In Cape Town, where Investec Asset Management story began 27 years ago, the international asset management firm with South African origins hosted the 11th Investec Global Insights conference and brought together 220 delegates from eleven countries around the world.
Richard Garland, Managing Director of the Global Advisor division, welcomed the attendees explaining what are the key elements that make Investec Asset Management a unique asset management firm. According to Garland, being a global asset management firm with emerging market roots differentiates the firm apart from competitors.
“The most important thing is where did we come from. There are many asset managers who start in London, New York, Boston or Los Angeles, but neither came out of the future. And, why do I say the future? It is because Africa is the future. We learned how to run money in the most difficult continent in the world for running money, and then we went global. We grew out of South Africa, an emerging market, to become a global asset manager”.
Some other characteristics that Garland believes differentiate Investec AM from competitors are: stability and continuity, multiple alignments of interests, a multi-specialist framework and culture.
“Over the years, we still have the same sales people and the same fund managers. This is core to who we are. The top 50 to 60 people at Investec Asset Management own equity from the company, our interests are aligned with the client interests. We work with a multi-specialist frame, we do not have only one investment style, we do not have only one investment team or philosophy. We have different ways of running money, which means we always have investment strategies or funds which will work for your clients in any environment.”
A top-level view: Interview with Hendrik du Toit
Following his introduction to the firm, Richard Garland interviewed Hendrik du Toit, Joint-CEO of Investec Group. Hendrik was one of the founders of the company in 1991, 27 years ago in Cape Town, where Investec AM was a small start-up asset manager offering domestic strategies in an emerging market.
From the early days, Hendrik remembered some chaos. But the firm was able to build up a mid-caps strategy and buy their growth in the next decade. They were able to build a track record based on multiple expansion, something that allowed them to reach new clients.
Du Toit stated that being a mid-size asset manager firm can be an advantage to compete against the large-scale asset managers. “This is an industry in which size is one of the components of strength and not necessarily the defining. It is about quality and excellence, it is not about size. In the banking industry balance sheet matters, it is an important source of strength. But in the asset management industry, you only need to be big and strong enough to deal with the regulatory barriers. When asset management firms become bigger, they lose control on what is going on in the business and only worry about the politics on the board room.”
When asked about entering the passive management business, Du Toit specified that there are only going to be two, or three at the most, serious global passive managers. “If you are in a race where prices tend to zero, only one or two scale players can live with one or two basis points. BlackRock and Vanguard, the discount players that make real money in the passive investment business, have a huge active business. ETFs have brilliantly market themselves as a passive investment and they tell the world they are cheap, when they are rather expensive. The managers make money out security trading and the commission fee and sell the illusion of a 100% liquidity when you are actually investing on very long duration assets. ETFs are a useful tool for all, we use them in our multi-asset portfolios, but they are not a competitor. In the end there are certain risks that provide the returns the clients need in a low yield world. You need to allocate your money where the winners are, otherwise you are going to stay with the losers. The promise of active is not that we are going to always outperform some index, which are difficult to beat. Instead, the promise of active is that we are going to allocate capital sensibly and try to capture the huge opportunities that the 4th revolution is bringing to capital markets.”
According to Hendrik, there are massive investment opportunities in China’s growth, in the renewable energy transition and in the food industry; and you need to be an active manager to capture them.
Demerger of Investec Group and listing of Investec AM
In September, Investec Asset Management announced that the firm will become a separately listed entity. After the separation of Investec AM from the remaining Investec Group, Hendrik du Toit will lead the new listed entity as Executive Chairman.
“Investec’s banking and wealth group are largely based in two countries: South Africa and UK. Whereas most of the growth of the asset management business comes from the Americas, Asia, Western Europe and the whole continent of Africa. Geographically, we are thinking differently. Also, client niches were totally different, we do not have direct clients as the banking and the wealth group do, we work with intermediaries. We focus on our client’s relationships and that turns into long-run revenue and profit growth,” stated du Toit.
“The strategy is going to remain the same. We are going to help clients who want to take active risks to achieve the returns over and above target benchmarks in chosen markets with our skillsets. All our portfolio managers have different but complementary skillsets. There is an addressable market of 25 to 30 trillion dollars and we would like to keep growing on our current shape. We will obviously add some private market illiquid asset offer or any other business that is active and difficult to do.”
Concluding the interview, du Toit mentioned the importance of considering environmental, social and sustainability criteria when investing. “I grew up in Africa and I have seen what climate change can do to communities. I have seen what overfishing, deforestation, and polluted rivers can do to places. It is not debatable that 7 billion humans have an excessive impact on this world. We also know that we have to combine development and job creation with protection of the natural resources of our world. We are long-term investors. We are supposed to invest for the next generation and the generation after. We must think about the consequences of our capital allocation. We are fortunate to be the stewards of capital and we have a long-term liability to choose where to allocate the capital. Companies will be sued and will go bankrupt for environmental liabilities”.