Derek Adler brought 30 years of experience in the City of London, specifically in the derivatives markets and asset management creating portfolios of CTAs and foreign exchange traders to his business Ifina, where he is the founder member and director of business development. His business partner, Sam Bratchie, came from the fund administration world.
Ifina came from Adler's observation in the late 1990s that a lot of fund administration firms were doing a pretty poor job. "We set up our own business and I was able to allocate $150m on day one from one of my funds and created a platform" he says. Ifina is a multi-jurisdictional group of companies, providing investment fund formation and administration and valuation services for investment funds, domiciled in all of the major offshore centres, including the UK, British Virgin Islands, Cayman, USA, Malta, Switzerland, Austria, Panama and Hong Kong. The firm has assets under administration in excess of $1.8bn, comprising some 160 investment funds with a wide range of asset classes, including equities, fixed income, foreign exchange, derivatives, fund of funds, private equity and real estate.
"We look after individual traders who mostly manage money in alternatives" Adler says. "We act as project manager when someone is looking to set up an offshore fund."
The firm offers effectively an a la carte menu of jurisdictions, structures and service providers. "What's important with fund administration is getting the NAV out on time - it's critical that from day one we provide a daily NAV" Adler says. "Getting transparency is a crucial marketing tool for the manager and makes sense for all concerned."
New clients are recommended to allow Ifina to liaise directly with the appropriate law firm, the project management of the process keeps the cost down. "We'll take on board anything no matter how small down to about a million" Adler says. "But if you want to start a fund with a million we'll do it but to be fair to your investors we advise you don't both unless you think that within 12 months you have a realistic goal of $4-5m or the charges will eat into your business."
With its bent towards derivatives, forex and CTA type managers, strategies which have struggled to perform over recent years, Adler has seen quite a bit of turnover in the sector, although one of their oldest customers has been with them for 14 years. "If a trader sets up a fund and it doesn't work after three to four years from our perspective it's not a problem" he says. The global financial crisis didn't cause them much trouble either: "We didn't lose many funds" he says and the firm has had no funds of funds which were the worst hit by the crisis.
Recently Ifina has opened an office and taken on its first client in Hong Kong, a US equities with a derivative overlay fund which launched in May with just $1.5m and has increased assets to $4.5m since then. "This is typical of the sort of client we have" Adler says.
"We administer in the Far East from the Far East" Adler explains. Smaller funds of under $10m can open under Ifina's umbrella structures, the Primary Development Fund route in Hong Kong and there is also now a SICAV in Malta.
This article was published in Opalesque's Asia Pacific Intelligence our monthly research update on alternative investments in the Asia-Pacific region.