Compliant within a new risk management framework

ACTIAM

Compliant within a new risk management framework

The new EU directive regulating alternative investment funds management (AIFMD) meant that asset manager ACTIAM had to make substantial changes to its risk management, a major operation that had to be carried out in a short period of time.

ACTIAM was founded on 1 July 2014 after a merger between SNS Asset Management (SNS AM) and SNS Beleggingsfondsen Beheer (SBB, Investment funds management). The company now has more than EUR 50 billion assets under management for insurers, banks and pension funds. Among them are Reaal, Zwitserleven, ASN Bank and SNS Bank. “Responsible asset management is our specialism”, says Rob Verheul, COO at ACTIAM. “We manage all our investment categories in a responsible fashion.

We have made doing business in a responsible way core to our investment process. It is in our DNA and we are proud of it. “ACTIAM originates from the Hollandse Koopmansbank (Dutch Merchant Bank) and has more than earned its reputation as a responsible asset manager. It has managed the ASN equity fund for more than 20 years.

In 2013, this fund was awarded the Golden Bull for the best investment fund, and in 2015 was deemed the best equity fund in the world. Verheul says: “We do not invest in companies who do not trade in a sustainable way and we let people know through our website which companies we exclude. The universe in which we invest is therefore not as big as that of many other players, but we have already proved that social and financial returns go hand in hand.”

According to Bart Harmsen, head of risk management at ACTIAM, it is not a question of just excluding the insufficiently sustainable companies. “We try to encourage these companies to become more sustainable. We keep many lines of contact open in order to bring about improvements in that area.”

Growth ambition

As a part of VIVAT Insurance, ACTIAM considers Zwitserleven and Reaal (also part of VIVAT Insurances) just as much a client as ASN Bank and SNS Bank, says Verheul. “We have also close commercial contracts with them, just as with our other external clients.

We have seen that the combination of professionalism, flexibility and sustainability has created a lot of interest for our funds from institutional investors. The legislator gives us a helping hand here, since pension funds are required to use part of their capital for sustainable investments.”

“We are investigating whether funds for institutional investors could also be made suitable for retail investors”

As administrator of institutional investment funds, ACTIAM’s name is well known in this market segment. Our ambition is to grow in the retail market as well, says Verheul. “We are investigating whether funds for institutional investors could also be made suitable for retail investors. Our name recognition among a larger audience will then grow as a matter of course.”

Tougher demands

Under VIVAT Insurances, ACTIAM operates independently, with its own license, policy and statutory board. “Even though SNS AM and SBB have worked together for years, with this merger we are creating one expertise centre for our clients”, Verheul explains. “By doing this, we are creating even more commercial and operational strength and we can more easily comply with legislation and regulations.”

Tougher demands on fund management as a result of new legislation and regulations in the AIFMD (Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive) were important reasons for the merger. This legislation requires that a fund manager may not outsource both its portfolio management and its risk management.

Verheul explains: “The fund manager (SBB) would therefore have to go to great lengths to rig up its risk management. Asset management was already outsourced to ACTIAM (at the time SNS AM).

If we had not integrated SBB and SNS AM, the cost to the client would have been much higher than it is now. The costs of the merger are small by comparison. We are trying to absorb these by working more efficiently.”

Gap analysis

The AIFMD legislation sets out best practices in the area of risk and liquidity management, among others. As far as ACTIAM was concerned, this guideline had an impact on many different levels.

“Most of them were under control”, says Verheul, “but we were not able to make the changes for the risk management part on our own. We could see that the scale of changes necessary within risk management was too great for our own staff to contend with.

We had discussions with a number of contenders, but Zanders was selected fairly quickly. During the very first meeting they showed their pragmatic, down to earth approach. No standard consultanttalk, but serious people who gave the impression they would get on with it and deliver something of real useful value.”

Time was of the essence: ACTIAM had to be AIFMD compliant by 22 July 2014 and have its risk policy implemented, otherwise obtaining the license would be under threat. So, article for article, a speedy start was made on analyzing the legal texts; what was written down exactly, and what is the impact of them for ACTIAM?

And as far as the risk management parts were concerned, where were the gaps as far as the guidelines went? And that’s how the risk management and risk methodology were assessed, a process during which hundreds of pages were read and analyzed.

Zanders consultant Mark van Maaren says: “Early on we involved the front office, as well as others, in the development of risk policies, risk methodology and risk reporting. They made a valuable contribution and their involvement facilitated the acceptance of the risk framework.”

“We wanted to achieve 6.5 on reaching compliance, then we wanted to take our time in order to make it an 8”

During the whole process the strategy was developed gradually and the levels of risk became clearer. Beforehand, Verheul expressed progress in terms of a target figure: “We wanted to achieve 6.5 on reaching compliance, then we wanted to take our time in order to make it an 8.” In that way the inaccuracies in some reports, which were a result of tight deadlines, were corrected, while the reporting process itself was speeded up.

Zanders consultant Jasper van Eijk notes: “With constant to-ing and fro-ing, i.e. by involving front office, a large number of issues were solved.” This way most of the interest rate sensitivities on fixed interest instruments could be calculated, but a number of rates differed to what front office saw. By constantly going back to departments involved, the results were fine-tuned.

Internal involvement

In a short time frame a lot had to happen on both sides, but the interaction was ideal, Verheul thinks. “And what is so good is that we have improved the whole ACTIAM risk management framework. We are much more aware of the whole spectrum since it had much more impact than just the AIFMD part.”

Harmsen nods in agreement: “The risk policy was also immediately adopted by the business and, as a result, the quality of thinking in terms of risk in the organization was given an enormous boost.” Van Maaren adds: “ACTIAM’s board’s strong commitment was an important factor in the success of the project. All directors gave up a lot of time to review and discuss the risk strategy, the preparation of risk reports and the development of risk methodology.

Quick decisions were also made where there were issues within the project.” Van Eijk also felt the interaction within the organization was a success factor. “This was at all levels within the organization. The formulated policy had to take form by setting up models, methods and systems. But due to the limited timeframe we had to do this in parallel. This demands good co-ordination to get all cross-references tied in.

Thanks to a pragmatic approach and the broad internal involvement, this was achieved.” The deadline was reached; ACTIAM was AIFMD compliant as of 22 July 2014.

Stick to the plan

For monitoring risk, ACTIAM used the existing risk management system, Dimension, from supplier Simcorp, of which Zanders implemented the new risk module. Verheul says: “We want the whole organization to use this system and the starting point was to include the whole risk reporting process in this system. Zanders firstly evaluated the suitability of this module for implementation of risk reporting together with ACTIAM and Simcorp before starting the implementation process.”

“The interaction within the organization was a success factor – at all levels within the organization”

It symbolizes the secret of success of the whole journey, Verheul thinks: “Make considered choices and then stick to the plan. Don’t fall into the trap of implementing another system just because a report is easier to print for example, as this always leads to different problems. In retrospect, it all went very well, but there was a lot of pressure on everyone involved.

All in all we are very pleased with the whole project. If we had to do it again then we would do it the same way.”

What did Zanders do for ACTIAM?

  •  A gap analysis with regard to AIFMD compliance;
  •  Development of risk strategy, risk methodology/ models and risk reporting;
  •  Implementation of Simcorp Dimension risk module;
  •  Embedding a new risk policy within the organization;
  •  Support of continuous development of the risk reporting process .