Frontera Announces Partnership With Closir, Pioneering Digital Investor Relations Platform

Two Investment Technology Companies Cooperate to Democratize Access to Corporate Management Teams in Frontier and Emerging Markets

When the MSCI Emerging Markets Index was first launched in 1988, the entire market capitalization of the 10-country index was US$35 billion, equivalent to less than 1% of the world’s total equity market value.

Today, less than 30 years later, that index has grown to include 24 countries and its market capitalization now rests at over US$4 trillion, or approximately 10% of global market capitalization.

With index providers currently consulting on the potential reclassification of Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Argentina to emerging markets, the coming years are expected to see an exceptionally large expansion.

Despite the increasing interest in these markets, most of the relevant research and data is most easily available to the largest financial institutions, and remains cost-prohibitive for smaller investors.

But recently the investment research and analysis industry, like many other elements of the traditional banking business model, has found itself under increasing pressure from rapid innovation in financial technology, or ‘FinTech’. The ongoing disruption and changing regulations are leveling the playing field to create new opportunities for companies that are able to efficiently address segments using technology.

One of the leading companies disrupting the model for delivery of data on emerging markets investment strategy is event-driven investment intelligence firm Frontera. Frontera’s team of experienced emerging markets researchers and analysts provide daily support to asset managers, hedge funds, individual investors, and the broader global business community. Frontera covers capital markets and political risk analysis in over 100 countries within Frontera PRO, its premium research service.

Frontera also provides its premium clients with access to a number of technology-driven integrations to further enhance the platform’s capabilities. Today Frontera is pleased to announce a strategic partnership with Closir, a digital investor relations and corporate access platform based in London.

Closir’s innovative platform helps buy-side institutional investors to organize face-to-face management meetings, conference calls and bespoke investment trips with emerging markets companies that fall outside of mainstream broker coverage, effectively automating what has traditionally been a grueling process for market participants.

The new partnership between the two companies will provide Frontera clients with full access to Closir’s automated digital investor relations technology. According to Frontera, equity research on companies that are not typically covered in mainstream sell-side research are in high demand amongst Frontera PRO subscribers. The partnership with Closir enables Frontera clients to build their own coverage map and directly request calls and meetings with publicly listed companies of any size in frontier and emerging markets.

“Frontera’s mission is to become the emerging markets investor’s most valuable information resource. Our partnership with Closir provides yet another useful service that helps our clients to better analyze the opportunities in our coverage universe,” said Kevin Virgil, Co-founder and CEO of Frontera .

“We’re looking forward to working with Closir,” said Tyler Cicirello, Co-founder and COO at Frontera. “Both companies have an intense commitment to support the global finance and investment industry that we serve and we’re excited to grow together.”

“We believe emerging and frontier markets present significant investment opportunities and are leveraging technology to make a global investor feel local, anywhere. We look forward to working with Frontera to empower global investors as traditional business models are challenged by structural changes,” said Michael Chojnacki, founder and CEO of Closir.

As two leading next-generation investment technology companies, Closir and Frontera are unified by a common mission to democratize emerging markets investing, and help both institutional and individual investors gain full access to under-represented capital markets.

Review of BCG’s Asset Management Survey

We had a chance to take a look at the Boston Consulting Group’s annual asset management survey which landed on our desks last week. Each summer the consultancy takes a fairly deep dive into the industry’s overall state of health and reviews its overall performance, as well as discusses emerging products and competitive trends. A few things we found particularly interesting:

  • For the first year since the 2008 financial crisis, revenue earned by asset management firms fell globally in 2016 along with profits. The biggest squeeze in margins come from those ‘in the middle’ i.e. from asset managers without large scale or a niche focus.
  • Global assets under management increased by 7 percent to $69 trillion, however most of that growth came from rising markets rather than new inflows which held steady throughout the year.

