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Paulo Fernandes (efa): A Non-Bank Financial Services Powerhouse

 

"Less than a year after efa became part of Universal Investment, our clients already benefit from more service optionality, broader coverage, and more product development," said Paulo Fernandes, Chief Commercial Officer in our interview.

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How has the integration of efa into Universal Investment Group been going since the acquisition a year ago?

 

It has been going very well. What we announced when we closed the transaction in October 2022, has materialized on all fronts: Firstly, we now offer more service optionality to our clients, with, for example, a robust front-office solution through UI labs, active fund distribution capabilities in several markets, digital assets through UI Enlyte, and of course management company and AIFM services. We were always a key player in Luxembourg, France, and the Nordics, but still very focused on fund administration ; we have now so much more to offer to our clients. Secondly, we have broadened our coverage with  a presence and service clients in the 5 largest European fund domiciles. Our aim is to be close to our clients and our markets, and we confirmed this earlier this year with the launch of our Swedish office. Lastly, we can now push more product development. Our positioning is quite unique as we are a non-bank financial services group, equally capable in the servicing liquid and private asset strategies. This allows us, for example, to easily expand our offering to service ELTIFs, or to offer efficient solutions for the emerging trend of retailisation in private asset funds. In general, our vision is to be at the forefront of product development, with a strong focus on private assets.

 

"Our group is equally strong in the liquid and private asset classes."

What are the main trends impacting your business?

Our industry is moving fast, but we welcome the change and the opportunities that come along with it. Retailisation of private assets is a major trend, where GPs aim to fill the funding gap left by institutional investors through opening up to private investors, either through platforms that aggregate private investors’ capital, or directly. Another trend we see is the emergence of family offices seeking to diversify into private assets, usually within the same fund vehicle. We can leverage our liquid and private asset capabilities, where we are equally well equipped both from the perspectives of technology and expertise. For example, onboarding retail investors at scale requires appropriate technology and expertise, that is typically found with players active in the liquid segment of the fund industry, while an ELTIF or a private asset fund requires strong know-how in alternatives – both within the same fund. ESG is another big trend, although it is becoming more mainstream than trendy. Our approach to ESG is simple, we consider ourselves as being part of the value chain of the funds that we service, and to do so we need to incorporate all aspects of ESG, including being active in managing our carbon footprint, promoting diversity, gender equality, etc., which is the norm that you would expect from your service provider. We also support our clients with data for their risk management and investment processes. [FC1] Lastly, digitalisation is at the heart of many conversations as the whole industry is shifting towards delivering near real-time data to their clients, in a more integrated way.

 

"Our aim is to be close to our clients and our markets, and we confirmed this earlier this year with the launch of our Swedish office."

What growth opportunities do you identify for efa?

Our clients' needs are clear. First, digitalisation with the purpose of simplifying the way we communicate with them and in particular with their investors. They also want scale, because that is a pre-requisite to offer superior services at competitive prices. And finally, sizeable clients need capabilities and coverage. From a single source, they need to access the full suite of services, across jurisdictions and across liquid and private assets. More generally, we see a lot of growth coming from private assets on one hand and from pushing our ambitious international agenda on the other.

 

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