One year on
This month marks one year since I assumed my current position as CEO of SKAGEN. As we head towards summer, it is timely to take stock and offer both reflections and some future perspectives.
We are now firmly focused on the delivery of investment performance, our direct to consumer wealth management in Norway and Denmark, and international distribution to professional clients and distributors.
Watch the video and read the article beneath
A rough 2018 has given way to better progress in 2019. Absolute return remains in double figures for most funds, and amongst the larger funds both SKAGEN Global and Kon-Tiki are ahead of benchmark for the year by a clear margin, indeed SKAGEN Global is currently returning excess performance over YTD, one and three years. We have cautiously added additional analytical capability to support our portfolio management team.
We have been actively engaging with our portfolio companies over more sustainable practice and the progress we have seen so far is encouraging. We will report fully on this in due course, but you can find out more about how we incorporate sustainability in our investment process and exercise our voting rights at shareholder meetings.
There may be further late cycle volatility ahead, and of course trade war fears, political risk in the Gulf, and Brexit – when it finally arrives – will present both opportunity and risk. So far so good.
At a recent gathering of international investment firms in Oslo hosted by SKAGEN, there was general agreement that direct-to-consumer wealth management is marked by too little trust and too much choice.
Here in SKAGEN we continue to maintain that the surest route to long-term financial security is investment in active equity funds. We seek to position ourselves as a trusted advisor alongside our clients and are developing our wealth management platform to combine our own products with those we have carefully selected from other providers. A key area of current thinking is how best to support clients in making the right decisions. Time and time again we see that client return is less than fund return, often due to wrong decisions made during market falls. We will speak further on this later in the year.
In Norway, as in many countries, fees for financial products are in focus. Some market participants have trumpeted bold fee adjustments. I am reminded of advice my father gave me: “beware bankers bearing gifts”. The fact is clients need to be sure what they are paying for. In SKAGEN, our published fees for direct consumers include access to the full suite of products and services. There are no surprises. And we believe in a sensible performance fee of one tenth of the outperformance. This creates good alignment between our clients and us. We only do well when our clients do well – as 2018 clearly proved.
At the same meeting of investment firms in Oslo, retention was described as the new growth. For those of us distributing to professional investors internationally beyond Scandinavia – and SKAGEN is arguably alone in this amongst Norwegian firms – there is no doubt that the past year has been demanding. The pendulum remains in favour of passive funds as mature and well-funded pension schemes de-risk, and as fledgling defined contribution pension schemes grapple with the cost of active management – so far unsuccessfully. While the overall trend has been negative, we have seen good inflows from investors in both Iceland and Belgium; and we see increasing interest from investors wishing to access SKAGEN’s pragmatic and common sense application of our value investment philosophy.
It is increasingly clear that to prosper requires both a differentiated proposition and sufficient agility in the implementation of both philosophy and process to access the drivers of return. And with our Luxembourg funds for overseas investors launching in a matter of days, the future for international distribution is bright. We see a well-diversified client base as providing the best possible platform for sustainable growth and strong investment performance.
We close the first half of 2019 in good shape. Improved investment return is increasingly buttressed by greater client confidence and improving sales. Recent events and meetings have emphasised the high degree of trust and loyalty amongst our clients. We continue to work hard to merit this every day. The capital markets will continue to delight and challenge, and we should expect surprises aplenty. Against this SKAGEN’s funds offer differentiated exposure to undervalued companies with attractive upside.
Wishing you all a good summer!
 Group of Boutique Asset managers – around 20 investment firms, most with a specialist focus, and located globally.