Singapore Hedge Funds Club
4 Sep 2018
Hong Kong Hedge Funds Club
6 Nov 2018
Tokyo Hedge Funds Club
3 Dec 2018
18 Jul 2018
According to Eurekahedge: Asian hedge funds continue their struggle in 1H 2018 with losses of 0.61%,...
25 Jun 2018
Keiko Sydenham has joined Blackstone in Tokyo as a managing director focused on business development...
22 Jun 2018
According to Eurekahedge: Hedge funds posted their second consecutive month of gains, up 0.33% in Ma...
11 Jun 2018
Asia-focused relative value fund manager Red Cliff Asia has been named Best Asian Hedge Fund of 2017...
6 Jun 2018
Edward Moon has left Singapore and relocated to Hong Kong for a new role as Regional Head of Alterna...
6 Jun 2018
Cyrus Hendry has left Aspect Capital to join Niatross Investments in Hong Kong in a business develop...
Interview: Omar Taheri of Spark Plus – roadshows with a spark
22 Jun 2018
Interview: To outsource or not outsource trading for emerging managers
15 Apr 2018
Interview: OPIM’s Alvin Fan talks about strategic investment in FundSeeder
15 Dec 2017
From fund management to modern art: The Walking Creative from Oz
25 Sep 2017
- Interview: Omar Taheri of Spark Plus – roadshows with a spark
Shout It Out Loud
Hedge fund industry interviews
In addition to our daily news feed, Hedge Funds Club’s Shout it out loud publishes interviews with interesting hedge fund managers and other senior industry figures that have something to say.
HFC’s Stefan Nilsson checked in with Omar Taheri in Singapore to talk about his new business venture. Spark Plus provides listed companies with access to investors in the Asia-Pacific region.
You’ve honed your skills working for a couple of firms in the alternative investment industry in Singapore over a number of years. What made you recently start your own business?
I decided to start my own venture as I saw it much more rewarding from an intellectual standpoint than working for someone else. I decided to launch due to changes in regulatory environment namely MiFID2. I saw that the way corporate access is consumed was changing in Europe and was having spillover effects into Asia as well. I always had a passion for doing something on my own as I think running one’s own business is a fast-tracked MBA.
Your firm, Spark Plus, provides listed companies access to investors in the Asia-Pacific region through roadshows and events. Tell us about what you do and how you do it.
Essentially we choose small-mid cap companies that have very poor coverage and a very domestic shareholder register and bring these companies to Singapore and Hong Kong to do non-deal roadshows for them. We try and focus the investor base to family offices and funds that can take an exposure to a small cap company. The format that we generally do for a roadshow is to host a group luncheon with investors and a series of one-on-one meetings.
With regulatory changes happening globally and new restrictions impacting both brokers and their fund manager clients, you seem to have launched a very timely service. Do you think that this shift in how corporate access is done will continue to create opportunities for new entrants such as Spark Plus?
Most definitely. We are seeing other industry participants such as Smartkarma, WeConvene and other independent corporate access providers setting up. I do think that the traditional brokerage model will be broken into a variety of different pieces. Banks are starting to talk to us as well trying to understand our model. Currently, corporate access is a cost centre to a bank and what we are doing has made it into a profitable model, as we charge the corporations for taking care of all their roadshow activities. We will definitely see big buy-side firms building their own corporate access teams internally, independent corporate access/IR firms being set up and independent research firms continuing to set up. We realise that small- and mid-caps will be the ones that will get hurt the most in terms of coverage and these are the type of companies that need the most help in their investor outreach.
You seem to work with listed companies from a number of different industries and countries. What kind of firms, industries and opportunities are currently of interest to your fund managers and other investors that are part of your roadshows and events?
With our fund management community, we have had a lot of interest in certain sectors such as technology, healthcare and mining. Lately, we have received several requests to bring small- to mid-cap Japanese companies to Singapore and Hong Kong given the recent interest from activist funds. We also get constant requests for firms that have exposure to the electronic vehicle space. So, we have brought lithium, cobalt and graphene companies to our investor base. Most of the companies we roadshow are sub $500 million in market cap and are mainly from Australia. But we are starting to diversify our corporates and they are now coming from Germany, New Zealand, Japan and China.
You currently run events in Singapore and Hong Kong. Do you have plans to expand to more locations?
Yes. Currently, we conduct our non-deal roadshows in Singapore and Hong Kong. We are looking to do the same in Australia. The obvious expansion plans seem to be looking at the UK and Japan as the next few markets to look at.
If you had not worked in finance, what would you have been doing for a living?
I would most likely have taken a career in the casino industry. I had the opportunity to be a junket for a large casino chain but thought I didn’t want to disappoint my parents too much so decided to get into finance instead.
