Interview with Nicolas Rousselet – An asset manager’s role has shifted from manager to partner in the last two years. Close collaboration is now the order of the day and Nicolas Rousselet (pictured), Head of Hedge Funds at Unigestion, is quick to emphasise the leading role that the firm plays in catering to the diverse needs of today’s increasingly sophisticated institutional investor.
This is evident in the fact that more than half of Unigestion’s clients use dedicated mandates. These are not managed accounts, but rather structures similar in effect to a ‘fund-of-one’ where Unigestion works in partnership with each individual client.
“Over the last two years, institutions have become a lot more sophisticated and thoughtful about how they want to invest. Ten years ago, everyone wanted fund of funds. Now, they are asking for mandates that encompass much more than just a return stream – they want closer collaboration and more involvement in the management of the portfolio,” explains Rousselet.
Such an enhanced client service offering lies at the heart of Unigestion. As Rousselet explains: “The early part of the discussion is vital in understanding a client’s needs. After that, we explain what we can do to meet those needs, and how we intend to do it. Transparency is key: we do what we say and we say what we do. We’re not looking to push products or services onto the client.”
Rousselet says that institutions today want three things: ownership, engagement in the investment process, and a high level of transparency. “All three are achieved by having a dedicated mandate. We propose certain solutions to the client and work towards finding the right fit. The rules of engagement are clearly defined in that regard.”
Hence the move towards collaboration. Interestingly, Rousselet observes that when the collaborative process started building momentum a couple of years ago the expectation was that clients would start to allocate to more specific strategies. In fact, the multi-strategy route remained preferential. But whereas previously investors didn’t like to influence the mandate, that began to change.
“Their involvement has grown, not necessarily by becoming more strategy-specific but by becoming more involved in the overall global positioning of the mandate. It’s less strategy-orientated and more outcome-orientated.
“Some clients want to either see the opportunities themselves as they arise in the market and ask us to leverage on them, some are happy for us to tell them. Either way, they want to see the mandate evolve over time and use tactical decisions to adapt to changing market conditions. Five years ago, people were more multi-strategy passive. Today, they are more multi-strategy dynamic. That’s the difference.”
Another investment trend that has emerged over the past 12 months, says Rousselet, is for clients to invest across both hedge funds and private equity funds via an integrated solution. Here, Unigestion is able to bring the expertise of the entire firm to bear, with liquidity matching being a particularly important element.
Rousselet adds: “We make sure clients can get money when they need it. We’ve worked a lot in the area of capital calls in relation to private equity and have developed a strong ability to estimate what kind of capital call clients can have, at what time, depending on the structure they’re invested in. This has been hugely beneficial to clients.”