A new management company has landed in Spain: it is the independent firm and fixed income specialist Colchester Global Investors, which invests exclusively in public debt with the objective of “preserving the diversifying integrity of government bonds” and which seeks to offer investors between 150 and 200 basis points of alpha above the benchmarks, and de-related risk assets. It only uses derivatives in currency futures contracts, whose exposure manages separately from that of bonds. Constance de Wavrin, Client Relationship Manager at the firm talks with funds society about their expansion plans.
Why have you decided to make the jump to the Spanish market?
We have recently made our investment strategies available in daily dealing, Irish-domiciled, UCITS Fund form. This prompts us to make headways in more intermediary- and retail distribution-focused jurisdictions than we have in the past, such as the Spanish market. While Colchester’s current assets under management are globally well-diversified, our presence in Continental Europe has historically been more heavily weighted in the more institutional space owing to managing portfolios in global sovereign bonds. We believe however that our trademark real yield investing process can bear significant decorrelation, diversification and liquidity advantages to Spanish investors in the intermediary and retail space. Colchester is committed to the Spanish market and this move is the first step in deepening our relationship with and presence in the market.
Do you think it has potential for growth and there is room for new managers?
The Spanish fund market, like many other continental European markets, is dominated by sizeable, established global asset managers. Especially in recent years, the rate of penetration by large, global managers has increased exponentially. We believe that the appeal of smaller, less well-known, asset managers can contribute to helping investors diversify their cross-asset exposure. In addition, by virtue of being of a more modest size, our fund strategies can help them gain exposure to less likely sovereign debt issuers which display strong balance sheets, are on a solid debt path and whose bond issuance is highly liquid.
What are the keys to your DNA and your offer in sovereign debt and currencies?
Colchester’s business is focused solely on bond and currency management.
As a result of this narrow focus, we believe our firm possesses six key advantages:
- Independence of ownership and the resulting alignment of our interests with those of our clients;
- Concentrated focus on global sovereign debt and higher quality smaller markets;
- Sovereign-only focus delivering the diversification benefit of being invested in bonds;
- Size (as measured in assets under management), which enables us to take meaningful positions in markets within the opportunity set;
- Consistent and disciplined application of time-proven value-oriented techniques; and
- Stability of investment team and other key professionals. Only one investment professional has left Colchester since inception.
We believe Colchester’s use of the smaller higher-quality sovereign bond markets is unique in the global bond investment management universe.
Colchester’s active use of this diversity allows it to circumvent the use of credit products in its portfolios and provides clients with attractive diversification at the aggregate portfolio level.
How do you want to conquer the Spanish market and what kind of product?
The Colchester Multi-Strategy Bond Fund (“MSGBF”) ICVC has recently been registered for fund unit sales in Spain and has appointed Allfunds Bank as a transfer agent and distributor.
We are in the process of initiating relationships with a number of prestigious local banks. In addition, we are listed on a number of European platforms including Allfunds, MFEX and UBS Fondcenter. We also have strong, long-standing relationships with leading global consultants and are working closely with their respective local offices in Spain. Colchester is committed to the Spanish market and this move is the first step in deepening our relationship with and presence in the market.
We strongly believe that our singular focus on sovereign bonds will help Spanish institutional clients’ preserve the integrity of their fixed income allocations. We also expect our offering to complement existing fixed income products currently carried by fund buy lists at intermediaries in Spain, including retail distribution platforms, discretionary portfolio managers at private banks, open-architecture multi-managers and fund-of-funds.
We count four flagship strategies. Our core strategy is a Global Sovereign Bond program, which we have been running since September 2000. Colchester introduced the Global Inflation–Linked Bond program in 2006, the Local Currency Emerging Markets Debt program at the end of 2008 and the Alpha Program in 2005.
In the current environment of very low profitability in public debt... What is your bet to win profitability?
In order to respond to this question, I would like to share with you some insight into our investment style and process which aim to deliver value in real terms throughout the cycle to our investors.
Colchester is a value-oriented manager. At the heart of Colchester’s philosophy is the belief that investments should be valued in terms of the income they will generate in real terms. The investment approach is therefore based on the analysis of inflation, real interest rates and real exchange rates, supplemented by an assessment of sovereign financial balances - fiscal, external and monetary. Portfolios are constructed to benefit from those opportunities with the greatest relative investment potential for a given level of risk. Sovereign bonds form the majority of Colchester’s portfolios.
Colchester eschews corporate credit, believing instead that its broader sovereign opportunity set provides attractive diversity and return potential.
