december 2021, Aankondigingen

AF Advisors’ annual review of the Dutch investment management industry 2021

Only available in English

Pedal to the metal amid uncertainty 

We are not done with covid-19. Whereas 2020 fixed our hopes on the promise of vaccines, 2021 taught us that they will only be part of the solution. The longer-term outlook remains uncertain and a gradual return to  ‘normal’ will be more complicated than we had originally hoped. Vaccine boosters and other treatments will be needed in combination with further healthcare investments to deal with covid-19 variants. Further, the Covid pandemic has highlighted the need to invest in the general health and well-being of the society to make it more resilient. 2021 has showed us that there is no single silver bullet and what remains is a lot of uncertainty. 

Many sectors have been impacted by the uncertain outlook. It is therefore surprising to see that stock markets are still at record highs and  market volatility has remained within historically average levels. At a global level, sectors such as hospitality and travel  have been adversely impacted whereas others have invested heavily to respond to or take advantage of changes in consumer behavior. This global pattern was also apparent in the Dutch financial sector. Whilst in 2020 there was a degree of trepidation and investments delayed, 2021 many market participants made strategic changes including significant divestments by Nationale Nederlanden (NN Investment Partners) and Athora (Actiam). The global investment industry has been consolidating strongly over the last years. The alternative to consolidation is specialization. This requires important choices to be made and results in investments to be better prepared for an uncertain future. 

We believe that the Dutch investment industry will change drastically in next ten years. The combination of consolidation, a challenging economic environment, a further transition to sustainable investing and pension reform will drive unprecedented levels of required changes in our industry. To assist our clients with these changes we have organized AF Advisors in four business lines. Each of those business lines consists of experienced experts that are able to provide expert advice and lead implementation to help our clients respond to these challenges.  

 

Investment Consultancy 

The Investment Consultancy team provides asset owners with focused investment advice. In 2021 the focus remained in three specific areas: specialty fixed income allocations, private market allocations and sustainability. The economic environment remains challenging for investing as it combines high equity valuations, low interest rates and a rising inflation. Investors will need to prepare for lower portfolio returns in both the short term and long term. Consequently, asset owners will be required to rethink allocations in order to boost portfolio resilience by looking at higher yielding assets and fixed income asset classes with lower interest rate sensitivity.  

Integration of sustainability in the portfolio has been accelerated by regulations and activist pressure. Equity allocations are designed to incorporate sustainability and to reflect the values of the investor. The next step is integrating sustainability in fixed income and alternatives allocations. Especially in new or changed allocations of our clients, sustainability has been an integral part of the design of the allocation. 

For more information contact Martine Vissers (m.vissers@af-advisors.nl), Maurice Kemper (m.kemper@af-advisors.nl) or Nienke Kuppens (n.kuppens@af-advisors.nl). 

 

Organisational Consultancy 

The Organisational Consultancy team provides our clients with operational model advice. In 2021, the main catalysts for change were the anticipated pension reform and cost pressures. These catalysts have driven many clients to rethink operational design, sourcing and scalability to accommodate future growth. 

Commercial asset managers have typically been fastest amongst market participants to respond to these catalysts for change. In 2021 we anticipate that the pension sector will use pension reform to review and change their service providers. Fiduciary managers, asset managers, investment administrators, pension administrators and custodians each play an essential role in the new operational infrastructure. 

Starting in February AF Advisors will offer a free-of-charge workshop to pension funds to provide insights into the pension reform’s  operational challenges and to discuss the strategic operational model decisions that will need to be made in 2022. 

For more information contact Peter Dom (p.dom@af-advisors.nl), Sef Laschek (s.laschek@af-advisors.nl) or Jasper Haak (j.haak@af-advisors.nl).

 

Regulatory Consultancy 

The Regulatory Consultancy team assists our clients with a variety of regulatory challenges ranging from impact analysis, project management, legal support and navigating regulatory approvals and licenses. The focus in 2021 was Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation. 

In 2022, we anticipate that our clients regulatory focus will continue to be on Sustainability including level II of the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation and MIFID. Despite the delay in implementation deadline, implementation will require a major effort as these regulations impact affects a wide range of processes and commercial considerations including the investment process, data, systems controls, performance and reporting as well as interacting with distribution advisory models.  

For more information contact Ernst de Klerk (e.de.klerk@af-advisors.nl) or Philip de Koeijer (p.de.koeijer@af-advisors.nl).  

 

Structuring 

The Structuring team covers the full investment product life cycle from product strategy to product development and structuring investment solutions and from product management to asset transfers. Most asset managers, fueled by increased competitive pressure and SFDR, have reconsidered their product range and will be implementing these changes. 

Product development in 2021 mostly reflected the current market trend towards alternative investments and sustainable investments. We anticipate these trends to persist into 2022 and that clients in particular will be focused on the development of innovative private debt investment solutions, asset transfer support as part of market consolidation and changes to service providers coming out of pension reform.  

For more information contact Saskia Leonard (s.leonard@af-advisors.nl) or Jasper Haak (j.haak@af-advisors.nl). 

 

AF Advisors 

As a consultancy firm, AF Advisors has benefited from the multitude of changes in our industry. We have assisted a record number of 76 clients with a variety of assignments. Apart from a relatively brief period during the summer months, most of our client interaction has been online. While this is efficient, we miss the face-to-face interaction with our clients and among our colleagues. Where possible we have organized open air social events, including some to contribute to our social partnership with the Survival with Pancreatic Cancer Foundation . 

Early in 2021 Martine Vissers joined the team of partners of AF Advisors. We have grown our team in 2021 as we have gradually over the last decade. To sustain our growth, we will continue to attract and train talent. 

We look forward to cooperating with our clients in 2022. 

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