Yates positions Pioneer for steady organic growth

Roger Yates, CEO of Pioneer Investments, says its recent strategic business review has paved the way for future success.

Pioneer Investments, the asset management unit of Italy’s UniCredit bank, has concluded the crucial Strategic Review it initiated last year, and is now set for future growth, according to CEO Roger Yates, who was brought in to head the UniCredit subsidiary in January 2010.

Yates joined as the highly regarded chief executive of Henderson Global Investors in London, where he led the firm through a de-merger from its owner Australian group AMP, listings on both London and Australia stock markets, and a reorganisation of product lines that doubled operating margins.

On joining Pioneer, he immediately launched a wholesale review of the asset management business.

Speaking at the start of the firm’s annual investment Colloquium at Iseo, Italy, he said the process had included a complete reassessment of all parts of the business, including its geographical focus, corporate structures and opportunities, product lines and distribution policy.

After successive breaches of UniCredit’s regulatory liquidity ratio from 1997, analysts called Pioneer’s future into question.

The bank earlier this year admitted to holding some €40bn in Italian government debt, accounting for about 5% of total assets.

Investors felt the disposal or merger of some of its units might be necessary to bolster its capital base against any losses.

Yates said that this sentiment was precisely why Pioneer needed a thorough reappraisal.

“We did not conduct this exercise secretly,” explained Yates. “We felt we had to be open and on the front foot with investors.” In that spirit, the results of the review are to be made available to investors and head partners before the end of this year.

The process included talks with potential ‘partners’ such as Natixis, Amundi and Eurizon, but no conclusive deal emerged.

In April, UniCredit announced it would retain Pioneer after all.

Yates said the review had now definitely been concluded and the question of disposal was “off the table”. Some 60% of Pioneer’s assets under management derive from UniCredit, while the remaining 40% comes from third-party clients.

A new five-year plan for Pioneer will run alongside one for UniCredit, underpinned with strong investment.

“Unless you invest to make things different, you can’t expect to benefit from any changes,” Yates said. However, growth targets are prudent. “We have not assumed the markets will bail us out and we are not relying on asset price inflation,” he added.


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