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  • One area of growth area that particularly stands out is China, where the asset management industry is still relatively underdeveloped. The country’s assets under management increased 21 percent in 2016, mostly driven by net new inflows. Rising levels of household wealth, along with the development of insurance companies and pension funds, offer the potential for further gains in the coming years. Foreign companies, for whom the barriers to entry to the Chinese market are gradually disappearing, could stand to benefit from this trend.
  • Passive strategies were the largest driver of net fund flows in the US, where the industry is dominated by a few large players (the top 10 firms captured almost all of the inflows). This ‘winner takes all’ trend was less pronounced on the active side of things, where the 10 top firms captured 58% of net inflows.
  • Despite the faster growth of AuM in passive products, passives’ contribution to managers’ revenue pools “remains small.” Revenues from passive mandates grew from about $6 billion in 2008 to $14 billion in 2016, which only represents 6% of the industry’s global revenues. Even though various forecasts suggest passive investments could overtake active by 2021 (in terms of AuM), revenues will likely only reach around 7% of total revenues during the same period.
  • The asset class that has proved to be the most stable during the last few years is alternatives. Even though alternatives only accounted for 15% of AuM in 2016, they made up 42% of total revenues. The next two strongest contributors were active specialties as well as solutions and multi assets.

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The survey concludes that growth in the industry is still possible, however only through a combination of M&A, cost management, and crucially, technology innovation.

Roadshow Dates To Avoid, 2nd Half 2017

London

  • 28 Aug-1 Sep: Summer bank holiday week
  • 4-6 Sep: Key EM Conference
  • 26-28 Sep: Key EM Conference
  • 23-27 Oct: School Half Term
  • 6 Nov: Key EM Conference
  • 13-14 Nov: Key EM Conference
  • 25-27 Dec: Christmas Holiday

Frankfurt

  • 22 Sep: Key EM Conference
  • 29 Sep: Key EM Conference
  • 15 Oct: Assumption Day
  • 3 Oct: Day of German Unity
  • 29 Oct-2 Nov: Autumn School Holidays
  • 31 Oct: Reformation Day
  • 1 Nov: All Saints Day
  • 25-27 Dec: Christmas Holiday

Paris 

  • 14 Jul: Bastille Day
  • 15 Aug: Assumption Day
  • 1 Nov: All Saints Day
  • 11 Nov: Remembrance Day
  • 25-27 Dec: Christmas Holiday

Madrid

  • 12 Oct: Hispanic Day
  • 1 Nov: All Saints Day
  • 9 Nov: Our Lady of Almudera Day
  • 8 Dec: Immaculate Conception Day
  • 25-27 Dec: Christmas Holiday

Moscow

  • 6 Nov: Day of Unity

Other Continental Europe:

  • 26 Oct: National Day (Austria)
  • 1 Nov: All Saints Day (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain)
  • 11 Nov: Remembrance Day (Belgium)
  • 30 Nov: St Andrews Day (Scotland)
  • 5-8 Dec: Key EM Conference
  • 6 Dec: Independence Day (Finland)
  • 8 Dec: Immaculate Conception Day (Spain, Portugal, Italy)
  • 18-29 Dec: Christmas period (All)

New York / Boston

  • 4 Jul: Independence Day
  • 4 Sep: Labor Day
  • 6-7 Sep: Key EM Conference
  • 26-27 Sep: Key EM Conference
  • 9 Oct: Columbus Day
  • 10 Nov: Veteran’s Day
  • 23-24 Nov: Thanksgiving
  • 28-29 Nov: Key EM Conference
  • 25-27 Dec: Christmas Holiday

Singapore

  • 9 Aug: National Day
  • 1 Sep: Hari Raya Haji
  • 18 Oct: Deepavali

Hong Kong

  • 25-Sep: Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival
  • 1 Oct: National Day
  • 17 Oct: Chung Yeung Festival

Dubai / Abu Dhabi

  • 1-3 Sep: Eid Al Adha
  • 18-19 Sep: Key Conference
  • 20 Sep: Key Conference
  • 22 Sep: Hijri New Year’s Day
  • 13-15 Nov: Key Conference
  • 30 Nov: Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday
  • 2-3 Dec: UAE National Day

Istanbul

  • 15 Jul: Democracy and National Solidarity Day
  • 30 Aug: Victory Day
  • 1-4 Sep: Kurban Bayrami
  • 29 Oct: Republic Day

Handling Investor Relations during a Crisis: Lessons Learnt from the 2011 Egyptian Revolution

This is a guest post from Omar Darwazah, Director,  Investor Relations at OCI N.V.

