Sean O’Driscoll (Universal-Investment Luxembourg): Sustained Growth

Sean O’Driscoll, Country Head and Managing Director at Universal-Investment Luxembourg says the Super ManCo’ employees are its biggest asset to support the sustained growth of the group. Interview.

 

How did you navigate through the Covid19 waves?

 

For more than a year we have now been successfully operating completely in a remote working environment, supporting our clients navigate these times while experiencing sustained growth of our business. Our administered assets grew across the group in 2020 by EUR 136 billion to 642bn; in Luxembourg we exceeded 90bn and the future looks bright. COVID19 does not only accelerate new ways of working, but also the shift towards alternatives. Our Luxembourg platform is focused on providing asset management solutions to the international community, with approximately 75% of our AuA coming from alternatives. Therefore, it becomes even more important for our objective of becoming the leading European fund service platform and SuperManCo for all asset classes by 2023. 

In the Grand-Duchy we benefit from the great ecosystem of the financial industry and its strong brand, but also from our own open ecosystem providing a one stop shop solution as a fund service platform offering not only the full breadth of SuperManCo and administration services, but also distribution capabilities for our clients. 

“ESG is essential for the fund industry in the sense of corporate citizenship. We see a huge shift, every RfP, every new institutional mandate has an ESG perspective.”

Which risks and opportunities do you identify in the current context?

 

To support our strong business growth, we continue to reinforce our local substance, but as we are all seeking the same subject matter expertise in the market, this can be a challenge. Our employees are our biggest asset, that is why we continue investing in our colleagues and recently launched our new empowering programme. Some classify increasing regulatory requirements as a risk, but we see this as an opportunity to support our institutional investors and fund managers with innovative solutions allowing them to focus on their core business. This is why we’re also in the process of acquiring our new Irish platform which is opening up other possibilities for UK and US asset managers. This expansion makes Universal-Investment the largest independent SuperManco provider with a presence in the two largest European fund centres. Distribution is always a challenge, we pride ourselves with our proven track record of assisting our clients grow fund assets with our dedicated distribution team covering the DACH region and plan to extend that coverage across Europe and beyond. Therefore, also our acquisition CAPInside is a perfect fit. A digital platform brings together investors, advisors and asset managers. Last but not least we’ve recently launched UI Enlyte, one of the first investment platforms for digital assets worldwide. Put it all together and it's clear that the best times are still ahead of us.

 

How is ESG impacting Universal-Investment’s activities (internally + your clients)

 

ESG is essential for the fund industry in the sense of corporate citizenship. We see a huge shift, every RfP, every new institutional mandate has an ESG perspective. Our approach as a platform is making ESG investments possible from various perspectives. One is regulation. With SFDR we’ve recently classified all funds together with our clients. Secondly, ESG-compliant investing requires full portfolio transparency. That is why we have developed one of the best ESG reporting’s available in the market - it's about empowering. Asset managers as well as institutional investors rely primarily on ex-post ESG ratings. Artificial Intelligence has arrived - cooperating with start-up YUKKA lab we therefore work on a sentiment analysis based on machine learning supporting our customers with real time data for better investment decisions. 

 

As a firm, we also take our responsibility seriously. We have signed PRI and we have established a dedicated ESG office. For us, this is not the end, but the start of a journey. One of the next steps of our action plan is measuring our carbon foot print and reducing it.