Colchester’s use of sovereign-only portfolios ensures that the diversifying integrity of bonds is not compromised. Our Global Bond program mainly invests in developed markets, however Colchester’s unique use of the smaller bond markets in its portfolios differentiates us from most other fixed income managers. The fact that we are willing to make meaningful allocations to the likes of Australia and New Zealand among the developed bond markets and to Mexico and Poland among the Emerging Markets sets us apart from peers.
Colchester applies a qualitative screen to all high-quality investment grade countries to decide upon their inclusion, or otherwise, in the opportunity set. Size of market, liquidity, institutional structure, regulatory environment, capital regulations, political environment, stability issues, etc., are all considered by Colchester in its determination of the suitability of a country to be included in the opportunity set. Not all investment grade countries are included as barriers to foreign entry, political uncertainty and other factors have resulted in some countries being ‘screened out’. We constantly monitor the suitability of all existing and potential countries for inclusion in their investment opportunity set.
Colchester’s investment process focuses on identifying “Investment Value” at each important level: country, currency, sector and duration/maturity.
“Investment Value” is the synthesis of what we term “Real Value” and “Financial Stability” and its determination provides the basis on which Colchester takes investment decisions. “Real Value” is composed primarily of traditional real yield and real exchange rate measures, supplemented with an analysis of the term structure of interest rates. The determination of real yields and rates requires forecasts of future inflation, for which we employ robust, time-proven quantitatively oriented methodologies. We complement this analysis with quantitative assessments of sovereign financial strength backed up by country visits. “Financial Stability” has as its key determinants economic deficits and surpluses, monetary conditions and policy objectives.
Bond management is treated independently from currency management when deriving optimal bond and currency portfolios and we aim to generate half to two thirds of the relative return from bond selection and one third to a half from currency management. However, cross correlation risk between bond and currency exposures are analysed as a part of the assessment of the overall composition of risks in the final portfolio. Colchester believes significant duration variation is a low information ratio strategy. Accordingly, duration management is constrained to approximately +/-25% of benchmark duration.
Colchester’s approach to currency management is underpinned by an assessment of a country’s real exchange rate. This real valuation framework complements the real yield driven approach used on the bond side. A currency’s deviation from fair value has repeatedly been a strong indicator of a currency’s future movement. The further and longer a currency moves away from fair value the greater the likelihood—and the faster the speed—of an adjustment back towards fair value. Accordingly, we believe that higher returns are achievable over the medium term by being exposed to those currencies that are the most undervalued according to their real exchange rate.
In practical terms, this means that little or no currency risk is taken when a country’s real exchange rate is around fair value, but currency exposure is taken as currencies begin to meaningfully diverge from fair value. Estimates of the real exchange rate therefore provide the cornerstone of our currency valuation. We supplement these estimates with an assessment of a country’s financial balance factors and real interest rate differentials to generate Colchester’s estimate of each currency’s value. These currency values are then input into our optimisation framework to determine final currency allocations. Final portfolio exposures reflect both this underlying real valuation philosophy and clients’ risk preferences. Approximately 60% of Colchester’s currency valuation is determined by our estimate of the deviation of the real exchange rate from fair value, 20% by our assessment of the state of a country’s financial balances and 20% by the differential in short term real interest rates.
Are the Funds registered in Spain?
Yes, our funds are registered for sale in Spain. Our transfer agent is Allfunds Bank. Allfunds are also our distributing platform. We are aiming to add to this soon for greater accessibility.
Please see below our flagship funds. Each strategy exists in Irish-domiciled UCITS commingled fund form offering daily dealing, with different currency share classes, available hedged and unhedged:
- Colchester Global Bond Fund (sovereign bonds only) – USD 1.3 billion with a since inception annualised alpha of 0.9% (7yr track record)
- Colchester Local Markets Bond Fund (EM local debt only) – USD 2.4 billion with a since inception annualised alpha of 1.6% (6yr track record)
- Colchester Global Real Return Bond Fund (inflation-linked bonds) – USD 490 million with a since inception annualised alpha of 0.9% (10yr track record)
- Colchester Global Low Duration Bond Fund (sovereign bonds only) – USD 97 million with a since inception annualised alpha of 1.1% (4yr track record)
- Colchester Local Markets Real Return Bond Fund – seeded with our own money so only 2m USD in size with a since inception annualised alpha of 0.8% (7 year track record)
What kind of funds (of your offer) are generating more interest in the Spanish investor? And why?
