Q&A with John Bohan (pictured), Managing Director Europe & Middle East, Apex Fund Services (Ireland).
To what extent is Apex FS seeing interest in the QIAIF? And where is that interest largely coming from?
The non-UCITS QIF (Qualifying Investor Fund) has been one of the most successful fund structures in Ireland to date, its success reflecting the market appetite for a sophisticated regulated product facilitating hedge fund and other alternative investment strategies.
With the advent of AIFMD in 2013, there has been a growth in funds platforms with licensed investment management companies offering a fast track to market in a cost effective structure.
QIAIFs benefit from a fast track authorisation process meaning that a QIAIF can be authorised by the Central Bank within 24 hours of filing the appropriate documentation. Coupled with well-oiled re-domiciliation laws from other jurisdictions, these platforms are paving the way for alternative fund launches across Europe.
Managers across Europe and in particular the US, Middle East and Asia are seeing an easier route to raise capital in Europe using the regulated status of these funds.
Has Apex FS been involved this year in bringing any new QIAIFs onto its books? If so, what kind of strategies?
Yes of course. The interest in the QIAIF and the latest legal structure, the ICAV, is reaching unprecedented popularity. As of October 2015 nearly 2,000 QIAIF funds with EUR360 billion in assets were registered in Ireland (source: irishfunds.ie).
The strategies are varied and reflect the popular asset classes of the last few years: property, l/S, opportunistic, distressed. The QIAIF regime has flexible regulatory requirement around the strategies; for example, it can employ leverage without restriction as long as it is disclosed in the prospectus.
The "plug and play" platform is also changing the landscape of the Irish funds industry as it continues to grow and provide a gateway to Europe and spawns a growing cottage industry around risk systems and compliance software solutions to meet the demand of the UCITS and non-UCITS platforms.
Given that the lCAV is proving popular, do you view this as an important period, not just for Ireland’s funds industry but for Apex FS?
In the course of the post-crisis recovery and the re-building of the confidence in Ireland's economy, this has coincided with the reforms across Europe and tightening of controls in the funds industry. Greater onus on depositaries, fitness and probity of its directors and restrictions on time spent and quality of that time spent.
The message has been clearly stated in Ireland. We are open for business and have a product structure that will provide the assurance needed across global institutional or retail (UCITS or RIAIF) investors bases for alternative investment funds. As large global institutional pension funds allocate more bandwidth to the AIF industry so too does the product base continue to meet that demand.
Are there any operational adjustments or changes to your business model that you feel will be necessary in 2016 to attract new clients?
At Apex we have grown dramatically over the last five years, in particular as we focused early on the demand for data and where that would take us. The goal was to ensure that we evolved ahead of the industry and took our clients where they needed to go. It can clearly be seen that some of the larger behemoths and banks couldn't survive in that type of marketplace given large overheads and a lack of flexibility in the operational structures.