Last updated: 09:52 / Thursday, 18 July 2019
Media Forum in London

Anne Richards (Fidelity International): “The Shift that the Asset Management Industry Is Seeing Now Will Exclude a lot of Investors”

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Anne Richards (Fidelity International): “The Shift that the Asset Management Industry Is Seeing Now Will Exclude a lot of Investors”
  • Anne Richards, CEO of Fidelity International, shared her view of the asset management industry and the future of the firm in the next decade during the celebration of the Fidelity International’s annual Media Forum in London
  • Global regulations on pension funds and other long-term saving vehicles are directing the mass affluent investors to own public listed securities
  • Meanwhile, the amount of capital that has been allocated to private markets has increased and the returns in the private markets have been persistently higher than in the public listed markets

During the celebration of the Fidelity International’s annual Media Forum in London, Anne Richards, CEO of the firm, shared her view on the challenges that the asset management industry will have to face in the next decade.

According to Richards, global regulations on pension funds and other long-term saving vehicles are directing the mass affluent investors to own public listed securities. Meanwhile, the amount of capital that has been allocated to private markets has increased and the returns in the private markets have been persistently higher than in the public listed markets.

“The number of public listed companies is falling around the world. Companies are increasingly looking to private markets to raise capital. Last year in the US, more money was raised in the private markets than it did in public listed markets. When I was the rookie on the desk, one of my tasks was to manually check the price of each holding that we owned across the business. The total number of listed companies that I had to check was 967 stocks. Today, the equivalent number is more than a third lower. On one hand, the regulators are pushing the mass affluent investors into funds that are typically concentrated in daily listed stocks, which is a market that is currently narrowing, and on the other hand, the asset management industry knows that the returns are higher in the private market. I think this is a deeply uncomfortable juxtaposition to have,” explained Richards. 

“The main benefit of democratization of capital was to allow people without a lot of money to get some access to capital markets. The shift that the asset management industry is seeing now will exclude a lot of investors from obtaining attractive capital returns. The returns in private markets are being only directed to those who have the capacity to get exposure to that type of capital, categorized as professional investors. This may cause eventually an inequality issue, which is the heart of much of the unrest and political divergences that the world is facing right now. We have to come together as industry and think about ways of making sure that we can continue to offer a whole range of investment opportunities, regardless of the investment amount”, she added. 

A shift towards more returns for society

Speaking about the responsibility that the asset management industry has over society, Richards mentioned the need to take into consideration not only the financial returns, but the long-term impact that every business has in the society.

“When you look after other people’s money, like the asset management industry does, you end up with an above average share of voice by collecting a lot of individual voices. Our business could make a meaningful difference on encouraging companies not take advantage of the work force or the environment, and to do things that are good for the broader society. Financials returns are important, but not enough. We need to think about the long-term impact of investments. This is important to us because our clients and employees are also asking for a responsible way of investment,” she said.

A family business

The fact that Fidelity Investments and Fidelity International are a family started business -the Johnson family owns a large part of the business, although there are other many shareholders and employees that are owners as well- makes the dynamic of the business very different.

“This characteristic gives Fidelity International a long multi-generational view. The mindset is not about maximizing the value of what we are doing today. Instead, the mindset is how you can build something better to handle it to the next generation, and that’s very special. It is a very refreshing mindset. In a listed company business, the decisions of the management are sometimes affected by the demands that the market imposes on the business and the volatility that can come from the pressure on quarterly earnings.

This is not to say that it does not matter to us running an efficient organization and taking care of the business that we inherited from the previous generation. But we do have an ability to take a through-cycle view of what we want to do and how we want to invest,” she stated.
Fidelity International has two distinctively separated business. Firstly, the investment management part of the business, where the firm engages directly with institutional clients, wholesale clients, private banks or larger financial institutions. And secondly, the platform business that can be used to help advisers to manage their part of the business.

“The dynamics of these two areas of the business are quite different. This gives us a good window on the landscape in the outside world and on what is wanting from us. This full capacity is very powerful and few of our competitors have it”, she mentioned.

Geographical spread

China is a massive market and opportunity. Population in China is aging and has more disposable income than the previous generations. Regulators and policy makers are starting to build the infrastructure to provide to each individual person the ability to have some sort of control over their financial future, as it has already happened in other countries around the world. China is about to build the first pillar to their pension system, but they still not have a third pillar of voluntary savings. 

“As for now, we have been in investing in China over 20 years and we have been competing in the ground field around 14 years. In order to build up our capabilities in China, we have been a lot more patient than our competitors. Partly, because we have always felt we needed to be in control of culture, and partly because of the investment environment that our teams are operating in. In 2017, we had the opportunity to obtain a wholly owned investment license in China, which only allows to do business with high net worth individuals, not with the mass affluent market,” she explained. 

Other strategic areas

Historically, Fidelity International tended to be known for its expertise and capabilities in both equities and fixed income. However, since the number of public listed companies is falling in many developed markets, Fidelity International considers very important to start building a broadest range of capabilities in the less liquid space of the investment universe. In that regard, the firm recently hired Andrew McCaffery, who will fill the newly created position of Chief Investment Officer for alternative assets.

“We want to build out our capabilities across the alternative investment space so that we can continue to offer innovative themes to our customer base as it evolves. So, it does not mean in anyway, that we are trenching our former heritage or our market expertise, particularly in the equity market and increasingly in the fixed income market, but that we need to enhance the offer the whole spectrum of capabilities”, she concluded. 

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