Liquid alternatives in a UCITS format are attracting interest from a wider range of investors, including insurers and pension funds, as a way to meet the transparency edicts of Solvency ll.
Cerulli Associates‘ report entitled European Alternative Products and Strategies 2016: Opportunity Knocks in the New Era finds that institutional investors are turning to retail-style alternative products as a cost-effective means to address regulatory pressure and to bridge the yield gap created by low-performing debt holdings.
More than 86% of asset managers surveyed by the global analytics firm predict an increase in demand for alternative UCITS funds over the next two years. Products with the UCITS stamp of approval are enticing conservative institutions in France and Germany into alternatives, as well as insurers EU-wide following the introduction of Solvency II.
In addition, hedge fund managers interviewed by Cerulli said that, although there had been fewer requests for UCITS products among institutional clients in the past 12 months when compared with offshore, AIFMD-branded alternative investment funds, and segregated accounts, they expected UCITS to be, along with offshore, the most likely format for new fund launches over the next two years.
“What was once the preserve of global and regional private banks is of increasing interest to continental institutions as well as EU insurers more generally,” says Tony Griffiths, senior analyst at Cerulli and co-author of the report. “One Swiss hedge fund manager told us it was surprised to find interest in the UCITS versions of its products among Swedish and Finnish institutions–two of Europe’s bigger buyers of offshore funds,” he adds.
Alternative beta -or risk premia- productsare also being sought, and implemented, by institutional clients as a cost-effective, liquid, and flexible means of securing portfolio diversification and achieving similar returns to hedge funds; a move that is stretching the definition of “alternatives”.
“The balance of power is shifting to the investor,” says Justina Deveikyte, senior analyst at Cerulli and co-author of the report. “Lingering dissatisfaction with offshore hedge funds-sluggish performance, high fees, and minimal opacity -has influenced the rise in demand for alternative beta products,” she adds.
A number of alternative asset managers and hedge fund houses across Europe are evaluating or have already developed alternative beta strategies, while others are quite skeptical. There has been an increase in launches by alternative asset managers as they seek to meet growing demand and diversify business. This will invite greater scrutiny of performance.