The Santalucía group, the undisputed leader in the funeral insurance market, opted four years ago to get out of its comfort zone and bet on asset management. He bought the manager Alpha Plus, started selling pension plans, then acquired the business of Aviva Spain and has now merged the two businesses under the umbrella of Santalucía Asset Management. The last step in this incursion in the sale of financial products has been the hiring of Gonzalo Meseguer (Murcia, 1964) as general manager of the manager.
This manager, with more than 25 years of experience in asset management, held the position of commercial and marketing director of BBVA AM before being hired by Santalucía. He had also worked for the private banks of Banco Santander and Citibank.
Why have insurers decided to bet on the sale of funds?
Insurers have a very deep knowledge of our customers. We know what they want, what they need ... In Spain, asset management is dominated by banks but we believe that insurance companies can make us a space, because we have a lot to contribute. Hence the clear commitment we are making, together with entities such as Mutua Madrileña, Mapfre or Caser. Insurers have not suffered reputational damage, as banks have had during the crisis. We also generate a sense of security, of confidence, that we have to capitalize. We also have a network of agents very close to customers. We sell house by house and we are going to take advantage of that.
How many clients does the Santalucía group have and how many the manager?
The group has seven million customers. According to the first analysis we have done, some 500,000 of these clients may have an interest in buying investment or pension funds. Currently, we have about 4,000 participants, but we have just started to play the game with the merger of the managers Alpha Plus and Aviva Gestión.
Who will sell the funds?
They will be agents of both Santalucía Vida y Pensiones and the Santalucía Seguros Generales group. There are about 120 agents already identified. We will see who are prepared to manage the savings of customers. Half are already doing a financial advisory course, taught by the firm Afi. We could go to a pure marketing model, but we prefer to go to a more comprehensive advisory model, which includes not only funds or plans, but also savings insurance, such as PIAS or Sialp. The strategic plan includes reaching 450 agents.
What volume do you manage in funds?
We are close to 1,900 million euros. 35% in equity funds. 25% is fixed income. And the rest, mixed and absolute return. In addition, we managed 2,250 million in pension plans and 500 million in unit-linked insurance.
The fund industry has had poor results in recent years. What do you blame?
Banks have not needed to have good quality products, because they took over the market without any problem. In addition, they have sinned to launch products without rhyme or reason. There are banks that have taken out guaranteed funds in which the commissions are higher than the profitability that the client is going to charge. It is unacceptable. The new regulation will introduce more transparency in the commissions and will remove from the middle those who do not seek that efficiency, with good long-term management and adjusted commissions.
In the UK the regulator has come to fine for this type of practices ...
The new regulation forces you to have a launch committee for each product, where a target audience is defined. If you launch a fund that replicates an index and you charge 2%, when you do not contribute anything, when your management is plugging in a computer that gives a key, it is absolutely immoral to charge that commission.
Its fund Santalucía Ibérico Acciones is one of the best Spanish Stock Exchange ...
Yes, it's a fund with five Morningstar stars. Last year was the best Spanish stock fund for retail investors. It is also the best when analyzing the profitability of the last three, 10 and 15 years.
What is your current vision of the market?
We are positive in equities, especially European. In fixed income we are neutral, but very negative in sovereign debt of high quality. There is a very strong asymmetry of profitability: there is much to lose and little to gain. We see credit recovering, with potential in financial bonds and issuers with the highest rating. We also have positions in alternative assets.
What kind of alternative investments?
In our pension plans we dedicate a part to funds of direct loans to companies, venture capital funds, infrastructure funds and real estate funds. We work with Arcano, Trea, MCH, Altamar ... You have more illiquidity, but they give you an interesting profitability bonus.