Jeff LeVeen, Managing Director and Head of Outsourced Trading at JonesTrading talks with Himali Kothari, Founder of Aquamarine Value.
Can you tell me how you entered the outsourced trading space at JonesTrading?
I joined Jones in August of 2014. As I left my previous firm to join Jones, I noticed a growing interest in outsourced trading in our industry. When I got to understand Jones and the legacy business better, it became obvious that an outsourced trading platform would be a great fit and complement the trading that was being done by the firm already. I also found that in my travels I spoke with many emerging managers that were currently outsourcing with a competitor and had frustrations with their current providers. What became obvious to me was there was room for another platform and there was a strong interest in something better than what was currently offered by our competitors. I started making a list of items we could do not only differently but better than my competitors. I wanted to build a platform that put the needs of the emerging manager and their investors first. We spent a lot of time listening to the challenges of not only the launching and emerging managers, but their investors as well. We looked at ways where we could improve execution, source liquidity, consolidate the research budget and get our managers access to as much of the sell-side resources as they could possibly get.
What is the primary reason why small emerging managers will outsource their trading? Is it regulation, rising costs or keeping pace with technological changes?
Fee compression has driven the initial demand for outsourced trading. Launching managers have much smaller management fees to work with to run their businesses. It’s not just small emerging managers, we have been approached by funds managing well over US$500 million in AUM wanting to discuss our offering. Outsourcing is not just about managing costs, although hiring a trader and paying for an expensive order management system creates additional expenses for an emerging manager. We spend many hours working with our managers to help them build research budgets. We provide that manager a team of global coverage so that at all hours of the day he or she has access to an experienced trader. I think the emerging manager has realised that they’d have to hire two or three traders to replicate the experienced and comprehensive coverage from an outsourced trading desk.
And if emerging managers do outsource their trading, what type of strategy usually outsources?
We’ve seen many different equity strategies outsource their trading. It’s mostly your traditional long only, or equity long/short manager that engages an outsourced trading platform. We trade on behalf of both generalists and sector-focused funds.
Outsourced trading also makes sense if a fund wants to enter a new geography and/or a new asset class. Outsourced trading is a relatively low cost for the funds to enter new markets or an asset class. Has the MiFID II directive increased outsourced trading for JonesTrading thus far in 2018?
We have had a number of inquiries from European clients about our platform, but MiFID II hasn’t been the cause for our new client base in the US. The first quarter of every year tends to be an active quarter for new launches. Many of these new launches will outsource their trading and we’ve been fortunate to win a number of new opportunities this year. We do think as MiFID II continues to unfold in the US, clients will focus more on execution, driving even more interest in outsourced trading.
I agree, as MiFID II adoption increases, we will see more firms targeted on the unbundling of research and execution costs benefiting outsourced trading as we have seen a growth in outsourced third-party research firms based in the US, India, and Singapore. Can you dispel some of the common reasons or beliefs why emerging manager firms do not outsource trading?
I think there are a number of reasons managers choose to not outsource their trading. I think the first concern is that some managers don’t rank execution quality as a high concern for their new business. Many of these managers trade small and mid-cap stocks where spreads are wider and liquidity is thin. Execution performance could vary dramatically and poor execution could lead to hundreds of basis points of unnecessary performance slippage. I also recognise that outsourcing requires building a level of trust with the coverage team. Allowing an outsourced trading firm to understand the names you are trading, the timing, the style of trading is a sensitive relationship. Some managers never get to a point where they feel comfortable sharing this much information with another firm. The reality is every broker-dealer handles sensitive client information and sensitive client orders every day. Outsourced trading is no different than the normal trading that broker-dealers handle currently. There are strict compliance and surveillance in place to make sure we are handling our clients’ orders properly and protecting their anonymity.
The current break-even cost for emerging funds that manage less than US$500 million is US$86 million. In addition, investor reporting is the second area to outsource after middle-office processing over the next few years. Firms will continue to monitor their break even as operating and regulatory costs increase in order to remain competitive especially in their early years of survival which will increase the overall demand for outsourcing.
OP Investment Management recently invested in an equity stake in the company FundSeeder. HFC’s Stefan Nilsson decided to check in with OPIM’s CEO Alvin Fan to find out what this is all about.
You keep evolving OPIM’s fund business. You recently bought a stake in FundSeeder. Tell us about it. Why did you decide to partner with FundSeeder?
Our mission has always been to seek out undiscovered talent is Asia, and then help them gain exposure in the institutional space. Having interviewed hundreds of managers last year alone, we’re acutely aware that talent can come from anywhere – financial and non-financial backgrounds. However, the system is inherently biased against those without pedigree, capital, or an audited track record – all of which are expensive privileges. And this is where the gap begins. We came across FundSeeder having spotted Jack Schwager’s startup in social media. His books have been immensely influential to traders and managers including myself. Out of curiosity, we met with the team in 2016 during a promotion trip they were running in Shanghai. It was pretty obvious that we shared the same vision and their technology could bridge the gap between emerging managers and investors.
