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Money managers under the microscope

from Global Investing:

EM growth is passport out of West’s mess but has a price, says “Mr BRIC”

Anyone worried about Greece and the potential impact of the euro debt crisis on the world economy should have a chat with Jim O'Neill. O'Neill, the head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management ten years ago coined the BRIC acronym to describe the four biggest emerging economies and perhaps understandably, he is not too perturbed by the outcome of the Greek crisis. Speaking at a recent conference, the man who is often called Mr BRIC, pointed out that China's economy is growing by $1 trillion a year  and that means it is adding the equivalent of a Greece every 4 months. And what if the market turns its guns on Italy, a far larger economy than Greece?  Italy's economy was surpassed in size last year by Brazil, another of the BRICs, O'Neill counters, adding:

"How Italy plays out will be important but people should not exaggerate its global importance.  In the next 12 months the four BRICs will create the equivalent of another Italy."

Emerging economies are cooling now after years of turbo-charged growth. But according to O'Neill, even then they are growing enough to allow the global economy to expand at 4-4.5 percent,  a faster clip than much of the past 30 years. Trade data for last year will soon show that Germany for the first time exported more goods to the four BRICs than to neighbouring France, he said.

"Post-crisis, these countries will be our passport out of this mess."

But there has to be a payoff for this kind of increased financial clout, he warns. Developing countries are increasingly disgruntled about the the richer world's strangehold on global policies via the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and most have responded coolly to the call for additional funds for the IMF which is fighting to stem the euro zone malaise. An attempt last year to install a representative of the developing world at the helm of the IMF for the first time ever fell apart, with Europe retaining the position. But emerging countries could make a bid for the World Bank chief's position this year, a position traditionally held by a U.S. citizen. O'Neill said the West had to bow to the new reality:

LIPPER: Equine vs equity investing

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Is betting on horses very different from picking stocks? Can understanding a gambler’s approach and mentality give a better understanding of fund managers?

In searching for answers to these questions, I spoke to Paul Moulton, a professional gambler who originally worked in the fund management industry. He then set up a fund research company (Fitzrovia International, which he eventually sold to Reuters), although his working life began with an attempt to become a professional chess player.

LIPPER: Are ETFs in trouble?

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By Detlef Glow,  Head of EMEA Research at Thomson Reuters fund research firm Lipper. The views expressed are his own.

Exchange traded funds (ETFs) have found themselves under ever more scrutiny from regulators and market participants this year and expectations are that new rules for the sector are just a matter of time.

from Global Investing:

What if the euro collapses?

Even after the EU summit last weekend, asset managers seem not to have completely dismissed the idea of a possible euro zone breakup.

A closely-watched survey from Bank of America Merrill Lynch out on Tuesday showed a near 50-50 split among fund managers expecting a country possibly leaving the 17-member currency bloc.

GLG: Italy and Greece deserve a central bank

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Guest contributors Bart Turtelboom and Karim Abdel-Motaal run the Emerging Market strategy at Man GLG. The views expressed are their own.

History is written by the victors. That is what emerging markets discovered after their currency crises of the 1990s, and it is what will happen when the annals of the euro crisis are compiled. Treatment of this crisis has varied, but in all its forms the basic premise is already set: Germany and the world are the undeserving victims of Peripheral European excess.  The Periphery spent and borrowed too much causing the current crisis.  Add to this the cultural imagery of Greek pensioners retiring at the tender age of 55 on exotic Aegean islands at German savers’ expense and the colourful chapter on this historical saga is written.

GCC fund firms face structural flaws: Lipper

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By Dunny P. Moonesawmy, Head of Fund Research for Lipper in Western Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The views expressed are his own.

Spare a thought for the fund managers trying to make their business work in the Middle East and north Africa (MENA) this year.

Absolutely Fabulous?

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Among the side-effects of the financial crisis, the importance for European wealth managers and other intermediaries of both managing investors’ expectations and understanding fully what those expectations are, has been underlined.

This is not entirely new. The rise of absolute return products largely reflects intermediaries’ efforts to deal directly with client expectations that, for many, have taken a severe blow. It is worth looking back at the level of inflows to funds seeking absolute returns before and after 2008 (the nadir for the industry in terms of sales activity) to see how this has evolved.

from Global Investing:

We’re all in the same boat

The withering complexity of a four-year-old global financial crisis -- in the euro zone, United States or increasingly in China and across the faster-growing developing world -- is now stretching the minds and patience of even the most clued-in experts and commentators. Unsurprisingly, the average householder is perplexed, increasingly anxious and keen on a simpler narrative they can rally around or rail against. It's fast becoming a fertile environment for half-baked conspiracy theories, apocalypse preaching and no little political opportunism. And, as ever, a tempting electoral ploy is to convince the public there's some magic national solution to problems way beyond borders.

For a populace fearful of seemingly inextricable connections to a wider world they can't control, it's not difficult to see the lure of petty nationalism, protectionism and isolationism. Just witness national debates on the crisis in Britain, Germany, Greece or Ireland and they are all starting to tilt toward some idea that everyone may be better off on their own -- outside a flawed single currency in the case of Germany, Greece and Ireland and even outside the European Union in the case of some lobby groups in Britain. But it's not just a debate about a European future, the U.S.  Senate next week plans to vote on legisation to crack down on Chinese trade due to currency pegging despite the interdependency of the two economies.  And there's no shortage of voices saying China should somehow stand aloof from the Western financial crisis, even though its spectacular economic ascent over the past decade was gained largely on the back of U.S. and European demand.

Envy, desire and basis points

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I would like to tell you a story. It’s one about the tempestuous relationship between fund managers and their investors, a tale of envy, desire and basis point negotiations. You may have spotted by now that this is not the plot for this season’s latest blockbuster.

My story has recently gained a little extra spice with two old-fashioned heroes riding into view. One from the West – Omaha - and the other from the East - well, his father hailed from Russia – with both willing to make a little less money in order to help their fellow citizens. Warren Buffett and Stuart Rose are not alone; others in France and Germany are also saddling up. These horsemen seem to be heading in the opposite direction from those in the European funds industry.

Luke Ellis: 2011 volatility is no repeat of hedge funds’ tough 2008

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Guest blogger Luke Ellis is head of the multi-manager business at Man Group, the world’s largest listed hedge fund manager.

The views expressed here are entirely the author’s own and do not constitute Reuters’ point of view.

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