To date, we have found that our EMD Local Currency fund is of particular interest to our prospects in the Spanish market. While demand in the EMD sector has recently shown signs of weakening and fund buy lists appear to be well-stocked, it appears that the compelling differentiating characteristics of our investment approach (as described below) are worthwhile considering by domestic fund selectors. Diversification in the form of uncompromised interest rate duration, daily liquidity and decorrelation from risk assets, including credit and other equity-linked securities, are appealing to today’s fixed income investors.
The analysis of your sovereign debt funds is different from the rest... how do you tell from the competition?
What sets us apart from other Global Fixed Income asset managers is that we are a value-oriented manager. At the heart of Colchester’s philosophy is the belief that investments should be valued in terms of the income they will generate in real terms. The investment approach is therefore based on the analysis of inflation, real interest rates and real exchange rates, supplemented by an assessment of sovereign financial balances—fiscal, external, monetary and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors. Portfolios are constructed to benefit from those opportunities with the greatest relative investment potential for a given level of risk.
Contrary to most managers of Global Bond and Emerging Market Debt funds, sovereign bonds form the majority of Colchester’s portfolios. Colchester eschews corporate credit, believing instead that its broader sovereign opportunity set provides attractive diversity and return potential. Colchester’s use of sovereign-only portfolios ensures that the diversifying integrity of bonds is not compromised. Our Global Bond program mainly invests in developed markets, however Colchester’s unique use of the smaller bond markets in its portfolios differentiates us from most other fixed income managers. The fact that we are willing to make meaningful allocations to the likes of Australia and New Zealand among the developed bond markets and to Mexico and Poland among the Emerging Markets sets us apart from peers.
This greater independence in the opportunity set improves the potential information ratio. This compounded with the highly liquid nature of our investment universe and the powerful decorrelation effect of the allocation make for a compelling investment proposition as part of a broader mix of assets.
Colchester give great importance to the ESG factors in the management. How we incorporate in the management of funds?
Colchester is a PRI signatory and we integrate ESG analysis into the financial balance sheet work within our investment process. All members of the Investment Team are involved in implementing our ESG Policy as part of their day-to-day involvement in research and portfolio management activities. Claudia Gollmeier, Senior Investment Officer, is responsible for PRI reporting and initiatives which are approved by Compliance and the Chief Investment Officer. Claudia is also a member of the PRI Fixed Income Advisory Committee (https://collaborate.unpri.org/news/eleven-new-signatories-added-to-pri-fixed-income-advisory-committee) and chairs the Sovereign Working Group. Please find on page 78 of the “PRI – Shifting Perceptions” a new paper from Claudia, which can be found here: https://www.unpri.org/credit-ratings/credit-risk-case-study-colchester-global-investors-/4028.article.
What customer profile do you direct?
We strongly believe that our singular focus on sovereign bonds can help Spanish institutional and intermediary clients’ preserve the integrity of their fixed income allocations. We also expect our offering to complement existing fixed income products currently carried by fund buy lists at intermediaries in Spain, including retail distribution platforms, discretionary portfolio managers at private banks, open-architecture multi-managers and fund-of-funds.
What growth objectives do you set in Spain for the next few years?
Colchester’s focus on generating solid risk-adjusted performance for our investors has been the main driver of the firm’s growth over the past 20 years. With this in mind, we are hoping to continue deliver for our clients and simultaneously gain traction with as many institutions, private banks and multi-managers as possible in the Spanish market. We are looking to establish mutually beneficial partnerships with key fund distributors. In the medium term, we are looking to establish a diversified footprint in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. As mentioned before, Colchester is committed to the Spanish market and this move is the first step in deepening our relationship with and presence in the market.
About the history and team…
Colchester was founded by Ian G. Sims in 1999 and commenced managing client portfolios in February 2000. Ian Sims, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer, was one of the premier global bond managers of the 1990s prior to founding Colchester. Our business is focused solely on interest rate, bond and currency markets managed by an investment team with combined experience of over 100 years. Colchester manages only fixed income, and as of end of May 2019 had US$ 46 billion under management.
Colchester is headquartered in London, and this is where the majority of the investment activities and operations take place. Colchester also has offices in New York and Singapore and Compliance and Marketing and Client Service representatives are based in all three office locations. Colchester Singapore was incorporated in February 2012 and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Colchester London and provides discretionary investment management, research and advisory services, marketing, client services and trade execution services to Colchester London and to external clients in Asia Pacific.