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Luxurious launch pad

Fennell Betson reports from the Financial Products Forum held in Lausanne

The Financial Products Forum (FPF), held in Lausanne last month, lived up to its name. Thirty providers, both Swiss and foreign institutions, availed of the magnificent surroundings of the famous lakeside Beau Rivage Hotel to talk with investors from Swiss pension funds and other institutions.

What is claimed to be Switzerland's first domestic venture capital investment fund was announced at FPF by Renaissance PME. Not only is the fund targeted at pension fund investors, it comes from a foundation that is supported by a number of local pensions funds.

The advisers and managers of the fund are the Zug-based Venture Partners. We hope to raise Sfr120m($81.6m) by June next year," said a RPME spokesperson.

Also announced at the event were the new indexed stock funds in Ge-neva Cantonal Bank's Synchrony range. Aimed at the pensions fund market, these funds track the S&P500, the Russell 1000 Growth and Russell 1000 Value indices. Synchrony's investment director Claude Cornioley believes there can be advantages to portfolios who invested in both the value and growth funds. International asset manager Société Générale an-nounced three new compartments for its giant Sogelux fund. These cover Netherlands equities, emerging market debt funds and a UK money market fund, all areas likely to be of interest to institutional in-vestors, said director Bruno Roberti.

Geneva private bank Lombard Odier announced two new funds in its established 'Obli' range. "They are being promoted by our institutional team," said deputy director Nicolas Walther

Lloyds Bank International in Ge-neva said it has having particular success with its government bonds 'ratchet fund' which gives the up-ward movement in the Swiss SMI index, but limits the potential downside market. "This is tailormade for institutions", said director Jean-Charles Brandt and had attracted Sfr150m from the market since its launch last year.Future funds linked to the DAX and the S&P500 are in the course of being launched.

At the accompanying seminar sessions, a range of speakers normally from the groups exhibiting, gave presentations covering a wide range of topics on technical and specialist investment topics. Ethos, the investment fund investing in Swiss companies selected on ethical, social and environmental grounds, reported on its progress since its launch. Already, it has taken in some Sfr220m from pension fund investors. Next spring, it intends to launch a fund investing in European companies, chosen on similar criteria.

Nikko Bank (Switzerland) brought over its research centre director Larry Prager from Tokyo to give his views on the Japanese markets. Once there was convincing evidence that the forces of change was driving a shift to shareholder value "then we would recommend a solid exposure to Japan," he said.

The major Swiss banks, such as UBS, Credit Swiss and SBC Brinson, were there in force, some in the guise of their new Swiss asset management subsidiaries, designed to convince investors that these can deliver independent investment services and so attract clients, who are not otherwise bank customers.

A number of banks were there for the first time, such as Zurich-based Julius Baer, who sees the opportunities the Suisse-Romande market can offer. Altogether there were nine new groups making an appearance this year, says Olivier Ferrari of the Forum, who is also a principal of Vevey-based Coninco consultants. Though at 900, the attendance was somewhat down on the 1,000 who attended last year, Ferrari says the appeal of the event will be broadened in 1998, including simultaneous translation of sessions in English, French and German.

A limited number of copies of this year's collection of the forum presentations and papers, which are in English, French and German are available on a first come first served basis free of charge. Please fax your business card to IPE: + 44 171 928 3332."

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