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Asset management roundup: FCA to scrutinise Aviva over preference shares

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Aviva faces questions from the UK’s financial services regulator as to whether plans by the FTSE 100 insurer to cancel £450m (€513.5m) of preference shares earlier this month contravened market abuse regulations.

The insurer – which also owns a £352bn asset manager, Aviva Investors – had faced growing pressure from investors and politicians over its initial decision to cancel the preference shares, leading Aviva to jettison its plans last week.

In a statement, Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority, said the body would not be conducting a formal investigation at this stage. However, he said the regulator’s immediate concern was to “understand the basis upon which Aviva was acting, including the clarity of the information available to securities holders along with the market integrity concerns that the proposals raised”.

Investors protested when the value of their preference shares plummeted in the wake of the cancellation announcement.

In a letter to the Financial Times last week, ShareSoc and the UK Shareholders’ Association, two shareholder groups, expressed their concerns that “not only did the Aviva preference share price drop from 170p to 120p, but the whole asset class suffered a 25% fall as a consequence of the announcement”.

Aviva declined to comment on Wednesday.

Metzler sets up separate company to house pension business

Metzler Asset Management has created a dedicated subsidiary for its pension management business.

Gerhard Wiesheu, partner with responsibility for asset management at the German private bank, will also be the partner responsible for the new company.

Christian Remke will lead the front office, Martin Thiesen the middle office, and Steffen Beltz the back office. Thiesen joined Metzler at the beginning of the year as an asset liability management specialist.

Metzler said it intended to expand its consultancy offering in the occupational pensions sector. It said it would be adding to its services asset-liability management studies, liability-driven investment strategies and strategic asset allocation structuring.

Wiesheu said: “The establishment of a standalone company underlines the extraordinarily high strategic importance pension management has for Metzler.”

Metzler was the first asset manager in Germany to launch a Pensionsfonds and a multi-employer contractual trust arrangement, two of the vehicles German companies can choose for pension financing.

La Française takes full ownership of Inflection Point

Groupe La Française is to acquire full ownership of Inflection Point Capital Management (IPCM), a London-based investment research boutique that it launched with leading sustainability expert Matthew Kiernan in 2013.

IPCM, which will be rebranded as Inflection Point by La Française, was established to encourage development and adoption of responsible investment research, advisory services and investment products.

La Française said the move would strengthen its responsible investment innovation capabilities.

Roland Rott, managing director of IPCM, said the focus of the company was two-fold: “Managing non-financial data and generating respective investment insights in close co-operation with portfolio management teams of the group.”

The new simplified structure would allow IPCM to be fully aligned with La Française’s investment strategy, Rott added. “We will jointly drive ESG integration and sustainable investment across all asset classes of La Française.”

Kiernan will retire as chief executive of IPCM at the end of June.

Schroders to nurture fintech startups

Schroders has launched an in-house technology ‘incubator’ to allow financial services-focused startups to tap into the global investment house’s range of business and investment expertise.

Under the Cobalt programme, technology companies focusing on investment management that have moved beyond the conceptual or early-growth stage will be able to access relevant business divisions within Schroders – which oversees more than €500bn of customer assets – as well as benefit from its resources and potential investment.

The programme comprises a 12-month residency, with the startup’s staff gaining a sponsor to promote the business’s interests within the investment manager. Mentors from various arms of Schroders will be available, as will the opportunity to pitch for investment.

Peter Harrison, group chief executive at Schroders, said the Cobalt programme was designed to showcase the asset manager as the “natural home for fintech startups”.

The programme would also give the company “direct access to a pipeline of innovators enabling us to harness tomorrow’s technology to better tackle today’s investment and industry challenges”, Harrison added.

Note: This article’s headline has been updated to clarify that Aviva’s preference shares were not cancelled.

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  • The entrance to the FCA's headquarters in London

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