Swiss-based Syz & Co Group, encompassing the three business lines of private banking, institutional asset management and Oyster Funds, has been investing in the business, anticipating "better days" as the business cycle turns and global economic growth resumes.
Having focused the product range, Guillon turned to distribution. The challenge was and is to be close to clients, but also to deal with proliferating regulation regarding cross border promotion. He says it is important to have a clear home base, which for Geneva-based Syz is Switzerland.
The first move out from there was to France and Belgium, and then through the rest of Europe, through a combination of sales and representative offices, branches and subsidiaries. From 2011, there was a push into Asia, with a base in Hong Kong and funds registered in Singapore.
Now, the next phase of expanding distribution is to identify new markets where brand recognition is high, or could be built. Guillon says Oyster will be targeting Sweden by mid-year, and will start to build a UK-oriented sales team to tackle a more difficult but still attractive market following the introduction of the Retail Distribution Review (RDR).
“It is very competitive, but we are gaining traction in mature markets,” he noted. “In the UK, the challenge will be to convince investors to engage in offshore funds.”
The other two areas for new distribution are Israel and Latin America, starting with Chile, where the local pension fund system is most developed, followed by Peru and Colombia. Israel has a thriving financial sector, and local regulators are encouraging pension funds to diversify into offshore structures. “The market is opening up to outside players,” said Guillon.
In Chile, Oyster will be offering its European Equity franchise to investors who are already highly sophisticated. The firm will be looking for a local partner in Peru, which will be serviced from the Oyster Madrid office.
The firm, now with 435 employees in 14 cities worldwide, is one of the fastest growing banking groups in Europe, with assets under management of some €25 billion. Alongside its cherished independent status, it has a core Tier 1 capital ratio of 27.8%.
Such attributes might draw envious eyes, as the difficult market and outlook prompts some firms to restructure, selling off or acquiring assets. Guillon is clear that neither Oyster Funds nor the Group is for sale. “We still have a lot to do, and it is just not our style. We are a private firm, we don’t need the capital and corporate activity makes things complicated.”
The Oyster Sicav
* Luxembourg Sicav, Ucits compliant
* sub funds cover major asset classes and niches
* Compartments registered in most European countries and Singapore
* bulk of assets held by investors external to the group
* mix of internally and externally managed funds
* Innovation : use of atypical managers in main asset classes; identify tomorrow’s strategies; anticipate future trends
* Non Index approach with focus on risk management : bottom up approach; style and market cap agnostic; risk team independent from portfolio managers