What can FundSeeder do for newer managers in Asia?
As I mentioned, investors gravitate toward track record and pedigree, but the hedge fund industry in Asia is still young. You can count on one hand the number of managers with more than $50 billion AUM. So by definition, most of managers and traders are filtered out by a Western-biased filter. FundSeeder ignores this and re-focuses the priority on analytics, performance. A verified track record makes allocation a meritocracy again – the way it should be. Just look at the advent of Chinese fund managers – there are thousands of AMAC registered private funds onshore, many with strong risk management skills, but without an expensive due diligence process, it’s very hard to assess their credibility as offshore managers. These new managers who link up to FundSeeder will gain otherwise impossible exposure to institutional investors.
As you mentioned, Jack Schwager, the man behind the “Market Wizards” books, is one of the co-founders of FundSeeder. How important is it for a new firm like FundSeeder to have a well-known name such as Schwager onboard when it comes to creating awareness?
It’s important, not just because of the name, but because of his ethos, intensity and purpose. This is a man whose dedicated his life’s work to demystifying the psychology of greater money managers. It takes the same commitment to build a successful company and attract the right talent. It permeates into the product and the message. This is true not just of Jack, but of his partners, Emanuel and James as well.
What does OPIM bring to the table in this deal?
Access to Hong Kong and China. Hong Kong is the pearl of asset management with the largest regional AUM in the hedge space. China’s asset management industry is at an early inflection of a renaissance period. OPIM’s strong brand in the region draws more talent to the partnership.
Have you localised or amended anything in the FundSeeder product/service for the Asian markets or is it exactly the same as it in the US?
In the initial stage, OP Fundseeder will be localised including Chinese interfaces, but once we have more regional talent appear in the database, we’ll be able to rank traders and licensed managers based on their local peers. We’ll also have new analytics and functions for investors interested in talent in this space.
What is the biggest challenge in introducing this new concept in Asia?
Language will still be a major hurdle. Getting lost in translation is an underestimated barrier to allocation. The managers’ ability to articulate their edge is just as, if not more, important than the strategy itself. This is especially true with distributors who need to communicate the same to their investors. Even with good performance and high ranking, this is just a starting point. It doesn’t guarantee allocation. We still need to conduct extensive due diligence on traders and managers. To manage money in Hong Kong or China you still need to be licensed, and this means running a business that answers stringent DDQ scrutiny.
What are your long-term plans for FundSeeder in Asia?
It still early days, but the natural evolution is to build out stronger analytics to help traders improve discipline and build a feedback system to help them grow. This also means providing analytics to help investors make better decisions about their existing portfolios.
What will be your next acquisition?
If I told you, I would have to kill you.
His day job is in operations at Australia-based fund manager Global Commodities Limited, but in his spare time, James Smith, aka The Walking Creative, is an emerging artist creating some eye-catching modern art from his base in Adelaide. HFC boss Stefan Nilsson checked in with Smith to talk about his bold and playful art and inspirations.
How would you describe your style of art?
My style is predominately neo-expressionism and abstract.
What inspired you to start creating art?
My creative flair began at about seven years of age. My grandfather taught me how to draw after I discovered ink drawings stashed in his cupboard he had drawn when he was a young man. I was so fascinated by them and then knew I wanted to learn more!
What inspires you nowadays?
For me I really love immersing myself within the arts, whether it might be at a gallery, an exhibition or even live music! There’s always something that I can take away from that experience to improve my skills as an artist. There’s also times where I am inspired by risk. Starting with no idea and just using my own imagination to see where it leads.
You’re an Aussie lad from Adelaide. Do you find any local inspiration for your art?
I support a lot of local artists and always love to see what new projects they’re working on. Again, back to experience, there’s an idea or something I can take away from it and utilise. There’s a lot of stuff happening around Adelaide at the moment and the city has become very supportive of the arts especially emerging artists. It’s great to see young and old talent out there inspiring others like myself.
What techniques do you use to create your art?
I am very experimental when it comes to using my creativity. I do vary it up and switch between different media. I tend to use acrylic or oil paint but there are also times where I like to get the Posca pens out and draw something too. Sometimes I might even do a mixed media piece where I’ll paint a layer of acrylic and use bright-coloured Posca pens over the top. It just depends on what I’m feeling or what I’m inspired by at the time.
You recently took part in your first exhibition in your hometown Adelaide. How did that go?
It went extremely well! It was a really big event because it was artists of all categories including fashion, makeup, photography, visual and music. My friends and family came along to support me. I had lots of people come up to my display to talk and appreciate my work. I priced all my art work well in an affordable price range so I sold plenty of pieces which was a good result. I met some really talented artists of all kinds all doing great things. It was sure a busy evening!
