The number of NZ licensed fund managers has cracked the 20 mark with three new firms joining the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) roster last week.
While the FMA’s managed investment scheme (MIS) manager list has been slowly ticking over since the little-known New Ground Capital kicked off the process late last year, the addition of BNZ, Lifetime Asset Management and Milford Asset Management all in one week has added momentum to the regulatory charge.
Ralph Stewart, head of newly-launched annuity business Lifetime Retirement Income, said the MIS licensing – required for its asset management subsidiary – was a “solid process”.
“We were fortunate in that we’d done some of the heavy lifting in gaining our insurance licence – we had a lot of processes already in place,” Stewart said. “But if funds are going through licensing for the first time they could be in for a fairly lengthy experience.”
Lifetime will invest client funds principally into passive funds managed by Vanguard – with some NZ input from Harbour Asset Management.
After rolling out the flexible annuity product to financial advisers earlier this year, Stewart said the group had begun marketing direct to consumers.
He said Lifetime’s foray into the public seminar circuit launched earlier this month on the Kapiti Coast – in the heart of Wellington’s retiree belt – pulled a decent crowd on debut with almost 370 turning up.
After weathering a storm over alleged market manipulation charges from the FMA last year, Milford received better news from the regulator this month with its licence approval.
In a statement, departing Milford managing director, Anthony Quirk, said the MIS licence “reinforces our commitment to good governance and our focus on strong investment, compliance and operational processes and systems”.
“This is another milestone for our business after being granted a Discretionary Investment Management Service Licence (DIMS) late last year for Milford’s Private Wealth Advisory business,” Quirk said. “We see the current evolution in the regulatory environment for our industry as a very positive step in increasing investor confidence.”
He said Milford planned to roll out MIS-compliant products in the third quarter of this year.
Retail fund managers wishing to operate under the Financial Markets Conduct Act (FMC) regime have until December this year to complete MIS licensing.
Rob Everett, FMA chief, warned the industry this February that MIS applications would require at least two months to process, suggesting early October would be the final cut-off date.
“There’s no excuse for any investment manager to turn up at the last-minute with a sub-par [MIS] application,” Everett said at the time. “They will get an unsympathetic hearing from the FMA.”