HFC’s Stefan Nilsson caught up with Gerben Oldekamp of Circle Partners in Singapore to discuss the group’s fund administration offering and its growing client base in Asia.
As a global fund administrator – how important is Asia to your business?
Until a little over a year ago, we did not have a presence in Asia. We had offices in the US, the Caribbean and in Europe and always thought Asia would be a great next step. It took us a while to take the plunge but we don’t have any regrets that we finally did. We have experienced massive growth due to our strategic plan and timing to enter the market. Both the turmoil in the fund administration landscape as well as a large number of new initiatives, have contributed to this.
Do you mainly onboard existing funds that want a different fund administrator or emerging fund managers at the pre-launch stage?
Both. Although we onboard quite a few emerging managers, we have a very diversified client portfolio. Especially here in Asia, we have onboarded quite a few existing funds as it seems that all the changes have led to some of our competitors struggling to keep up service levels. In the space we are active in, mid-sized fund administrator with AUA over 10 billion, I believe we are one of the few, if not the only one, still independently standing and I believe we have profited from this.
You personally have a background as a lawyer. How helpful is that when you work on fund administration and fund structuring?
It has added a tremendous amount of value, especially when talking about fund structuring. I have for many years been involved in setting up funds and structures. Being a director of fund structures in Europe, this experience has taught me to be creative and has given me a good network of resources to consult when I don’t have the right answers, which prospective clients appreciate. I have furthermore been involved with Circle Partners for more than 10 years now and, because of this, have added knowledge and experience in accounting, investment strategies, etc. which is helpful too.
How have fund managers’ needs changed in recent times in your experience?
In my experience, regulation and enhanced compliance requirements have made it at times quite complicated and overwhelming to launch. More than before, we try to be transparent and complete in the advice we give on setting up. We also try to be realistic in terms of time to market. To answer your question, more than before, managers need to be guided and hands need to be held.
We have seen a lot of consolidation in fund administration in recent years. How can independent fund administrators compete with fund admins that are part of banks and other broader financial services groups?
I see it as a tremendous advantage that we remain independent. Senior leadership, including myself, are very much on top and very concerned with service levels while at the same time being competitive on price. With an organization of just over a hundred people, we are nimble, timely and highly responsive. I furthermore think it is an advantage to be service-provider agnostic. Our clients are free to use any broker/custodian, platform, etc. This independence has proven to be very effective.
You have two local offices here in Asia. Is it vital to have a regional presence in order to win business and serve your clients properly?
Absolutely. During the time we were only active in Europe and the US, we would occasionally win some Asian business. We, however, often received feedback that not being able to offer the same time zone reporting and not offering Mandarin speakers was a reason to choose another service provider. With our office in Singapore, we now offer the above and we could have never experienced the growth we have experienced without it. We will now place people in our Hong Kong office, which has always been more of a representative office, as we have noticed that in order to further grow in both Hong Kong and China this is necessary as people like to meet and call people locally.