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Overcoming hostile environment

WANTED: Job for resting Danish investment consultant, anything considered. When it comes to European countries using investment consultants, three of the Nordic countries Denmark, Finland and Norway would make strong contenders for the most averse and Denmark would give Finland a run for its money for being the most hostile. There are exceptions though trying to overcome this. Jesper Kirstein’s Kirstein Finans is a well-respected consultant, as are Hasse Nilsson’s Alcifor Advisory Associates and Jurgen Leschly’s DCG Consulting.
According to Kirstein, life and pension funds have traditionally done their own portfolio management. Now, with an increased tendency to outsource asset management, there’s the peculiar practice of turning managers into consultants. “Instead of laying these people off they use them to evaluate the managers and to monitor the outsourcing,” says Kirstein. “In my opinion it would be easier, cheaper, more efficient and better to use external_consultants.”
Another simple reason for not using consultants is that they haven’t been around that long, they are rather an alien concept, an unknown quantity. Denmark also suffers from the same attitude towards consultants as the German market: why pay impostors more for what we can do equally well and cheaper?
Nevertheless, as one of the better- known investment consultants, Kirstein’s outfit writes the definitive annual report on the pensions and life sectors and advises on mutual funds. “Mutual funds are becoming increasingly interesting for the life and pensions sector in Denmark because so-called unit-linked schemes are becoming more popular.”
Leschly, another entrepreneur, started DCG only last August and now employs four consultants focusing on insurance companies moving into unit-linked products for pensions. More specifically he advises them on setting up unit-linked programmes and the type of systems required. “A lot of them don’t have the insights. They have traditionally been operating in the market and really don’t know how to engage with the fund providers,” he says.
Previously Leschly worked for Skandia. Mercers, in its quest to establish a Nordic investment consultants, approached him to head a team in Denmark but instead he set up DCG which has already won mandates from two German insurance companies- Deutscher Herold and Aspecta. Closer to home it is working with Skandia and is negotiating with another potential Danish client. If one or two of the proposals come off this year, it will recruit further.
There are of course actuarial and benefits consultants in the market such as Sinser Denmark, SB Aktuar-Radgivning and PWC. Willis and Aon are the main players and together share the majority of the market. Jens Mürer, executive director at Aon Consulting, says most new pension funds allow some of the DC contributions to head for unit-linked products and this new money is swelling the market.
Aon has taken on a further 65 company clients in the past year and Mürer says there is greater emphasis on advising employers more on the investment side. Still, of the 40 employees there’s no dedicated investment consultant team, although Mürer says they are considering establishing one with the help of the London operation.

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