This is a guest blog post by Daniel Enskat, Strategic Insight’s Head of Global Consulting and Senior Managing Director.
The Monaco Fund Forum International is always of major importance for the industry in its 21st year, it is the worlds largest asset management event, and Julian Kirby, Jenny Adams, Ed Jones and team again outdid themselves.
It also was a major event for Strategic Insight and Asset International this year, since we came to Monaco with almost a dozen representatives, including our chairman and CEO, Jim Casella.
Jag, Rita, Mike, Jason, Jamie, Lise, Andreas, Ilaria and other colleagues from AI attended at the same time, we had a big Strategic Insight event in NY on Monday/Tuesday as well, led by Avi Nachmany, Kevin and the US team, with close to 200 senior executives of the US fund industry a big week all around.
Monday, Distribution Day
Of special interest to me, after having touched on brand and client service in addition to performance as key fund manager selection criteria post-crisis, was the pre-lunch guest speech by Rita Clifton, chair(wo)man of Interbrand, on the future of brands.
Rita quoted examples from Interbrands work on the top 100 global brands, conducted annually, along with case studies of Apple, Google and other fast growing brands. All of this of course tied in nicely with the blogs I have done on those firms in recent months, linking them to the asset management world.
Then it was off to a lunch meeting with clients and various other meetings mostly over coffee throughout the day, so I couldnt listen to all afternoon discussions for Monday. But the team was present as I tried to drop in in between meetings as often as possible.
Highlights included: wholesale distribution strategies with Richard Romer-Lee (OBSR), Taylan Turan (HSBC), Koen Bougard (AXA Bank), Jean-Francois Hautemulle (Unicredit Private Bank), Pete Davis (Zurich Financial) and Roy Smale (Wellington); and a late afternoon multi-manager discussion chaired by Roland Meerdter (Propinquity), with Jamie MacLeod (Berry AM), Alan Durrant (National Bank of Abu Dhabi), Stephane Corsaletti (ABN Amro PB), Bernard Aybran (Invesco Europe), and Allan Lorentzen (Danske Bank).
After that it was off to an unforgettable evening hosted by Franklin Templetons Vijay Advani and Jamie Hammond, featuring Mark Mobius and his team at the Chateau de la chevre dor in Eze, with a special seven-course tasting menu overlooking the cote dazur. It was a great evening with many close friends and clients Mark and team shared their views on emerging markets, and the discussions amongst the attendees covered the world many times over.
KPMGs Tom Brown hosted the first day of the main conference, and it started off with two bangs: first, John Micklethwait, Editor in Chief for the Economist, layed out his framework for the West and the Emerging Economies, followed by a CEO roundtable moderated by Mark Tennant, with Jamie Broderick (JP Morgan), Elizabeth Corley (AGI) and James Charrington (Blackrock) addressing issues around Future-Proofing the Industry Giants of Fund Management Respond.
After the coffee break and a few informal meetings I went back to the auditorium to listen to another CEO panel moderated by Jose Benjamin Longree (Citi), with Willie Watt (Martin Currie), Rudolf Apenbrink (HSBC), Juan Alcaraz (Santander) and Hugh Willis (BlueBay).
Rudolf used to run HSBC in Asia and is now back in Europe, so he had a lot of important global views, Juan after heading up Allfunds was put in charge of Santander overall and has strong exposure in LatAm. I was especially interested as well in Hughs comments, after having written a piece on David & Goliath in global asset management a few weeks ago, including a case study of BlueBay.
The Fund Forum Interview 2011: The View From Asia
Up next was the FundForum Interview 2011: The View From Asia, where I had the pleasure to speak with Vijay Advani (Franklin Templeton) and Tim McCarthy (Nikko). Tim and Vijay are probably the most knowledgable executives on Asia and how the region links to the US, Europe and the rest of the world. Tim was a senior executive with Schwab and Fidelity in the US, and spent many years all over Asia before taking over the role of CEO & Chairman for Nikko Asset Management. Vijay now runs Franklin Templeton globally out of San Mateo, but in reality spent many years building the business for the firm in Asia as well and practically lives on a plane.
I will publish a thought leadership piece with their views soon, including key observations on how to approach Asia, how it fits into a global organization, how to make it profitable and how important Asia will be in the next decade vis-a-vis other regions.
DSE in discussion with Vijay Advani & Tim McCarthy
The interview concluded the main morning session in the auditorium after lunch it would continue with four different breakout streams on topics including UCITS, Product Development, Investment Strategy and Asset Allocation.
My afternoon was packed with client and prospect meetings, alongside media discussions, followed by dinner hosted by KPMG and Citi, one at Beaulieu-sur-Mer, the other one at the Hermitage. When deciding between two extremely appealing options, especially when friends such as Tom Brown and Jervis Smith are inviting, go for the third one: dinner with the whole team nearby, hosted by Jim being able to spend quality time with the whole team of global analysts and client managers is a rare opportunity. We had great food and laughed a lot, the perfect finish to a busy first conference day (technically the second day).
Wednesday, Main Conference Day Two
Day two was chaired by Patrick Colle (BNP), and it featured a packed morning with many highlights, including Neeraj Sahai (Citi), a CEO panel moderated by Jervis Smith towards the investment driven organisation with Martin Gilbert (Aberdeen), Andrew Fisher (Towry), Katherine Garrett-Cox (Alliance Trust) and Jim McCaughan (Principal), and then the Guest Asset Manager of the Year Interview by Ross Westgate (CNBC), with Larry Fink (Blackrock).
Among many other important comments, Larry most notably talked about the main focus for Blackrock in coming years being to build a powerful brand.
Indeed, Alex on Monday in his remarks had talked about Brand and Service Alpha in addition to Performance Alpha for Blackrock, and, curiously, Blackrock was the only manager at the forum that tweeted on all sessions throughout the week.
After a great client lunch at Avenue 31 with Roger Moore at the table next to us, I have to remind the waiters that I am not on French Riviera time and leave the table at 2:22pm to head over to my last speaking engagement for the week at 2:30pm, a panel and presentation on UCITS vs. Asia Fund Passport in the Emerging Markets Distribution stream. In recent weeks we had published numerous research pieces on emerging markets and especially Latin America, so I look forward to this more intimate panel.
I also have the pleasure of doing this stream with Camille Thommes, General Manager for Alfi. After polling the room on their specific interests, which include Asia Fund Passport, trends in Latin America, Dublin vs. Luxembourg and the potential of local passports for individual markets such as China, my senior HK-based research analyst Lise Carpenter gives a short overview of UCITS data, and then we get into the discussion.
The advantage of a smaller room with only one hundred or so people is that everyone is more specifically interested in the topic and has important views to share, so we turn it into a town hall style discussion with open Q&A.
Tomorrow we will publish an in-depth analysis of the topic, stay tuned.
After this last official engagement at the forum I continue with a few media interviews, a television appearance with EFAMA president JB de Franssu on UCITS, and then head over to the American Bar at the Hotel de Paris with Jim to meet one of our clients for a drink, before taking a taxi to the gala dinner by the pool at the Monte Carlo Beach Club.
A short but powerful thunderstorm wreaks havoc and puts the drinks in jeopardy, but this being the riviera, it is all over a few minutes later. At around 10pm we head back to the hotel and have a final round (or two) of mixed berry mojitos with the team.
We call it a night at about midnight.
I spend Thursday writing by the pool and on the phone, and then catch the Friday morning flight back to NY for a few days in the office, before being up in the air again on Thursday, this time to Colombia.
Good bye Monaco.