A number of them had relied on illiquid assets like infrastructure or private debt. Asset classes increasingly sought after by investors in recent years.
2008: funny year to start on the markets. But paradoxically, the year of the fall of Lehman Brothers proved to be prolific for French asset management. Fifty new players have been approved by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), while only seventeen have lost their approval.
Ten years later, two observations stand out. First, the increase in the number of management companies has never returned to the same pace. Since 2014, we have even seen a stagnation in the number of players, sector concentration requires. Another observation: given the fact that they were born in the midst of a slump, the 2008 generation management companies have a rather high survival rate. 72% of management companies inducted in 2008 are still in business ten years later. Even if some have had a particularly short life: NBGI Private Equity, the armed wing of the Bank of Greece in private equity, for example ceased its activities in November 2009, only 607 days after obtaining its approval. For its part, Quasar Capital Management, a specialist in quantitative management which was launched in May 2008, was dissolved in 2010.
A vintage rich in companies dedicated to illiquid assets
This ability to last is often explained by a visionary side. Among the 36 survivors of 2008, 31 have an authorization to manage alternative funds, against only 15 authorized to manage traditional UCITS. The 2008 vintage is rich in companies dedicated to illiquid asset classes. However, these assets have been in great demand since the crisis, in particular because of the central banks’ quantitative easing policies, which have dragged down returns on traditional liquid markets.
AXA REIM, HSBC REIM France and Paref Gestion, specialists in property management thus appeared in 2008, as did Infravia Capital Partners (dedicated to infrastructures). Private equity players have also emerged, such as GIMV France, Innovafonds and Vatel Capital. The latter, after having surfed the wave of “tax” funds, also launched an infrastructure fund dedicated to renewable energies listed on Alternext (Méthanor) and a subsidiary dedicated to crowdfunding (Vatel Direct).
The emergence of SRI
Others sensed that socially responsible investing would become a major theme. It was in 2008 that Impact Partenaires, a specialist in social impact investment capital and responsible finance, was born. “From day one, our desire has been to practice 100% SRI management and to be seen as a benchmark on this subject,” recalls Stéphane Prévost, its CEO. This has led us to formalize a specific methodology, put in place at the start of 2010. ”The development of the activity has not been dazzling (the company still manages less than 200 million euros), but this identified brand has attracted successive partnerships with the Monceau group and more recently the insurer Mapfre, which took a stake in late 2017, or the asset management group Olifan in 2018.
The survival capacity of management companies can also be explained by a profession that remains little capital intensive, which favors their agility. It often happens that financial shareholders or buyers look at start-ups, even those in difficulty. The advantage for them? A pre-existing management company allows a “rolling start” rather than a “standing start”. Amplegest was thus taken over by Arnaud de Langautier in 2010.
It was on another company founded in 2008, Athymis Gestion, that Stéphane Toullieux, after leaving Financière de l’Echiquier in 2014, set his sights on. When he took it over, it managed a little less than 100 million euros in assets, mainly in multi-management: a still modest activity on which he grafted his own ideas, in this case a range of thematic equity funds.