Amundi targets ETF market with UK range

In a bid to raise its profile, French provider Amundi is launching a new series of exchange-traded funds on the London Stock Exchange.

Amundi is bidding to claim a place among the world’s top exchange-traded fund (ETF) providers with the launch of a range of 16 ETFs on the London Stock Exchange. Seven of the ETFs are unprecedented.

The move is part of a concerted effort to raise its profile in the sector, with 50 new funds overall set for launch in the UK. It will continue with both cross-listings and multiple registrations across Europe.

Valérie Baudson, managing director of Amundi ETF, says she will not shy away from a “price war” among ETF providers: “We are waiting for it. There is more and more competition, and de-concentration in this market. The three largest providers are losing market share.”

Baudson estimates Amundi ETF total expense ratios are some 25 basis points lower than those of most rivals, but adds that the company wants to stay true to the core value of ETFs: transparency, simplicity and liquidity. “That is the ethos of the product and the industry, and we welcome that. We aim to bring lower cost but higher quality product, which is for the final benefit of the investor.”

Amundi ETF began an ambitious European roll-out plan in early 2010. Since then, it has extended its ­presence from France into Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands and now the UK market. With this new step, the total number of its ­listings to well over 300.

Products are backed by two of Europe’s largest banks, Crédit ­Agricole SA and Société Générale, which respectively own 75% and 25% of Amundi. With €689.5bn in AUM, the Amundi Group claims its place as the third largest asset manager in continental Europe.

Baudson says that in contrast to the US, institutional investors in Europe want simplicity and liquidity, so the firm is constantly creating new ETFs in response to client requests.

“But innovation does not mean ­complexity,” she adds, citing the example of the Amundi ETF MSCI Nordic. “We ask two questions before we do anything: 1) is the index clear enough? And 2) what is the liquidity of the underlying index? There is 100% correlation, and we don’t want to disappoint the client.”

The quality of the product is derived from the underlying ­structures. There is only one swap and one counterparty per ETF. The mark-to-market of the swap is the only counterparty risk, and is ­therefore limited to a maximum 10% of the net asset value of each ETF. The average mark-to-market value of swaps was 4.5% in 2010.
The substitute basket of all equity Amundi ETFs is composed of ­European equities included in the MSCI Europe index.

Baudson says: “After the Lehman crisis, these were the consequences. One was to keep counterparty risk as low as possible. Two, to maintain high quality counterparties. And three, to include only blue chip stocks in the basket of stocks we base the ETF on.”

The basket is part of the synthetic replication whereby the ETF provider has an agreement with a market counterparty to deliver­ ­performance of the basket stocks and get the ­performance of the index being tracked.

There are frequent resets (at ­subscription or redemption) to the substitute basket: on average three resets per fund per month,
with others reset more frequently.

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