It seems that the entire world is in a constant crisis today. From Argentina to Russia to Turkey to the United States, there has been no dearth of crisis management situations which investor relations (IR) professionals have had to face. Whether it be political upheavals, civil wars, border disputes, fiscal disasters, wild foreign exchange fluctuations, military coups, capital controls, crazy presidential candidates or deeply entrenched state-sponsored corruption, investor relations professionals globally are finding it more difficult to craft their respective companies’ equity theses and messages to the investment community without finding themselves having to discuss geopolitics and global socio-economic trends. In 2011, I was Director of Investor Relations at Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) in Cairo, Egypt. I found myself in the middle of a historic event; I faced a systemic crisis that plagued the entire country as well as the company, it would forevermore change Egypt and its investment landscape.

On January 25, 2011, I readied to attend an annual Bank of America Merrill Lynch investor conference like I had done in years past. I boarded an 8am flight from Cairo to London to kick-off to OCI’s investor relations program and prepared presentations to current shareholders and prospective investors. Upon my arrival in London five hours later, however, the Egypt I had always known – run by the ironclad dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak and the brutality of his state police – had changed forever. A revolution was in the making. Thousands of people took to the streets to peacefully demonstrate en-masse against the regime. While I conducted meetings with investors on January 26, the state police clashed with protestors, the demonstrations turned violent, and the Egyptian equity index crumbled. The investors I was to meet at the conference turned to me for unbiased, candid interpretations of events on the ground.

As the revolution unfolded, the company’s CEO entrusted me to continue meeting investors. For 3 weeks I operated in crisis management mode and conducted over 70 one-on-one on-site meetings in London, Dubai, New York, Boston, Chicago, Frankfurt, Zurich, Geneva, Amsterdam and The Hague. JPMorgan invited me to lead a conference call with investor relations directors from other Egyptian blue-chip companies to advise them on handling the crisis. There was no hand-in-glove approach to managing the situation but I did share the following observations with my colleagues:

  1. The challenge of speaking to investors throughout the Revolution was primarily exacerbated by the lack of visibility on the ensuing chain of events
  2. Communicating with senior management on the ground in Cairo proved to be difficult given the lack of internet or mobile phone access throughout the 18 days of the Revolution
  3. For a contemporaneous update, I relied on speaking to various team and family members as well as friends by landline in order to provide investors with candid advice on the situation
  4. The routine questions on the performance of the company were never even asked and investors turned to me for unbiased interpretations of the unfolding events
  5. I combined my in-depth knowledge of Egypt, undergraduate training in Political Science and Economics and oratory skills to field difficult questions and deter a crisis within the global investment community. Speaking on behalf of the company and its performance became secondary in importance

In hindsight, the mere fact that I was present outside of Egypt and able to travel and meet investors proved to be extremely valuable. While serendipitous, the lesson learnt during my experience was that irrespective of the gravity of the crisis at hand, it is pertinent for IR professionals and management to be readily available and present to meet with the investment community even if they have bad news to report to them. That year, I ended up conducting over 300 one-on-one meetings in 25 cities globally. Here are some key takeaways from my experience:

  1. Investors appreciate full transparency and candidness during periods of high market uncertainty
  2. As an IR professional, be ready to simulate various scenarios during one-on-one meetings with investors with subsequent potential risks and mitigants of these scenarios
  3. Be ready to discuss broad topics that are typically not addressed during routine investor meetings
  4. Exogenous factors affecting company performance in times of uncertainty should be quantified as much as possible (i.e. impact on earnings, days of business interruption etc.)
  5. During a crisis, liaise closely with senior management and provide key updates and feedback from the broader investment community including analysts and investors as this helps with internal risk management
  6. Keep an open line of communication with the market, be ready to conduct a significantly larger number of investor meetings and global roadshows
  7. Disseminate factual information in writing in official company documents (i.e. press releases and results presentations) but leave speculative discussions, political opinions and forward looking statements in conversation only
  8. The best line of defense in a period of high and consistently evolving uncertainly proved to be a good offense (i.e. an aggressive roadshow strategy and meeting schedule)

That year, OCI’s share price outperformed almost all blue-chip companies on the EGX30 declining 30% versus almost 50% for the EGX30. Moreover, my crisis management strategy was acknowledged by the Middle East Investor Relations Society (MEIRS). As voted by the global buy-side and sell-side community, I won the MEIRS “Best Investor Relations in Egypt” award that year. I will no doubt face other crises during my IR career, they might not carry the same severity and intensity of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011 (or maybe they will!) but I believe the aforementioned takeaways are valuable in a multitude of crisis contexts; remember candidacy first, always.

