Alternative and infrastructure offerings continue to grow

By Penny Pryor

Robert da Silva has been head of research at SQM Research for over seven years and is a keen observer of new trends in funds management. During his time at SQM fund manager ratings have risen from around 50 a year to close to 400 ratings a year.

Aside from the well-observed trend of an increasing number of ESG products, da Silva says he has noticed growth in products in the alternative space.

"Not so much in the hedge fund part of the world, it's more in the private asset part of the world - private credit, direct lending, peer to peer lending, private equity - they're trying to find products that can appeal to retail now, and in some cases, a couple of listed vehicles," he says.

"Those private assets that the big super funds have been involved with for a long time are now shifting and looking to get some retail presence."

The range of infrastructure product available is also growing.

"[It has] been growing faster than most other property related sectors for a few years now. And I noted a couple of years ago that it took over Global REITs in size in terms of the products that are out there," da Silva says.

"There's a lot of money going into infrastructure all around the world, because as we all know, most of the world needs more infrastructure. That's another trend I think will be a multi-year, maybe multi-decade, type of trend."

And of course, there is the increase in the number of separately managed accounts (SMA) now available, another fast-growing product trend with many fund managers, and even adviser groups, keen to develop their own model portfolios for investors.

"The SMA is becoming more popular as opposed to the standard managed fund structures. So, it's not necessarily new ideas about how to invest or what to invest in, but just the packaging and presentation which is more personalized and customized," da Silva says.

In terms of the bigger picture, regulatory changes in the funds management industry are making it harder for smaller and boutique managers to gain ground. For example, the new Design and Distribution Obligations now require product issuers to have target market determinations for most products.

"It's a big deal because you can get into a lot of trouble if you haven't set the right target market, etc. So that's a whole new regime that does bring a sharper focus to all managers. And again, guess who has got the resources to do that well and really tightly - it's the bigger managers. The smaller managers are relying on outsourcing that or struggling internally to do it. That doesn't mean they're not doing it properly, it's just that it's more of a challenge," da Silva says.