Spain’s March Gestión de Fondos broadens its horizons
Not all the news from Spain’s financial sector is downbeat. Family-backed firm March Gestión de Fondos is pushing out across Europe.
March Gestión de Fondos (MGF), the boutique asset management arm of Madrid-based Banca March, is poised to start selling its Sicav fund range in the UK, having already expanded into Austria and Italy. Germany and Switzerland are other imminent targets.
Banca March, ranked as one of Europe’s most solvent banks after 2011 stress tests conducted by the European Banking Authority, is a privately owned wealth management, corporate banking and asset management business established in 1926, and still owned by its founding family.
The bank, along with the Fundación Juan March and the investment holding company, Corporación Financiera Alba, represent the €20bn March Group.
The move to expand asset management operations into the UK has attracted attention, as it flies in the face of widespread perceptions of Spain as a struggling economy, wracked by the flight of capital and expertise.
For the March Group, the move will help grow assets under management and widen its international investor base. MGF chief executive officer Jose Luis Jiménez (pictured above left, with José Nieto, Banca March CEO to his right) said the UK was a natural choice, since the firm’s style and process was immediately recognised by UK investors.
A former manager at Skandia Investment Group in the UK, Jiménez said both domestic and international investors based in the City are always interested in top quality boutiques, wherever they are based.
“We realised that, because of our record, our approach and our process, we have nothing to fear from the big players,” he explains.
The core business of MGF is to manage the assets of Banca March customers, offering long-term wealth protection strategies through asset allocation and investing primarily in global equities and investment grade fixed income.
Jiménez hopes the possibility of investing in the select funds in which the March family are also invested, as well as innovative products not usually available to retail investors, will draw interest.
The three products on offer first are the flagship €500m March Torrenova fund; Vina Catena, a specialised global equity fund investing in the international wine industry; and the Family Businesses Fund, which has a track record of investing in successful family-owned enterprises.
“We have often been asked if we would accept other investors, but we have been careful because our reputation is at stake. We have now decided the time is right to invite others to join a sort of club,” says Jiménez.
AUM up 30%
The firm is growing rapidly, having increased assets under management by some 30% in the last year alone, and investing in seven strategies through a range of Luxembourg and Spanish Sicavs.
He says the firm offers what he believes most investors appreciate in difficult markets – a consistent cautious process, where the interests of the managers are properly aligned with the investors, and on reasonable terms.
Consistency builds expertise.
“Each year there is a change in fashionable investments,” Jiménez says.
“One year it is total return, then it is absolute return, or whatever. But we have been doing the same thing for 50 years and our track record proves that it works.
“The March principles of co-investment are an alignment of interest, transparency and simplicity,” he explains.
“At other firms, if the fund runs into trouble they close it and management just moves on to re-launch another fund with the latest idea. We cannot afford to make such a mistake because it is the family’s money, and our own money, involved.”