The party atmosphere was definitely lacking in Monaco this year for Fund Forum. Numbers were down and the usual lavish entertainment had been credit crunched. Still, the organisers professed themselves pleased with the turnout, and with the numbers of chief execs who turned up to sit on panels or address the conference.
Some providers were still doing things in style, but they were mostly the asset servicing arms of the banks. I enjoyed an evening at a swanky hotel by the sea courtesy of BNY Mellon, including a performance by electric violin duo Fuse. It was just right for Monaco!
There is no doubt that the likes of BNY Mellon and JP Morgan are feeling pretty smug. They are seeing more business as fund managers look to outsource as much as possible to cut costs. But they are watching closely to see what regulators come out with next. This business about depositary banks the European Commission has cooked up has not gone down well.
Regulation was a big theme at the conference, mainly in terms of the burden new regulations could impose. There was also much talk of simpler products, with transparency and liquidity being key must haves. The “end investor” came into discussions more than in the past. This is the individual saver who many providers are ultimately serving, although they all too often lose sight of that fact.
Even the phrase indicaates how many middlemen are part of the so-called “value chain” these days. Still, it was encouraging that the idea of providing value to this investor was up for debate. In previous years the focus has been much more on how to make bigger profits.
In the end though, conferences are talking shops, good for the exchange of ideas and networking to further business ends. Much of this talk has been heard in the past. The test will be the extent to which those “end investors” get better service in future.
© The Financial Times Ltd 2017 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.