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Germany opens up to overseas alternative investment managers - Frankfurt Roundtable

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Many institutional investors in Europe and elsewhere suffer from a lack of risk-taking capacity. They are constrained because of regulation, which limits their appetite for certain asset classes or strategies. Also banks needed to withdraw from certain fund investments and other asset classes because of the impact on their risk-weighted assets. Even though fixed income returns are inadequate to achieve investors' return targets, they cannot just replace it with higher risk assets, that is, equity exposure.

One way out of this trap was going into alternatives to harvest the illiquidity premium, and that has been a dominating theme for the last couple of years for institutional investors, particularly liability-driven institutions. These investors have by now also come to a much better understanding of alternative investments than before.

While massive amounts of money went into real estate and infrastructure debt, a lot less went into hedge funds or hedge fund-type strategies, but this is beginning to change because of liquidity requirements.

Some regulators are looking very carefully at the liquidity of asset books of investors. Investors still need yield enhancement and also like to have some products which allow them to be a little more tactical. For that you need a certain degree of liquidity, and this supports the continued growth in the Alt UCITS space, where we have been seeing a convergence of the traditional hedge fund world with UCITS (page 8).

Alternative investments have become the de-facto market for active management

This convergence is now continuing with the factor and smart beta investments which are directed at alternative sources of yield or risk premia. The difference between a typical alternative asset manager and a typical mainstream asset manager is becoming more-and-more blurred as well. Some believe that alternative investments are becoming the de-facto market for active management (page 13).

Dispersion is absolutely huge when it comes to performance as well to drawdowns of alternative investments. Investors need to focus on manager selection and make sure to exclude outright beta products, and that the portfolio is a diversified collection of uncorrelated factors (page 12).

The "Hedge is Down": Germany opens up to overseas alternative investment managers

From a German tax and regulatory perspective, 2018 will be a good year for investors seeking to diversify and looking for exposure to different types of risk. So far, foreign fund promoters still have some compliance hurdles such as providing "tax transparency" by German tax advisors. But from the 1st of January 2018, this hurdle will no longer exist and German investors will also be able to invest into say a Cayman funds with more ease (page 16-18).

The 2017 Opalesque Germany Roundtable, sponsored by Eurex and WTS, took place in Frankfurt with:

  1. Claudia Röring, Head of Research & Development, Lupus alpha Asset Management
  2. Ahmet Peker, Senior Portfolio Manager Asset Allocation/Multi-Strategy, Deka Investment
  3. Marcus Storr, Head of Hedge Funds, Feri
  4. Vincent Weber, Head of Research, Prime Capital
  5. Carsten Straush, President, German Asset Managers Group
  6. Steffen Gnutzmann, Partner, WTS
  7. Markus-Alexander Flesch, Global Head Sales Equity & Index Derivatives, Eurex
The group also discussed:
  • Is crowdedness a risk in factor investing? (page 12)
  • Not to be confused nor mixed up: Factors and risk premia (page 13-14)
  • How to deal with factor rotation in equity markets (page 14)
  • Eurex' new corporate bond index, total return futures and derivatives on factor or smart beta indices (page 9, 23)
  • How Gamag is revitalizing the unconstrained investment style (page 9-10)
  • Why investors should not get caught in the fixed income bubble and be wary of volatility counter strategies (page 9,10,13)
  • Why investor education is paramount and how to do it right (page 7, 8,11)
  • How to benefit from investments that have a "Katrina moment", and why convexity trades should always be combined with fundamentals (page 11)
  • French Elections: How asset managers and consultants deal with the "Frexit"-Risk (page 18-21)
  • Can small and mid-sized insurance companies cause the next financial crisis (page 21-22)
  • The growth of multi asset funds, risk overlay strategies and ESG in Europe. The return of the hedge funds of funds (page 23-24)
  • UCITS AUM growth (25% annualized for last six years) driven by local and international demand (page 25) but also a much broader offering (page 7, 18).

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