Is Tehran Stock Exchange Index truly representing the overall market behavior?

This is a common question asked multiple times by market practitioners and observers of Iran’s capital market. This is essentially due to the asymmetry readily witnessed by those who buy and sell stocks of companies listed on Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE).

Indeed, there are occasions when mixed signals are communicated by the All-Share Index if you happen to make professional investment decisions based on interpretations of the benchmark index.

For instance, you might see in one typical session of the exchange market that the gauge is in the red zone by about 300 or 400 points down but there are many sectors across different market boards that are experiencing gains rather than losses in price in spite of the general negative environment usually seen under such circumstances.

In one recent study performed by Armin Sadeghi Adl, Tehran Stock Exchange Company’s expert at Research Management Division, he underlined the fact that there is a meaningful diversion between two major indexes used to quantify the general behavior of the equity market namely, value weighted index—being constantly blamed for its shortcomings to illustrate the true performance of the market—and equal-weighted index, which was introduced just two years ago to the market activists and researchers.

As Mr. Adl explains about his research in his article, published by the well-reputed economic Daily, Donya-e-Eqtesad, he assures us that value-weighted Index or locally known as Overall Index does not genuinely illustrate the reality of the market since this measure is initially composed of weight of firms based on their market cap size, which is very misleading. This is because of the calculation measures employed to specify the influential companies on the Index.In In fact, the number of listed companies allowed to be included in this computation does not exceed 17 from 321 ones present in TSE. Additionally, their market cap goes beyond 50% which is in stark contrast to the 10%, belonging to  just 231 companies.

Thus, this is to say that TSE Index is impacted by small fraction of giant names. Consequently this is not a guiding element to those who adjust their investment decisions and strategies solely by such an indicator, according to Mr. Adl.

In the same vein, the equal-weighted index was introduced in 2014/15. From the time this measure first used till the first two months of current Persian Calendar, it showed a solid 33.5% growth.

Meanwhile the Overall Index registered 8.1% dip. In other words, unlike the down cycle perceived in the market throughout the period, there existed lucrative opportunities for those individuals to forego the false signals emitted by the Index and achieve acceptable and at times unexpected returns.

Statistically speaking, in the first quarter of the current Iranian year, while the Index went down by about 9.5% and the average return resulted by 17 big cap companies dropped by 10.2% (with a market cap of above 50%), there were 131 firms in the exchange market with positive returns.

It is noteworthy to say that small cap entities recorded 21% of stock trades in the same period which is a telling testimony to the claim that the market participants were ignorant of many other names in the market.

It is also good to know that many of the giants in the capital market of Iran are notoriously labeled as “index builder” as they they are the driving forces behind market downs or ups.

To shed more light on the matter, let’s take the largest  and smallest names present in TSE as an example for the sale of clarity.

Persian Gulf Petrochemical Company which enjoys 8.4% share of total market cap and Tehran Derakhshan Company with a meager 0.003% stake of the whole market are the largest and smallest  companies in Tehran Exchange Market. As it is self-revealing, we can understand the big difference a factor such as  market cap can exert on Overall Index swings.

This is why someone who is interested in investing in the exchange market of Iran should not allow themselves to get misled by following Index movements in either directions. Rather, interested individuals should enter the market with open eyes and ample knowledge of the dynamics and fundamentals of the market.

Moreover, when studying the first quarter performance of the TSE, what actually surfaces is that most investors were unluckily focused on surprisingly just 16 names out of 321 ones available for investment in the market, according the research finds by Mr. Adl. It was so much so that half of the value of trades were single-handedly won by the big names across the market.

Moreover, turnover ratio for most traded shares has a lot to tell us. According to Mr. Adl, half of these firms experienced more than 100% turnover ratio. In other words, their shares had changed hands at least once in the market during the period.

As a live example, we can name Saipa Investment Company, with minus 9.8% return in the period. This company had the highest  share turnover ratio among the list of 16  companies most favored by the market participants. Nevertheless, the average for this ratio was 99% among  big cap firms in the equity market.

Nonetheless, the aforementioned companies’ loss ranged from minus 3.3% to minus 43.9%. The average was minus 23.5% in the period, however.

All in all, it appears that although the Tehran Stock Exchange did not pass upbeat trading sessions on the whole in the last quarter, it is evident that there are big opportunities out there. Therefore, it is the investors themselves and not just the investment environment to point the finger of blame at for the low or negative returns realized.