This is the beginning. Keep an eye on The Walking Creative because this young artist will clearly go on to bigger things.
Maybank Kim Eng的Ade Olopade 艾德歐羅帕迪
國際大宗經紀行業在過去的十年中發生了重大變化。對沖基金會所（Hedge Funds Club）的Stefan Nilsson最近與Maybank Kim Eng的大宗經紀服務區域主管Ade Olopade就此談話。
告訴我們關於Maybank Kim Eng的大宗經紀服務
Maybank Kim Eng為新興的對沖基金經理，中小型對沖基金，家族辦公室和管理帳戶平台提供多市場，多資產的主要服務平台。作為一個精品經紀商，Maybank Kim Eng提供了超過40個可交易市場的渠道來交易傳統股票（最近的市場是新加坡和最遠的市場是墨西哥），交易所交易的衍生品以及合成股票和期權。我們的產品服務保證新興經理通過我們的信用中間人策略繼續獲得交易額度和融資。此外，作為可能是東南亞唯一的屬於銀行的大宗經紀服務平台，我們向對沖基金客戶對現金管理解決方案的要求提供支持。從交易解決方案的角度來看，我們的交易基礎設施保證了我們對各種交易平台的兼容性，因為我們提供多個選項可確保市場連接（如FIX、API和智能集線器連接）。從服務支持的角度，我們在新加坡和倫敦經營兩個經驗豐富的大宗經紀服務團隊。
我想一個關鍵的區別在於我們Maybank是以人為本的金融服務公司。這意味著我們理解客戶的起步階段，讓我們的金融服務渠道通過與人接觸達成。由於“巴塞爾公約”III對資產負債表的分配和使用的影響，相關度量比如風險加權資產，槓桿率，歸屬股東權益，成為了投行關閉中小型賬戶的主題詞。 Maybank KimEng的精品經紀解決方案建立在集合概念。確保聚集小中型賬戶的交易規模，增強議價能力，中小型賬戶可避免與投行直接開戶產生的高昂的用以維持使用投行資產負債表的最低收入標準。
Maybank Kim Eng作為東盟經紀商在機構和零售方面都有強大的網絡。這意味著我們擁有一個潛在客戶都很熟悉的品牌，並且這是我們可以繼續打造的品牌。從交易對手風險的角度，我們大宗經紀服務作為馬來亞銀行集團成員，使客戶對於我們更有信心。我們大宗經紀業務在2014年底開始，有人會說，我們是進入這個行業相對較新的公司。不管怎樣，在過去的三年裡，我們的大宗經紀業務的增長呈現出我們的野心。我們的目標是積極擴大我們在對沖基金行業的業務。對沖基金行業作為一個整體，是一個依賴關係的行業。基金和他們的服務提供商的個人之間的溝通非常重要。溝通既讓我們了解客戶的需求和也讓我們向客戶展示我們的能力，並告知新的前景。除了與基金經理直接打交道，我們與其他行業參與者保持友好關係，這有助於促進更多的介紹。至於我們在亞洲其他地方的商業目標，香港在亞洲擁有最多對沖基金，對我們來說是一個非常重要的市場。日本是另一個我們關注的市場，但由於其複雜性和文化的細微差別，你需要一個更適合的策略。為了得到更好的感知日本的契機，我們採取的一種方法是利用有針對性的對沖基金為中心的活動，而不是傳統的企業客戶的會議。傳統企業會議有這種內在的渴望吸引更廣大的受眾，因此失去了自下而上的角度，而這種角度對沖基金的專業人士非常重要。像對沖基金會所（Hedge Funds Club）這樣的活動為對沖基金專業人士會面，分享想法提供平台，是非常理想的，更為直接和有效的方法。
你在2013加入Maybank Kim Eng之前是做什麼的？
在Maybank Kim Eng之前，我在新加坡MF Global， Cantor Fitzgerald，Kim Eng Securities工作過。我的工作主要集中在為零售和機構客戶提供差價合約產品。在從事金融服務之前，我曾在倫敦Marubeni的可再生能源部門做項目融資。
The international prime brokerage industry has seen major changes happening in the past decade. HFC’s Stefan Nilsson recently had a chat with Ade Olopade, Regional Head of Prime Services with Maybank Kim Eng Securities in Singapore.
Tell us about Maybank Kim Eng’s prime brokerage services.
