While the headquarters of Belgian asset manager Petercam have recently announced the merger with Bank Degroof, Alessandro Fonzi (pictured), country head Italy di Petercam Institutional Asset Management (IAM), was busy spearheading the company’s launch in the country.
Fonzi, previously head of institutional clients and financial intermediaries Italy at Lombard Odier, opened the Italian office around spring of 2013 with the aim of focussing on specific asset classes and investing in funds registered Italy and in Switzerland’s Canton Ticino.
A few months later, the company, which manages €9bn globally, obtained the authorisation for distributing its Luxembourg Sicavs Petercam L Fund in Italy, which has been available to private and institutional investors since.
“However, we don’t stop at fund selectors and institutional clients. Our aim is to develop all three distribution channels: institutional, fund selectors and distributors,” Fonzi says.
Petercam IAM is an independent asset manager of average size and seeks long term relationships within all three channels with a limited number of partners.
While being on Allfunds and Santander Private Banking’s lists since the beginning, Petercam Italy recently struck a deal with Mediobanca group’s retail bank CheBanca!, in a clear attempt to start targeting the distributors segment.
To help supporting with the expansion into the new market, Aniello Pennacchio has been hired as Sales & Account manager.
At present, Petercam distributes 29 funds in two Sicavs in Italy covering all the asset classes. Asked whether fixed income is still an option for its client basis, Fonzi says that they keep a strategic position in fixed income. “For discretionary portfolio managers it still makes sense although it has ceased to be an income generation tool but more as a way to diversify and decorrelate risky assets. This is less the case with high yield. However, they can find income opportunities with low volatility in Euro High Yield Short term,” he says.
Talking about his asset class preferences within the Petercam fund range, Fonzi points at their European equities and high income equity strategies, in particular the Petercam Equities Europe Dividend fund.
Another interesting area for Fonzi is that of sustainable investments. “The range of SRI funds is one of our strengths. Petercam was a pioneer in this approach to investments in both asset classes, equity and fixed income. The financial turmoil after 2007, the disappearance of safe haven investments and the increasing political instability in many areas will contribute to increase the attention of investors towards this approach, above all on Government bonds.
European listed real estate strategy is another focus for Petercam. “We have always found and are still finding particular attention from long term investors”, adds Fonzi.
Also in Italy, the Belgian asset manager confirms its approach. Petercam aims to establish long term and mutually profitable relationship with all distribution channels. For this reason, the company favours the quality of relationships rather than the quantity. Working with a limited number of counterparts allows to be a reliable provider of investment solutions and to support them with timely and ad hoc services, Fonzi explains.
As Petercam entered the Italian market in a particularly favourable moment, Fonzi lets go some comments about how the asset management industry in the country has reacted to the arrival of many foreign managers over the past years. “Italian asset managers have strong investment capabilities and hopefully will gain an international mentality soon enough that will allow some of them to make themselves known abroad as well as at home. Many of them definitely have the capacity to do that,” he concludes.