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Roundtable: “There is not much correlation between FT headlines and returns you get on the ground in Russia”

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Russia is a very large market, with a population of over 143 million people. It is the ninth largest consumer market in the world, and by 2020 it will be first in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. On the investment side, performance of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and Russia funds have beaten other emerging markets, developed markets and the S&P 500 according to statistics from EMPEA and Cambridge Associates.

However, given the recent developments, Russia is definitely not the first choice for conservative global investors today. Increased uncertainty and political risk make Russian markets unattractive, but on the flip side those factors bring opportunities for hedge fund managers who are able to take advantage of volatility, and long term investors. The country is in a contradictory environment where people who were invested in Russia for years are getting out, and some new investors are trying to put fresh capital to work following the classic mantra of buying when there is blood on the streets, looking for liquid and high-yield assets. Russia has become rather heavily undervalued - as it has been for years - but now “it’s really screaming”. But, the future returns and future of the financial markets as a whole depend very much on politics. Still, this doesn’t keep large pools of assets, some of them family offices with a couple of hundred million dollars from around the globe, including America and Asia, taking on a contrarian view and go bottom fishing in Russia. Capital is very scarce, so they face much less competition and many choices.

Russia and Alternative Investments: Unlocking domestic capital

The current regulation does not allow local institutions such as insurance companies or pension funds to invest directly in hedge funds or alternative investments, including private equity. The main audience for hedge funds in Russia are qualified high-net-worth individuals and family offices. And it looks like these investors’ perception about alternative investments is changing.

The days when long-only was the winning strategy in the Russian market are over. Historically, Russian investors associated actively managed strategies with enormous returns and excessive risk. Today the most sophisticated investors and their advisors consider alternative investments a source of diversification and portfolio risk reduction. They are also becoming more realistic about returns.

If we look for example at the U.S., the private equity industry only took off when the required legislation was introduced in the 70’s. With Western Capital becoming more scarce, Russia is taking the first steps to upgrade their market structure. Of course, this is a long term game, and it has to start with education. In September, leading local GPs established the Russian Private Equity Council with an industry-wide initiative to lobby for legislation to unlock local institutional LP money, to enable it to participate in private equity, real estate and other alternative asset classes. In the current environment, when many Western investors are leaving the market, this is becoming more important than ever.

On the private side, 85% or 90% of private banking assets in the U.S. for example are invested into some form of liquid securities, while that percentage in Russia is maybe 5% or 10% maximum. The growth potential is staggering.

Surge in educational initiatives

September 2014 marked the 20th anniversary of Private Equity in Russia. At the VI Russian Private Equity Congress, most of the market players announced their plans to continue investing in line with their strategies. The National Alternative Investment Management Association (NAIMA), a non-profit partnership representing alternative investment firms and service providers committed to the growth of long-term capital in Russia. has teamed up with Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO and launched an inaugural Private Equity and Venture Capital course for Executive MBA students and alumni led by Columbia Business School Professor Laura Resnikoff. Other initiatives are the Venture Academy with Lawrence Wright, or the Moscow Hedge Fund Managers Club, a professional association aimed to bring global industry standards to local hedge fund community, communicate hedge fund concepts to local investors and facilitate local industry development. The CAIA Association is also active in Moscow and offers certification exams.

The Opalesque 2014 Russia Roundtable took place September 22nd in Moscow with:

  1. Alexei Klaptsov, Director, SPRING Group
  2. Dmitry Malykhin, Chief Investment Adviser, Da Vinci CIS Opportunities Fund
  3. Dmitry Schuetzle, Managing Director, VIY Management
  4. Gregory Klumov, Portfolio Manager, SBD Global
  5. Nadya Nesterova, Head of Investor Relations, VIY Management, Co-Head of Information Policy & Market Statistics committee, National Alternative Investment Management Association (NAIMA)
  6. Olga Kokareva, Advisory Board Member, Moscow Hedge Fund Managers Club
  7. Stephen Lewis, Director of European Business Development, Maples Fund Services
  8. Christian Putz, Portfolio Manager, Kazimir Partners
The group also discussed:
  • What are some of the recommended ways to invest in Russia?
  • How has corporate governance developed since 2008?
  • What new products are Russia-based managers working on?
  • Opportunities in Russian CDS, fixed income, and currency: Ruble one of the most attractive carry currencies

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