Sweden’s Handelsbanken Asset Management looks to think differently

Handelsbanken Asset Management has been following a different path to its competitors as it seeks to stay ahead of the competition, says Peter Schols, head of investment management.

Handelsbanken, one of the largest banks in Sweden and the Nordic region, traces its funds roots back to the 1950s, according to Peter Schols (pictured), head of investment management at Handelsbanken Asset Management – or Handelsbanken Fonder (HF) as it is known locally.

“We started the first equity fund in the market called the Sverigefond Index, which is an equity index fund launched in 1958,” he says.

HF is responsible for all investments on behalf of Handelsbanken’s customers (institutional and retail – as well as offering segregated mandates and funds.)

“Equities are about 65% of total AUM, which is about SEK260bn (€29.5bn). Then we have 20% in fixed income and 15% in asset allocation mandates. The remainder is
effectively in two hedge funds,” says Schols.

One noticeable trend in the past decade is the shift towards overseas exposure. Schols explains: “If you look at the split of capital, it has changed from 2003, with about 70% to 72% invested in Sweden then to about 31% today – with about twice the capital. We have as much money in emerging markets today as we have in Sweden.”

Keeping with tradition

HF sees itself as a traditional asset manager handling equity, fixed income and asset allocation work. But within that, it sees differences to other market participants.

Schols says: “What differentiates us is that in last year’s market, we had net inflows pretty much across the board, while others maybe did not. Above all, we did not experience large redemptions in equity. The Swedish total market redemption from equity was the biggest ever.”

The economic cycle has hit the industry, particularly because of the levels of uncertainty it has thrown up over certain assets. Schols points to long-term performance and certain types of products such as HF’s ‘Selektiv’ range of concentrated portfolios as possible reasons the house has continued to attract investors. And there has been a shift in emphasis of the parent bank’s business that is helping.

“Historically, Handelsbanken has been a good lender. But it did not put as much as its competitors in the 1980s and 1990s into the saving side – the asset gathering. There is an element of ‘catch up’ that is starting to be noticed.”

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