Maybank Kim Eng offers a multi-market, multi-asset prime services platform to emerging hedge fund managers, small-medium sized hedge funds, family offices and managed account platforms. As a boutique prime broker, Maybank Kim Eng’s offering provides access to more than 40 executable markets on both cash (nearest market being Singapore and furthest market being Mexico), exchange-traded derivatives as well as synthetic equities and options. Our offering ensures emerging managers have continued access to credit through our credit intermediation strategies. Additionally as probably the only bank-backed prime service platform in South East Asia, we offer cash management solutions to support the banking requirements of our hedge fund clients if so required. From a trading solutions perspective, our trading infrastructure ensures that we are agnostic to trading platforms given the multiple options available to ensure market connectivity (e.g. FIX, API and smart hub connections). From a service support perspective, we run two experienced prime services teams out of our Singapore and London offices.
How do you differ from the bulge-bracket prime brokers?
I guess a key differentiator for us lies in the vision of the House of Maybank which is humanising financial services. This means that we understand the days of little beginnings and putting a human face to how financial services are accessed. And as Basel III takes its toll on the allocation and use of the balance sheet, metrics like risk-weighted assets, leverage ratio denominator, and attributed equity become thematically important buzzwords for off-boarding small and medium-sized managers. Maybank Kim Eng’s boutique prime brokerage solution rests on the concept of aggregation. Aggregation ensures that small- and medium-sized managers benefit from collective bargaining power to overcome the prohibitive minimum revenue hurdles necessary to retain access to “balance sheet” if they had tried to individually on-board directly with a bulge-bracket prime broker.
Is it viable for you to service smaller and newer hedge funds in Asia?
Hedge funds in Asia have historically been smaller in terms of assets under management compared with those in the US or Europe. Comparatively, even the smaller hedge funds are smaller than their US or Europe counterparts. Asia has a large number of boutique funds that need access to prime services but increased capital requirements within the bulge-bracket investment banks have meant that these funds and their managers are being overlooked. Our aggregation model provides economies of scale which allow us to service smaller funds whilst remaining competitive in the market. Although we work with some more established managers, the majority our clients oversee less than $100m in assets. Notwithstanding, we are comfortable working with those managing a modest portfolio of $5m-$10m.
You are a well-established and known broker in South East Asia. What are you doing to target business in other parts of Asia, such as Hong Kong and Tokyo?
Maybank Kim Eng has a strong pedigree as an ASEAN broker-dealer franchise in both institutional and retail equities. This is helpful as it means that we have a brand that potential clients are familiar with and one that we can build on. From a counterparty risk perspective, being a member of the Maybank Group provides assurance to our clients as to the strength of our boutique prime services franchise. With the commencement of our prime services business in late 2014, one would say that we are still relatively new entrants to this space. Regardless, the growth of our prime services franchise in the last three years has shown our ambitions and it is our intention to be very active in expanding our relationships within the hedge fund sector. The hedge fund sector as a whole is very much a relationship-based business where regular communication between funds and their service providers and personal interaction are key to both learning about the needs of clients and informing new prospects of our capabilities. In addition to direct dealings with fund managers, we maintain friendly relationships with other industry participants and this helps to facilitate meaningful introductions. As to how we intend to target business in other parts of Asia, Hong Kong for us is a very important market, home to the largest number of hedge managers in the region. Japan is another market that we have our eye on but given its intricacies and cultural nuances, one that requires a more tailored strategy. To give us a better sensing of Japan as an opportunity, one approach we seek to adopt is to leverage on targeted hedge fund centric events instead of the traditional corporate conferences that are not tailored to the specific requirements that hedge funds. Traditional conferences have this inherent desire to appeal to a wider audience consequently losing the bottom-up perspectives that hedge fund professionals see as more pressing. Events such as the Hedge Funds Club provide a specific forum for hedge fund professionals to meet and share ideas are ideal as they allow for a more direct and efficient approach.
What kind of presence does your PB team have in Asia?
Our PB team is headed out of Singapore and this provides us with a cost-effective platform to reach out to both our core regional markets in ASEAN as well as North Asia. Be that as it may, we also have an office in Hong Kong and this allows us a platform from which to actively engage the local hedge fund community. Having a presence in both countries places us in a strong position as these two markets make up a large share of the hedge funds in Asia.
How do you view the future of the Asian hedge fund industry?
Increased costs and pressure on fees are driving a lot of changes, not just in the hedge fund industry but in active investment management in general. The flow of money into passive strategies with low fee structures has forced active managers to re-think their business models. In the hedge fund space, managers have been looking at new and more flexible cost structures. This is particularly true for smaller managers where attracting capital can be very challenging. The increased cost of doing business, particularly with regard to regulation and compliance, has added further pressure. This is naturally felt more acutely by smaller managers, many of which have responded by pooling resources where possible, e.g. bundling themselves onto fund manager platforms to avail themselves of the shared benefits of reduced compliance cost, operation support etc. Structured solutions such as actively managed certificates offer benefits to managers who want to forego the cost of establishing a fully fledged fund entity. We expect these trends to continue as managers look to lower their fixed costs, particularly in the start-up phase, and to offer more competitive terms to attract new capital. From a markets standpoint, China is an area of particular interest as it offers tremendous potential both in terms of the development of the local investment management industry and as a source of investor capital. The hedge fund industry in China is still in the early stages of development but recent signals from the Chinese authorities indicate that they are interested in fostering its development under a more clearly defined regulatory framework.
