20 years have passed since Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI) landed in the Latin American Institutional business. Back then, the asset management firm started visiting Chile to register their funds with the Chilean Superintendency of Pensions (SP) and made them available for Pension Fund Administrators (AFP) to invest. In those days, the team was formed by Bev Hendry, Chairman of Americas for Aberdeen Standard Investments, Silvana Barrenechea, currently relocated to the UK office and Linda Cartusciello, Senior Institutional Business Development Manager for the Latin American business.
In 2010, ASI established a partnership with Celfin Capital, a Chilean investment bank and asset manager with an important market share on the institutional distribution business for international asset managers. In 2013, Celfin Capital was acquired by BTG Pactual. However, in 2015, the original partners and executives that were in charge of the distribution business decided to continue working independently in a new firm named Excel Capital, which has maintained its relationship with ASI until today.
In 2013, during the emerging market bull cycle, Aberdeen Standard Investments’ expertise in that asset class led to a peak of 6 billion dollars in assets under management, involving several pure equity and emerging market strategies for institutional clients in Chile, Colombia and Peru, always counting on Excel Capital International as their local distribution branch for the institutional business. Nowadays, ASI’s Latin American business totals 5 billion dollars in assets under management, belonging two third of the assets to the institutional business and one third to the wealth management business.
Aberdeen Standard Investments’ presence in the Americas region
In August 2017, the merger between Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management was completed. The group’s combined investment business, Aberdeen Standard Investments, with over 1.000 investment professionals, and 778 billion dollars in combined assets under management as December 2017, is now one of the largest asset management firms globally.
Campbell Fleming, Global Head of Distribution, leads the Asia-Pacific, EMEA-UK and Americas regions, and Jeff Klepacki, Head of Distribution of Americas, supervises the Canadian, the US and Latin American markets. In Canada, ASI has an office in Toronto, where they hold a sales team, a distribution team and a compliance team. In the US, they have offices in Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Stanford, Los Angeles and Miami, where Menno de Vreeze, Head of Business Development for the US offshore Business, will be soon relocating to cover Latin American retail business. Whereas, in the domestic Latin America-ex-Brazil region, Linda Cartusciello covers the institutional business, the Pension funds, AGFs & State Entities and the partnership with Excel Capital International in the Andean region, Rocio Hernandez is in charge of the Client Service from the Madrid office, and George Kerr, director of Aberdeen Standard Investments' Brazil office, covers the distribution business for pension funds, wealth management firms and family offices within Brazil.
In terms of assets under managements, the Americas region represents 80 billion dollars, most of this volume is the institutional business of United States and Canada, but they also hold around 15 billion dollars in domestic mutual funds (40 Act) and for the Latin American business, including institutional and offshore business, about 5 billion dollars.
“The merger has given us scale, now we are the second largest asset management in Europe and one of the largest in the world. It is also giving us a more diverse range of products. To be fair, Aberdeen Asset Management, and mostly in Latin America, was best known for its pure equity strategies, investing either on emerging or Asian-Pacific markets, but now, Aberdeen Standards Investments can offer a full range of investment strategies, including alternative investment products,” said Bev Hendry.
“What may work in Europe, may not work for Latin American investors, especially in those countries in where there are very high interest rates. In developed economies, interest rates are next to nothing and investors are in a constant search for yield. On the other hand, investors from Brazil or Argentina may not be searching as much for yield, but for diversification. In Brazil, we have set out a couple of local products. Right now, they are small in volume, but we are seeing a good improvement in the economy and we trust that the country will recover from the crisis. So, we are expecting good results in Brazil on the next year. We have two interesting things going on, firstly, the external investors are looking to invest in Latin America and secondly, Latin American investors have now the confidence to invest in their own region,” he added.
“The Latin American business was not particularly affected by the merger because Standard Life did not have a distribution plan in place yet. They have registered about 15 to 20 mutual funds in Luxembourg, but they did not have a designated distribution team, something that has worked great for us, as the Latin American distribution team now has more product to distribute,” continued Jeff Klepacki.
“We try to listen to our clients first, and really get an understanding of what their needs are for investing. As they become older and more reliant on their pensions, they do get more conservative, with a longer term in their investment approach. That is why we are having success with products like frontier bonds or Indian fixed income strategies, because the offer an attractive yield. We have also seen a restored appetite for China A Shares, Japanese and Latin American equities. We like to make sure we understand what the Latin American Institutional clients’ needs are, and we do that by working with Excel Capital, as they provide us a good handle on the market. We also want to educate clients on our new firm and what new capabilities we are gaining. For pension plans, we will hold the institutional conference in London, in November, and as always, we will invite some of our clients from Latin America. There, they will get to meet our portfolio managers and get to hear our outlook around the world. It is a good chance to stay connected to our clients in Latin America, because their risk appetite is very different, we have to make sure we have the right products to suit their needs,” he said.
“Although 95% of the assets that we manage for Latin American institutional investors are invested in equity strategies, Aberdeen Standard Investments’ equity franchise is opened to do new things, with structural changes and re-evaluating new opportunities. For example, before we did not invest directly in China, only through Hong Kong listed companies, today we have significant investments in China A shares. Additionally, our exposure to sectors, which used to be a direct consequence of our bottom-up investment approach, now we have a dedicated research that provides macroeconomic insights and its outlook by sectors, like Technology” commented Linda Cartusciello.
Aberdeen Standard Investments has capabilities in quantitative investment and smart beta strategies. They can apply different factors to indices, depending on investors’ concern about volatility, dividend yield or price momentum, putting all these factors into an investment strategy they are developing a retail smart beta strategy, aiming to outperform the market. They also use ESG factors embedded in their investment process to measure companies’ carbon footprint and have a carbon fund strategy to help with the environment.
But, their most recent development in alternative investments is the strategic partnership that a couple of years ago was formed between Aberdeen Standard Investments’ Infrastructure team and a Colombian boutique advisory company, LQA Funds SAS. Together they have launched a first fund of 250 million dollars that are hoping to invest over the next 3 or 4 years, in about 10 to 12 projects in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.
“We are currently fund raising now for an Andean Infrastructure project that invest in public and private placements. We would partner with a local government as an outside investor to help to build for a hospital or schools. The product is managed from Bogota, Colombia, where we partner with a local fund called LQA Funds. They are the local real estate experts, they find the projects and help on the due diligence to determine whether we want to bid for the project or not and we do the fund raising and the portfolio management,” explained Mr. Klepacki.
New opportunities in Mexico
Regarding the recent change in the Mexican pension funds regulation, which will allow Afores to invest in international mutual funds, Linda Cartusciello commented that they are speaking directly with the CONSAR (the Mexican National Commission for the Retirement Savings System).
“We are thrilled to launch a successful institutional business in Mexico. Throughout these 20 years of developing business in the region, we count with a deeper knowledge and wider experience, we are better organized working with our colleagues based in Luxembourg, Singapore, London and USA offices. We have selected the right people with the right training. All of us are highly committed to serve the Latin American market. I am very proud of our achievements and very grateful with the unconditional support from the Management Team in our group”, concluded Ms. Cartusciello.