Stock Market: Who needs to sit next to a trader? Asset managers embrace outsourcing


LONDON: More pension funds, insurers and asset managers are outsourcing half or all of their dealing desks to specialist merchants as they search to minimize prices and adapt their operations to take care of the coronavirus disaster, trade sources say.

Last yr’s volatility in markets, plunging because the pandemic took maintain and rebounding as authorities stimulus kicked in, meant asset managers spent extra time juggling trades and fewer time on their standard job of long-term asset allocation.

Moving some or all of their buying and selling to specialist companies affords entry to a bigger group of banks and brokers, making it cheaper to execute trades and permitting asset managers to minimize buying and selling workers and buying and selling terminal prices, trade sources say.

The shift to outsourcing has additionally been accelerated by modifications in working practices caused by the pandemic.

“As we all work from home, people are realising you don’t need to be physically sitting next to the traders to be able to communicate,” stated Tom Carroll, head of asset administration at British fund supervisor Sanlam Investments, which outsourced buying and selling to Northern Trust shortly earlier than the pandemic.

Carrol stated the transfer meant his firm’s 20 fund managers might “focus more on what they’re good at” – selecting property for the long run relatively buying and selling by means of short-term volatility.

Northern Trust international head of built-in buying and selling Gary Paulin stated the financial institution had 65 outsourced buying and selling purchasers, of which 18 had been added in 2020. Half the brand new purchasers had been long-only asset managers, relatively than these concerned briefly promoting or different hedging exercise. Two had been asset house owners equivalent to pension funds.

“Last year was a really, really important turning point for the industry,” he stated, including that asset managers had been rethinking how they operated as the kind of market volatility seen in 2020 “always exposes a bloated cost base”.

Natixis Investment Managers International’s outsourced buying and selling unit’s turnover rose 18% to 317 billion euros ($384 billion) in 2020 due to the additional volatility.

Investment financial institution Cowen’s international outsourced buying and selling unit doubled its income in 2020, stated Jack Seibald, Cowen’s managing director and international co-head of prime brokerage and outsourced buying and selling. He didn’t disclose revenues from the enterprise.

“The lockdown opened the eyes of so many managers to the idea that outsourced trading can be a credible solution,” he stated.


Outsourcing back-office capabilities equivalent to accounting is well-established, however the pattern in direction of outsourcing buying and selling has been a gradual burn, trade sources say.

It began round a decade in the past as an equities buying and selling service for hedge funds and wealth managers. It expanded after European regulation made operating a buying and selling desk extra complicated right here.

Cost financial savings, operational efficiencies and buying and selling experience have pushed buyers to outsource dealing, trade sources say, including it more and more appealed to insurers, asset managers and pension funds.

David Berney, founding accomplice of Ergo Consultancy, stated one European insurer minimize the prices of shopping for or promoting a U.S. Treasury bond to “a few” foundation factors from 25 bps by outsourcing.

Cole Smead, president of Smead Capital Management in Phoenix, Arizona, which switched to outsourced buying and selling with Outset Global in October, stated the agency now not wanted to make use of a dealer in London.

Erik Vynckier, a non-executive director of British insurer Foresters Friendly Society, stated outsourcing made sense for companies with lower than 500 million euros beneath administration.

“It would be difficult to get a good trader for portfolios this size,” he stated.

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