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New record year for Spezialfonds as net sales jump 33% – BVI

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Pension schemes and insurers drove €73.2bn of fresh flows into German Spezialfonds in 2015, contributing “significantly” to a fourth consecutive record year for new business, according to BVI, the German investment funds association.

More than €120bn of new business was captured by Spezialfonds last year, a 33% jump from 2014 net sales and a new all-time high, according to 2015 figures released by the BVI.

It marks the fourth consecutive year-on-year increase for the fund type.

Holger Naumann, president of the BVI, attributed the strong appeal of Spezialfonds to fund companies delivering “customised solutions for institutional asset management”, including individual hedging strategies, professional risk management and reporting to support institutional investors in their regulatory reporting obligations.

The net inflows represent approximately 60% of the €193bn of total new business for the German fund companies in 2015, a record year for the industry as retail funds also had a bumper year. 

These recorded €71.9bn of net sales in 2015, double the previous year’s.

Record inflows into balanced funds were the main driver.

As at the end of 2015, German fund companies had a record €2.6trn of assets under management, according to the BVI.

The appeal of Spezialfonds has looked at risk of being weakened by German government plans to amend the country’s investment law, but an amendment by the ministry of finance filed in December has alleviated at least some concerns.

The ministry’s initial plan had been to introduce a flat-rate taxation up front for re-invested profits from Spezialfonds.

For an in-depth look at the expansion of Spezialfonds, see the special report in the October 2015 issue of IPE magazine

ESA regulatory ‘over-reach’

The 2015 fund inflow figures were released on the occasion of the BVI’s annual press conference, during which the association also assessed the state of play for the industry from a regulatory standpoint.

Thomas Richter, chief executive at the BVI, said it was positive that the regulatory thrust since 2008 had not led to a “structural break” of the fund management business, and that politicians recognised that the effectiveness of these laws needed to be investigated before taking further steps.

However, he criticised the increasing regulatory over-reach at the EU level via technical implementing measures from the European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) and the European Commission.

The association also called for a stronger control of the ESAs*, such as the right for national supervisory authorities to pursue legal action against them. 

Richter also took issue with the discussion about the systemic relevance of asset managers, saying it was not nuanced.

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) and the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) have so far orientated themselves too closely to the rules for banks, he said.

The association does not agree with the approach taken so far to assessing the systemic relevance of asset managers, believing that “a chain reaction” like that following the collapse of Lehman Brothers would not happen in the event of an asset manager becoming insolvent.

A spokesperson at the European Fund and Asset Management Association (EFAMA) yesterday told IPE the FSB and IOSCO looked unlikely to designate asset managers as systemically relevant entities and have switched their focus to assessing the potential systemic relevance of asset managers’ market activities instead.

*The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA)

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