The Fund Congress will take place in Mannheim from 30 to 31 January. In addition to popular speakers with lectures with a product focus, this event offers an interesting range of specialist lectures and roundtables. Also in this year again well-known investment companies and further service providers, like depot banks and adhesion roofs as well as a multiplicity of fund boutiques are to be found at this meeting. Just like a Baader Bank conference in 2018 with panel topics such as „How can investment companies support the portfolio manager in fund distribution“, this congress also gave fund boutiques a wide range of topics for discussion. IPE D.A.CH editor-in-chief Frank Schnattinger spoke with independent asset management consultant Markus Hill about the congress, the role of investment companies, current specialist areas of interest, and the moderation of a round table on commodities in Mannheim.
IPE D.A.CH: Which topics will be addressed at the Funds Congress in Mannheim?
Hill: In contrast to the upcoming Institutional Money Congress in Frankfurt in February, the Fondskongress in Mannheim is strongly focused on semi-institutional fund selectors. As a special feature, I would say that as a format for the exchange of ideas between product providers and investors, it is a central communication platform in this segment. It is true that from time to time it is still criticised that its roots are traditionally in the independent financial services sector. In my opinion, however, a change is slowly taking place here in the sense that more and more other investors from the „semi-institutional“ sector are also gradually becoming interested in a pleasant professional exchange of ideas with the product providers. All kinds of topics are represented at the congress. Marcel Fratzscher, Thilo Sarrazin, Friedrich Merz, fund boutiques, Value, Growth, Smart Beta, AIFs, SRI, and more – the funds‘ congress offers a pleasant variety of topics. If you study the organizer’s program, you will always find specialist areas that are of interest as a lecture or roundtable. Of course, there are formats with a strong product orientation. But here, too, one should remain fair: many brokers of financial products also demand such preparation, direct product information. Also, there are many non-product-related events and, in general, the congress as a platform for a cultivated exchange of professional ideas. Even if it is not a classic event for institutional investors, for one or the other the variety of topics and providers always offers a professional „entertainment value“. The transparency of mutual fund providers can sometimes lead to managers being found who perhaps do not meet classic requirements at first glance; many fund boutiques are often worth a second glance. Even if they are not eligible for a special fund for some time yet – mutual funds for institutional investors is a field that has developed excellently over the years.
IPE D.A.CH: What do you find interesting here in Mannheim?
Hill: I have been following the topic of fund boutiques and private label funds more intensively since 2003, it was by no means mainstream back then. At that time, many traditional asset management consultants initially had a „compassionate smile“ for this complex of topics. Last year, three representatives of well-known capital management companies discussed the topic of „How can an investment company support the portfolio manager in fund distribution?“ at an event organized by Baader Bank. Marcus Kuntz (Universal Investment), Andreas Hausladen (Hansainvest), and Winfried Stürzbecher (Ampega) discussed this „niche topic“ with great commitment. These addresses are also represented at the Funds Congress (alongside many other service providers). Some of these addresses offer independent asset managers a platform for direct talks at the stand, lectures, and speed dating with fund selectors. A luxury problem at the Funds Congress is that there is a supply of information that is hardly manageable. You can study the program thoroughly, choose the „right“ fund boutique, the fund advisor, from these service providers and you can seek direct contact. These small, often less well-known addresses very often offer interesting approaches and know-how, and the exchange of ideas is worthwhile. This is simply because, in addition to the investment approach, the entrepreneurial personality, portfolio manager with a „skin-in-the-game“ factor, offers added value in the conversation. To be fair, it should be noted that this does not mean that there are not also corporate managers who offer a similar „entertainment value“. There are a large number of such addresses at the Fund Congress. Light and shade exist in both segments, risk diversification is the order of the day!
IPE D.A.CH: What other topics are you currently working on?
Hill: The area of AIFs and real assets, off-market segments, I am currently observing intensively, also the topic „Sensibility and non-sensibility of sponsoring formats in the asset management area“ (topic area: „distance marketing concepts“ versus direct investor contact, fund boutiques, seed money, etc.) Input, ideas, and suggestions on this topic area are always welcome. Value Investing, Family Offices, and Private Equity thinking are still interesting, probably in April, an event will take place again in Frankfurt with MH-Kurzintro. To come back to Mannheim: The Funds Congress has now developed its ecosystem. Over the years, many events have positioned themselves around the congress itself, many of the exhibitors communicate with their „fan groups“ through various channels. In some cases, other formats are already running at the same time or shortly before the congress (example: 29.1., Fondsfrauen summit). I will be kind enough to host a small roundtable on 30.1. by SIA Funds AG on the topic of commodities (Urs Marti, Alex Rauchenstein). By the way: The Funds Congress also offers professional input from many companies in this area. I believe that this ecosystem of congress offers a special added value to many participants and sponsors. The variety of local service providers in the area of boutiques, investment companies, custodian banks, placement agents, and liability umbrellas is also not often found. If one takes some meaning pregnancy from the formulation of the sociologist Markus Mirwald, one could perhaps find a motto for the Funds Congress Mannheim, Funds Boutiques, and Dialogue: „To share thoughts means to give them the freedom to be given new forms in other people.