Investors have been searching more for emerging markets and Asia-focused equity managers than they have for US equity managers in the past 12 months, according to consultancy bfinance.

In the year to 1 October, 28% of all the consultant’s equity manager selection projects were for emerging markets, compared with 15% in the previous year.

Asia was the most popular regional allocation, but not just the continent’s emerging economies as investors were also drawn to Japanese equity and broad Asia equity.

Last year, in contrast, global equity mandates made up almost 40% of the total number of new equity mandates – now 24% – and the US was the most popular regional target, according to bfinance.

Smart beta was the focus of only 10% of new mandate activity in the past 12 months, having been one of the most popular segments in the 2014-16 period.

Justin Preston, senior director and head of equity at bfinance, said: “The shift in new equity manager selection patterns among bfinance clients has really been very significant, particularly the move towards emerging markets, Asia and Japan.”

The consultancy said environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations were seen as increasingly relevant for emerging market equity allocations. Integrating ESG did not have to cost extra, bfinance said.

In general, emerging market managers have kept their fees steady in 2017, with few dropping their prices compared with last year, it noted. The median fee quoted for global emerging market searches in 2017 so far was 69bps, before negotiation, while the median quoted fee for ESG-specific searches was just above 70bps.

Mandate size and structure made a much bigger difference to fees, said the consultancy.

bfinance equity mandate search breakdown