excellent customer service and the benefits an asset manager can gain through a strong relationship with the fund platform.

“Distribution is essential in the asset management business,” says Domon, “And third-party distributors such as Fund Channel are the leading and growing force to make fund distribution easier.”

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