The past year's financial turmoil has intensified competition across Spain’s asset management industry as companies fight for a share of a diminishing wealth market, with both local and international asset managers under pressure.
"Everybody is offering fixed guaranteed funds because that's what the client is asking for and in Spain our clients have a very conservative profile. They look for that kind of product," Piqueras says.
Global funds appeal to some investors, showing there is also demand for more sophisticated products. These are mainly funds that offer dynamic management.
There is more competition but this is a "natural" development, Piqueras says. Foreign asset managers have been in Spain since 1997. "They've had good times and bad times - like everybody in the market."
Overall, international companies have performed better than local firms because they can offer more sophisticated products. Local managers focus on areas where they have core capabilities and offer other products through funds of funds.
Anything special or sophisticated such as an emerging market funds in Asia is offered to clients through fund of funds or the bank's open architecture, Piqueras says. With the recent extreme markets volatility some clients are looking for new opportunities and willing to consider more risky assets and this favours international firms.
"International companies are not offering money market funds in the Spanish market. They are dedicated to the more risky and sophisticated assets that a special segment of our clients are looking at. This is why they've been successful," she says.
Specialisation has been a key factor when choosing an asset manager and this has helped foreign players, says Mauro Lorán, regional director Iberia and Latin America at Ignis Asset Management in Madrid.
"The growth for foreign managers has been much bigger because the people who are doing the product selection and constructing portfolios are looking at providers who are the best of breed. So if you want to invest in credit, you look at managers who are good at credit, if you want to invest in the Iberian market you look for managers who are good in the Iberian market. So they are selecting that, and normally, though not in all cases, the foreign managers are those more sophisticated active managers," says Lorán. "People are cherry picking more now because the dispersion in return can be quite high," he says.
It is relatively easy and quick for foreign asset managers to distribute their funds in Spain, Piqueras says. They only need to present their prospectus and the required documentation to the Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores (CNMV) and usually within a month they can have their funds approved for distribution, though some companies say the process can take months.
Specialisation works both ways, Piqueras says. The local industry has at least 65% to 70% of assets under management invested in money market funds, short-term fixed income funds and guaranteed funds. The remaining 35% is devoted to value added products and equity. "I don't see foreign managers coming here to compete with money markets or guaranteed funds because we have a lot of expertise there. But they are competing with us in more niche assets," she says.