You joined Maybank King Eng in 2013. What did you do before that?
Before Maybank Kim Eng, I worked at Cantor Fitzgerald Singapore, MF Global Singapore and Kim Eng Securities Singapore. My time was spent primarily in the Contracts For Differences space for both retail and institutional clients. Prior to the financial markets, I worked with Marubeni in London doing project finance for the renewable energy sector.
If you hadn’t worked in finance, what would you have been doing?
Interestingly, if I were not working in finance, I would be in the budget airline business in Africa – something that I find rather ironic given I am not an avid traveller. From an African perspective, the lack of adequate travel connectivity and the cost of inefficient national carriers has been a major crippling factor in the growth of the tourism sector. I believe the aviation sector in Africa should be privately led. Air Asia as an example is reflective of the power that aviation has in energising tourism markets given how it has opened up ASEAN.
Privium RKR is fast growing its Asian business by providing investment teams with an institutional infrastructure right from the start. HFC’s Stefan Nilsson had a chat with industry veteran Clayton Heijman about Privium RKR’s business.
Tell us about Privium RKR’s services for fund managers and investors?
Since 2008 the final industry has seen an increase in regulations, compliance and checks. At the same time investors have started to conduct more due diligence on infrastructure and potential risks while applying pressure on management fees. We are also seeing regulators worldwide implementing more rules for the asset management industry. As a result of these developments, the barrier to entry for new asset management initiatives is increasing. The full scope of services that we are offering provides portfolio managers an institutional infrastructure that will allow them to be set up with a limited investment and full transparency. At the same time, it is scaleable for growth and globalisation.
How did the two firms Privium Funds and RKR Capital come together in this Asian venture?
Privium had developed a business in Europe with an AUM of over US$1.5 billion and offices in London, Luxembourg and Amsterdam. Our ambition is to grow our business also into Asia met with the regional expertise of RKR Capital. These conversations resulted in a strong combination that was welcomed by the market.
Where are you currently at with your Asian business and what are you trying to achieve?
We already knew that there was a desire from portfolio management teams to work with a global player. However the response has exceeded our expectations. The positive responses came both from international managers that want to grow, again, in Asia as well as Asian managers locally. All are reviewing the benefits we provide them. We have a very compelling business case for them. Privium RKR can help them to set up a solid infrastructure and provide access to various service providers and markets. Asian portfolio managers should want to set up their funds allowing them to reach investors across the globe. With our global coverage we can help them to achieve these goals.
What kind of funds do you currently have on your platform in Asia? Can you give us some examples?
We have seen a lot of new initiatives over the last 12 months. This is an encouraging signal for the overall asset management industry. The teams managing private equity and venture capital are experiencing new regulation for their activities. In addition there are several funds starting with an equity long/short strategy, a quantitative strategy and a macro strategy. We have also seen traditional long-only managers and there is also a renewed interest for funds of funds. As for the location of the activities we obviously review initiatives that have a link to mainland China but basically see initiatives all over the Asian region.
You have chosen Hong Kong as your Asian headquarters and recruited an experienced team to manage it. Was Hong Kong an obvious choice?
Hong Kong has long played a role as a large asset management hub in the Asian region. The decision for a Hong Kong location was further strengthened due to the longstanding history that many people in our firm had with Hong Kong. For me personally it felt like I was coming home.
You personally have a solid background in alternative investments. Tell us about what you have done before you set up Privium and what led you to set up the business.
The set-up of this business has only been possible because of the different previous roles and experiences I had. Learning the ins and outs of the fund industry by working, amongst others, in the prime brokerage and equity finance group of Goldman Sachs in Asia, Europe and the US, having experience in fund operations at MeesPierson and setting up investment vehicles at Fortis. These experiences were all essential in Privium RKR becoming the single point of contact to discuss different matters for teams that want to set up or expand their asset management initiative. Our global team has a broad experience in the different areas of the asset management industry.
If you hadn’t been working in the fund management industry, what do you think you would have been doing?
Exploring and supporting new initiatives is part of my DNA. As a result I am a big fan of Sir David Attenborough and his work. My alternative career would probably have been accompanying him on his travels across the globe and unravelling the mysteries of nature.
Three years ago, Mohammed Ali-Reda founded Darkhorse Capital in Hong Kong to manage his own bottom-up emerging Asia and Middle East and North Africa equity long/short strategy. HFC’s Stefan Nilsson decided to have a chat with him about this journey so far.
You manage an equity long/short investment strategy focused on Asia as well as the Middle East and North Africa. What can you tell us about it?
