Last week I attended my first Global ARC (Absolute Return Congress) Conference in Boston. The event has been running for 17 years and having been I can see why. What really stood out for me was the global nature of the conference. There were asset owners and managers from an impressive 27 countries including Australia, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.
The conference had a packed agenda offering CIOs of asset owners a fantastic opportunity to get a download on the latest thinking from asset managers on a wide range of topics with a mix of structured sessions and open conversations. Most of the conference sessions were focused on investment insight, but here are my three highlights:
- The power of pooling – I attended a very involved breakout session on the power of pooling assets. As a platform, it’s a subject close to our heart at AMX. The discussion centred around the benefits of doing joint deals to access asset classes and approaches that investors may not have been able to access otherwise. This is definitely one way that asset pooling can help deliver better results for end investors. However, I was slightly surprised that the discussion didn’t also turn to the other benefits of asset pooling. Some of the other benefits of scale we know our clients enjoy are reduced duplication of costs, risk oversight and operational efficiencies.
- Big data or bad data – Professor Sir David Speigelhalter made a fascinating presentation on both the power and pitfalls of data. Through a vivid example about the relationship between the UK’s personal and technology habits he showed how data used in the wrong way can easily lead to incorrect and sometime sensationalised conclusions. He urged us all to be more sceptical of the data we’re presented with so we can become better data stewards.
- ESG – its big and its important – the conversation at the conference was mainly about how ESG is coming to the US and how asset managers will need more sophisticated ways to cater to asset owner ESG concerns that they have done in the last 10 years. With a strong presence in Europe, AMX are already helping to deliver innovative ESG and stewardship solutions, so I’m excited to see this trend continue to build momentum over here.
It was great to be part of such an international event and to have the opportunity to connect the dots with people that my European-based colleagues have been talking to. I look forward to seeing the continued growth of ESG and good governance themes in our industry.