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Magazine Issues » September 2020

MENA roundtable: Dimensions of diversification

Funds Global Mena – From an overall investment perspective, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the next 12-18 months?

Mallah – There won’t be upside across the board, so in that sense there is going to be a big difference by asset class and within asset classes by sectors. Therein lies a big opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves in terms of our allocation and how we go about concentrating some of our risk in certain areas versus others. But generally, I don’t see this as being a positive 12-18 months for the global economy. Typically, if we believe that markets make any sense, eventually they will want to converge with that kind of perspective. There are going to be a lot of inefficiencies, and within those inefficiencies there is a great amount of opportunity.

Dickinson – I am cautiously optimistic. The next six months are going to be extremely tough for the region, particularly when taken in the African context, but the one thing that this virus has done is shake up business practices – and some of them for the better. I echo the sentiment around the client being able to access the people they need to at this time – that really sums it up and is one of the good outcomes from this pandemic.

Grist – Like Scott, I am ‘cautiously optimistic’, because it comes with caveats and clear risk and uncertainty. Our most likely scenario is a swoosh-style recovery – a sharpish rebound followed by a gradual growth trajectory, with a full recovery taking time. It is not going to be blanket across geographies, sectors and across asset classes, there will be opportunities for investors.

Duke – I see an opportunity through displacement of others, particularly if you can get your ESG credentials established and are able to offer other services outside of mutual funds. That includes asset management as a service and things that investors are telling us they want, but not necessarily packaged in the traditional way.

Economically there are many challenges ahead in the next 12-18 months, both here and globally. There is a disconnect between fundamental data and what is actually happening in stock markets, so unfortunately at an individual and country level, until you have a vaccine and are able to plot a clear path to recovery, it’s difficult to see how you can repair some of the economic damage that’s been created.

Stull – I am also cautiously optimistic. I am optimistic that there will continue to be legal reform and there will continue to be some opening up and potential introduction of some regulations that are more flexible, or more transparent. I see opportunities, but it’s not good for everybody. If they are sitting on dry powder, there will be opportunities to be had and deals to be done.

Talhaoui – Life is full of surprises, so we need to be relatively humble with regards to what can happen one way or the other. Having said that, I would say that as much as the monetary response globally has been coordinated, the fiscal response is very different from one country to another. That’s going to create dislocations. You can already see dislocations at the sector levels, you have some companies that are winners, some that are losers, and that is a pattern that will persist. The access to capital is going to be limited structurally for some firms, not for others, so you are going to have a lot of shifts and differentiations that are going to be increasing.

Regarding the ability to operate in the region, the vast majority of our clients are long-term investors, which means that in practice we haven’t seen a lot of changes. Even when you look at the dynamics of flows, it was more the mutual fund side that led volatile flows. Institutional investors have been quite steady and as a result, we are seeing that with our institutional investors, it is business as usual – at least for the next six to 12 months.

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