Our strategy focuses on identifying quality companies that are run by honest and capable management who value shareholder creation. We look to capitalise on discrepancies between perceived value and underlying fundamental value of a company by adopting a rigorous and disciplined bottom-up research process. Our focus is on protecting capital while maintaining a sustainable long-term return profile. The portfolio is concentrated and will typically hold around 15 positions and currently has an estimated return on invested capital of 40%. In addition, virtually all my personal net worth is invested in the fund and I view all my investors as true partners in the fund.
What’s your edge? What sets you and your fund apart from the pack?
We focus on a business’ long term prospects, concentrate our holdings and focus on high-quality companies and management teams. This approach means we are able to delve deeper into a company versus a fund that has a shorter holding period. In essence we are looking to maximise the return on time invested for each position that we own and our target holding period is five years. Our investable universe is focused on companies between $500m and $10bn in market cap, with a preference towards ~$1bn range where there is little or no analyst coverage. This allows for us to really conduct differentiated primary research and unique view on the stock. We spend a lot of time on the ground talking to companies, suppliers, industry experts, regulators, other investors, etc. to help form that view – as an example I took over 40 flights last year. We are extremely focused in various sectors such as consumer, specialised manufacturing and specialised financial companies and our focus on the industry value chain provides a better understanding of the industry and competitive dynamics. I’ve spent a decade investing in Asia and most of my career looking at consumer companies. When you look at the world through the lens of trade and business as opposed to what the MSCI and other indexes outline, you find that the Asian and Middle East regions are very interconnected and show signs of further integration. In addition, the development of the capital markets and certain industries are following similar paths as they move from frontier to emerging to developed markets. We believe that ignoring benchmarks while focusing and analyzing companies using this approach provides us with a differentiated view and edge.
What can you tell us about your career prior to launching Darkhorse in 2014?
Prior to Darkhorse I was managing money for Asiya Investments in Hong Kong as Head of Consumer for the group, where I ran various portfolios that consistently generated alpha. I had joined the firm in early 2007 as the third member of the investment team and helped build out the firm. During that time the Kuwait government wanted to provide a way for the public to invest in Asia’s future, instead of opening another office for the sovereign wealth fund, Kuwait Investment Authority, in China. So the KIA and a few other institutions along with the public capitalised the firm. That’s how I got started and focused my career on Asia. Before that I was managing propriety capital for a large bank in Kuwait where we had a global mandate. Over the years I have also been actively involved with the CFA Society. I was a board member and treasurer of the Kuwait chapter.
You have launched your fund on the OPIM platform. Why did you choose to work with OPIM?
I found the OPIM platform was more focused on making sure all the middle and back office functions were taken care of by capable team members and systems. This allows me to focus on the portfolio and investing. The onboarding process was simple and having other mangers around also makes setting up the business part of the fund easier as you can talk to them about any questions, etc. Recently they have been helping a lot more on capital introduction and getting us in front of investors. I also like the people I work with, which is a big plus.
Why did you launch the fund with Hong Kong as a base?
Hong Kong geographically is situated well within Asia with a best-in-class airport infrastructure. Most cities are within a three-hour flight and a flight to Dubai is now around six-seven hours, so traveling is easier than if I lived in another city. The regulatory landscape in Hong Kong is very efficient and recognised globally, which is very important at a time when regulation is becoming more stringent. I also love the food and culture in Asia so I enjoy living here.
If you hadn’t been a fund manager, what would you have been doing?
Growing up I had started a few small businesses, the earliest already in middle school, so I always thought I would be an entrepreneur. I looked up to many successful entrepreneurs and read all their biographies. The notion of running my own business was very appealing to me. In a way I consider running a fund as an entrepreneurial venture within the financial services industry. On top of that, I get to be a part owner in many great companies through our investments as opposed to managing only one which can be a lot more interesting.
HFC’s Stefan Nilsson decided to have a chat with Scott Treloar about Noviscient, the Singapore-based investment company he founded in 2016. Treloar has a solid background working in hedge funds, private equity and banking, where he has primarily worked on portfolio management and risk management, much of it focused on quantitative analysis and systematic trading strategies. “At Noviscient we offer something new and better” says Treloar.
Firstly, can you tell us about Noviscient and what you are trying to achieve?
Noviscient is a next generation investment manager. We are based in Singapore, but work with partners from around the world. We are aspiring to become a trusted partner of our investors by offering alignment, performance and transparency. Our first product is a dynamically allocated portfolio of systematic trading strategies called Liquid Systematic Trading.
Last year was the worst year for hedge fund start-ups and closures since 2008. Why are you are starting a fund now?
As it happens, we think now is the perfect time for us to start Noviscient. We see three big themes impacting investment management and we aim to take advantage of all three.
