Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

from Global Investing:

BRIC: Brilliant/Ridiculous Investment Concept

BRIC is Brazil, Russia, India, China -- the acronym coined by Goldman Sachs banker Jim O'Neill 10 years back to describe the world's biggest, fastest-growing and most important emerging markets.  But according to Albert Edwards, Societe Generale's uber-bearish strategist, it also stands for Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept. Some investors, licking their wounds due to BRIC markets' underperformance in 2011 and 2010, might be inclined to agree -- stocks in all four countries have performed worse this year than the broader emerging markets equity index, to say nothing of developed world equities.

For years, money has chased BRIC investments, tempted by the countries' fast growth, huge populations and explosive consumer hunger for goods and services. But Edwards cites research showing little correlation between growth and investment returns. He points out that Chinese nominal GDP growth may have averaged 15.6 percent  since 1993 but the compounded  return on equity investments was minus 3.3 percent.

But economic growth -- the BRIC holy grail -- is also now slowing. Data showed this week that Brazil posted zero growth in the third quarter of 2011 compared to last year's 7.5 percent. Indian growth is  at the weakest in over two years. In Russia, rising discontent with the Kremlin -- reflected in post-election protests -- carries the risk of hitting the broader economy. And China, facing falling exports to a moribund Western world,  is also bound to slow. Edwards goes a step further and flags a hard landing in China as the biggest potential investment shock of 2012.  "Yet investors persist in the BRIC superior growth fantasy...If growth does matter to investors, they should be worried that
things seem to be slowing sharply in the BRIC universe," he writes.

Thomson Reuters data earlier this year appeared to show some disenchantment with the BRIC concept. After rising 1600-fold between 2003 and 2007, assets in BRIC funds had shrunk to $28 billion by August 2011, almost a quarter below 2007 peaks, a bigger fall in percentage terms than most other fund categories.

from Funds Hub:

Here’s lookin’ at you KIID

The vexing question of how much to tell retail investors about what exactly they are buying has been exercising industry participants at the Reuters European Funds Summit. Although the sentiment is for more transparency and simplicity, as exemplified by the EU's new two page marketing document, some managers feel this won't fully reflect the risks and processes involved in a product.

The Key Investor Information Document (KIID), to be rolled out under UCITS IV, will replace the little loved "simplified" prospectus as the primary document via which fund promoters communicate with prospective clients - something that makes some managers very uneasy.

Everyone needs a private banker

- Everyone needs a private banker. Full service means exactly that for one speaker at the Reuters Wealth Management Summit. The ’normal’ range of extras that wealth managers are offering super-rich clients under the banner Lifestyle Management has expanded as they scramble to keep on board clients whose massive wealth was rendered a little less massive during the financial crisis.   Citigroup’s private banking arm keeps an art curator on staff to make sure clients don’t overspend at auctions and maximise the value of their collection – it’s a real problem apparently.   But one of the smaller banks represented at the summit goes a lot further than that. “We do pretty much whatever they want.” On further investigation this stops short of walking the dogs but it does include managing fleets of vehicles, relocation for tax exiles, school selection for the rich in-waiting, wine cellar stocking, art advice (of course) and payroll services for the hired help.   But what was the most unusual request he has ever had from a client? “We were once asked pick up some strange medication and we organised the redecoration of the interior of a private jet in questionable taste,” said one private banker. He wouldn’t say any more, but some might think that was too much detail already.

Tax evaders on the run

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  By Neil Chatterjee
    The U.S. has promised it will hunt down tax evaders.
    And it seems tax evaders are on the run.
    DBS bank, based in the growing offshore financial centre of
Singapore, told Reuters it had been approached by U.S. citizens
asking for its private banking services. But when told they would
have to sign U.S. tax declaration forms, the potential clients
disappeared.  
    Swiss banks also approached DBS on the hope they could
offload troublesome U.S. clients to a location that so far has
not been reached by the strong arms of Washington or Brussels.
    DBS said no thanks. In fact many private banks and boutique
advisors now seem to be avoiding U.S. clients.
    Will this spread to other nationalities, as governments
invest in tax spies and tax havens invest in white paint?
    Is this the end of offshore private private banking?

Private Bank finds synergy in public bar

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It is a little known fact that private bank Wegelin, Switzerland’s oldest bank is also active in the bars and restaurants business.

In its ‘Nonolet’ bars – a play on the Latin saying pecunia non olet (money doesn’t stink) – in St. Gallen and in Geneva, hedge fund managers and other financial professionals rub shoulders with other locals in the early evening over sparkling wine or champagne and snacks.

Swiss brand key to banks’ cache

- One question kept coming up when I announced four years ago that I was moving from Washington to Geneva: ”Will you get a Swiss bank account?” There is an unmistakeable international cache surrounding Switzerland’s financial sector, whose infamy as a hiding place for Nazi gold has given way to Hollywood mystique about secretive numeric codes cracked by Da Vinci Code protagonists and James Bond.  But within the small Alpine country, which remains stubbornly outside the European Union despite sharing borders with France, Germany, Austria and Italy, bankers are in fact celebrated for being as dull as they are discrete.  Christian Raubach, managing partner of Switzerland’s oldest bank, Wegelin & Co, told the Reuters Wealth Management Summit that the biggest Swiss banks rely on their “Swissness and security and boringness” to attract clients from abroad. Guillaume Lejoindre, managing director at the Swiss private banking arm of France’s Societe Generale, said it was precisely this reputation that made Switzerland such a powerful financial power, even in an age when total secrecy has been abolished and big institutions like UBS admit to taking big risks akin to those that took down Lehman Brothers.  Droves of Saudi and Gulf banking clients file into Geneva to spend the summer with their families every year and wealthy Latin Americans are also clearly inclined to store their funds in Switzerland to try to make them less likely kidnapping and extortion targets. The strong overall brand means that the banks can charge a premium over other centres and also continue to draw in new funds even in dark economic times.  “What is the price of trust and confidence? What is the price of expertise? We all know that a Hermes bag is more expensive. Is it a problem? I don’t think so,” the Societe Generale executive said.  In this way, much like Swiss watches, Swiss hotels, Swiss chocolate and Swiss beauty creams, the biggest asset even the most endowed Swiss bank has is clearly its brand — which may actually hold more value internationally than at home.

Geneva is for wealth management

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Even for an American who’s not wealthy, Geneva has a reputation as a global centre for wealth management – the place the world’s rich come to stash their money and (they hope) make it grow.

    But you don’t necessarily expect it to be so aggressive — after all, the rich tend to be demure when it comes to their banking.

from DealZone:

Diamonds in the rough

Diamond pictureSomewhere out there are ailing companies in need of a turnaround specialist. These experts -- also known as company doctors -- parachute into troubled businesses to turn their business around.

Funds, such as Oaktree Capital, HIG Capital and Apollo Management, specialise in buying up companies in distress (either through buying equity or debt) and turning them round.

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