P.S.: All tables are taken from Donye-e-Eqtesad, published 2 August,2016


This is a guest post written by Navid Kahlor, Freelance Contributor at Al-Monitor. The original can be found here.

Key takeaways from FundForum 2016

Earlier this week, over 2000 global investment and wealth managers came together at the annual Fund Forum in Berlin to discuss the main trends affecting the industry. Although the scope of the discussions was broad, there were a number of topics which were at the heart of many of the debates and conversations throughout the 3-day event.Here are our top 5: 

Robo-advisors and technology

Tom Brown, Global Head of Investment Management at KPMG, segmented the issue of technology and digital disruption in the asset management industry into three main areas: customer experience, operational efficiency and the use of technology to manage money.

Robo-advisors – online wealth management platforms that provide automated portfolio management advice without the use of human financial planners – are perhaps the industry’s best example of all three points rolled into one. While the technology is still relatively new, use of robo-advisors has been growing exponentially, especially amongst the younger generation, which today prefers to view and manage its pension savings using a mobile app rather than going into a bank branch.

A number of traditional asset managers have equity stakes in robo-advisory platforms, aiming to strike a balance between traditional and technology-based approaches under the umbrella of an established, credible brand name. Others argue that artificial intelligence and machine learning will eventually lead to the demise of the fund manager entirely, the argument being that machines can do what humans can do but better. Consumer behaviour will adapt to the new environment as it always has done when presented with innovative leaps forward such as self-service checkouts, online interactions and soon, driverless cars.

Blockchain

In October last year The Economist devoted their cover story to Blockchain: “The trust machine: how the technology behind bitcoin could change the world”. In simple terms Blockchain is a digital, trusted, public ledger that everyone can inspect, but which no single user controls. It keeps track of transactions continuously, for example ownership of a diamond, rare painting, or piece of land.

The asset management industry continues to debate the potential applications of this technology, which started out by powering Bitcoin. In a panel moderated by Lawrence Wintermeyer, CEO of Innovate Finance, ideas ranged from Blockchain’s applicability in areas such as post-trade environment, collateral and liquidity management, regulatory reporting, and the handling of know-your-client (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) data. In each instance success will require close collaboration amongst the various parties involved.

Brexit and Trump

Mohamed El-Erian, Chief Economic Advisor at Allianz, addressed some of the shifts that are giving rise to the anti-establishment movements seen in many developed countries today.

“The common element throughout all these things,” he explained, “is that the advanced world has lost the ability to grow in a fair and inclusive manner, and when that ability is lost and people lose confidence, things start going wrong.”

El-Erian stressed that global growth to unlikely to be consistent and stable any time soon, thus the risk of non-normal distribution of events affecting the markets is always an issue. Secondly, he highlighted central banks’ inability to rein in financial volatility, which remains as frequent and unpredictable as ever.

The discussion centred on the fact that investment managers should try to adopt new framework about how they think about risk, and acknowledge that market events in both developed and emerging markets no longer follow a normal distribution curve.

Is ‘data’ the new gold?

A number of panels focused on the industry’s ability to understand and utilise the unprecedented amounts of data that are generated by each one of us in the digital world.

“By 9 o’clock each morning we have already created more data than mankind created from the beginning of time to the year 2000” said Andreas Weigend, former Chief Science Officer at Amazon.

“Because of the signals you send through sensors, microphones, GPS, gyroscopes and cameras, your phone knows almost everything about you: where you are walking and even how you are walking – it probably knows more about you than know yourself”.

Crunching and refining data such as these enables the industry to improve and tailor its products a lot more to client needs.

Costs and Transparency

The new European MiFID rules are due to take effect in early 2018 and will require funds to give more information on costs in their fund factsheets.

EU and UK regulators are demanding fairer and more transparent fees from fund managers in a bid to ensure greater transparency and accountability to investor clients. As discussed in previous blogs, as part of this process they are also assessing which costs should be borne by the asset manager and which can be passed on to the end client through management fees and commissions.

The new regulatory environment is forcing asset managers to rethink a number of elements of the traditional business model, such as how they consume and pay for investment research.

With technological innovation comes regulatory oversight. Those able to react quickest to the dual challenges of new regulations and market unpredictability are most likely to succeed.

Conference website

Full agenda