1) Technology wave – Cloud computing, big data and machine learning are driving fundamental change in all businesses. Investment management, as a pure information processing business, is particularly affected. These technologies are changing the basis of competition. Alpha no longer comes from privileged access to information, but rather from finding new sources of information and then using non-standard approaches for analysis and prediction. Smart use of modern technologies also enables companies dramatically lower their cost of doing business.
2) Partnering over employment – We also see great change in how people work. The gig economy, where people want to partner and consult rather than become employees, has been on the rise for several years now. It enables new and more flexible ways for companies to access the best global talent. We see many prospective traders and portfolio managers looking for new ways to offer their skills and work together.
3) Alignment of interests – Investors are frustrated with the current situation. Investors see that outsourcing their investment requirements to managers is expensive and producing lacklustre outcomes. There is a sense that investment managers are focused on building assets to increase management fees rather than on generating out-performance. They are losing faith in their investment managers and pulling out their money at an increasing rate. For want of better alternatives, this money is going to passive managers.
In summary, the traditional model of active management is coming to an end. At Noviscient we offer something new and better.
So, if the traditional model of active management is broken, how can Noviscient help investors?
At Noviscient we are building a new and innovative business model that acknowledges and addresses these three themes of technology, partnering and alignment. Our business model is a coherent system that creates value for our investing partners while being difficult to replicate, particularly for incumbent managers. Firstly, we were born digital. Our technology exists in the cloud and has been built to be modular and to take advantage of open source software. This allows us to operate at very low cost. It also enables the use of machine learning techniques both for finding alpha, using alternative data and for optimising our operations. A second element is that we partner with our systematic traders rather than employ them. We offer modern infrastructure, capital and attractive profit sharing. This positively selects for systematic traders who are very good. Interestingly, often our traders are from non-traditional backgrounds. The final element is our focus on alignment. We have no management fee. We have first loss protection. Profit sharing is only on performance. In other words, we are strongly aligned on both the upside and the downside with our investors. We want to signal to them that we are on their side as true partners. Our success is tied to our investors’ success.
If you hadn’t been a fund manager, what would you have been doing?
Well, I was a ski instructor in Austria for three years. That profession held a certain attraction. Alternatively, and completely orthogonally, I would have liked to have become a mathematician. I find mathematics very interesting and very influential in an understated way.
Hong Kong-based OP Investment Management (OPIM) keeps growing and helping some interesting hedge fund managers to launch their own funds. Former banker Michael Wegener, now Managing Partner of Case Equity, is one of them. HFC’s Stefan Nilsson decided to have a chat with Wegener about his event-driven investment strategy.
What can you tell us about your global event-driven strategy?
Case Equity is a global event-driven investment firm across merger arbitrage and special situation equities. Its philosophy is one of a global CIO office investing in best-in-class event-driven situations; defined as value-oriented, event-driven – hard or soft catalyst – with shareholder momentum overlay.
What sets you and your strategy apart from all the other emerging managers in Hong Kong?
Case Equity is the one and only event-driven hedge fund running a global strategy out of Hong Kong, Asia; as event-driven requires the key success factors of information transparency, board accountability and corporate governance. Intra-Asian investing were to add a political dimension coming with elevated risk beyond many investors control; hence our focus on Western markets, many of which trans-Atlantic deals, e.g. Johnson & Johnson’s recent US$30 billion acquisition of Actelion.
You have launched your fund on the OPIM platform. Why did you choose to work with OPIM?
I was keen to start on a multi-manager hedge fund platform allowing me to a) focus on investing and being in front of investors, b) know that the operational and regulatory aspects of the business are being taken good care of, and c) allowing me to keep full equity ownership, brand building identity and future growth support as a stand-alone entity.
Why did you launch the fund with Hong Kong as a base? You run a global strategy, are there advantages to being based in Asia?
I happen to be in Hong Kong, where Case Equity becomes one of the few choices for Asian high net-worth and family office investors looking for a) global equities diversification, b) absolute return strategy (9%-12% IRR target/run-rate) uncorrelated from broader equity markets (<30% beta to market), and c) exposure to global M&A activity (front-page, large-cap, cross-border, complex). Also, event-driven is not a day-trading strategy as an entry point depends on the right week or month – not day – with the investment exits predominantly sold in to the event at M&A (tender) offer price.
What did you do before you launched Case Equity?
I started my career as an investment banking analyst as part of Salomon Smith Barney’s (later Citigroup) Analyst Class 2000, having since focused on M&A/advisory for 15 years globally across multi-industries; prior to Case Equity’s Opportunities Fund launch in March 2016.
If you hadn’t been a fund manager, what would you have been doing?
Possibly M&A/strategy at a global corporate/diversified industrial group; though the skill set to anticipate M&A deals happening is best employed as an event-driven fund manager, delivering attractive risk-adjusted returns for investors.