With the advent of the Internet as a distribution vehicle, many fund companies have already, or are considering, distributing their mutual funds in Europe. The question of whether the market is ripe for U.S. mutual fund infiltration was a major topic of discussion at the National Investment Companies Services Associations annual Operations conference in late February.
The issue of technology was raised both as a reason to distribute funds; as it is easier and less expensive to do so now with the Internet, and as a hindrance; as the European market uses systems that are different from those in the U.S.
There are two trains of thought on whether the market is ready. One is that the mutual fund investment boom that occurred in the U.S. is sure to follow in Europe, making it ripe for U.S. mutual fund distribution. They argue that the U.S provides an appropriate model for predicting the future of the European fund markets, says a representative at Sector Analysis in a session on Global Distribution: The Changing Landscape. However, he adds that, Others believe just the opposite, that the U.S. fund industry is so different from European markets that it holds no bearing on predicting Europes future.
Despite the dueling views, Sectors studies show that, indeed, Europe is following in the footsteps of the U.S., as it is undergoing some of the same trends according to two thirds of the 19 measures it studied, which cite technology as a main factor with the emergence of Internet-driven sales. Other factors that back the consultancys views are: Europe has seen a shift of assets from deposits to funds, the market has seen growing press coverage leading to increased visibility of product, and Europe has had a sustained bull market which has seen growth since 1994. One of the main differences, however, is that in Europe most of the mutual funds are proprietary and are distributed through banks.
|Sector Predicts Key Elements of the Landscape in Europe in 2005
| Fund distribution through bank branches will decline by 17% by 2005
New channels will make up 15% of fund distribution by 2005
New channels threaten the economics of retail banks
Fund manufacturing and distribution will diverge
Bank fund management skills will be tested
A clear shift to non-proprietary funds
Competitive environment:excellent news for new entrants
Price will become a big buying driver
Price pressures will help index funds
More pricing models
Brand strength will be a big issue
Equity fund will be even more popular
Pension related investing in funds will grow
Foreign investing in funds will have grown
Mutual fund growth will be at expense of bank deposits
The industry will continue to concentrate
Europe will increasingly become one market
Despite the bright picture suggesting that the market might be ready for U.S. fund infiltration, there are some pitfalls and technology is one of them. One panelist notes that the systems used abroad are very different from those in the U.S. and to distribute, fund companies would have to seriously access these systems, and ensure compatibility. Thomas Karol, U.S. Coordinator, Global Investment Management Servies, at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, emphasizes the importance of creating alliances, which would assist in understanding the systems and the clientele. Roger Servison, managing director and executive vice president of Fidelity Investments, which manages $150 billion in assets outside the U.S., also emphasized the importance of alliances. He pointed out, that in some markets, such as France, there might be some resistance to buying from U.S. financial services firms.
Servison adds that one of the major problems for mutual fund companies trying to reach other nations is that there are no global mutual fund transfer agency systems. He says, you need to learn how to operate with systems that are being used in all the different markets, which can be a major challenge.