It’s not so grim up north

Recent conversations with fund managers from around the Nordic region reminded The Lens of some of the distinctive features of the asset management industry in Scandinavia.

With the closet tracking controversy of three years ago largely behind it and an improving economy the funds industry in the Nordics is looking increasingly attractive to outside investors.

Among other recent developments, Robert Heaney, head of Nordics at M&G Investments, points to recent legislative changes in Sweden impacting the country’s large so-called AP state pension funds.

Investment restrictions on the funds previously mandated by the Swedish parliament are currently in the process of being relaxed. This should, Heaney says, give more flexibility for AP funds to invest in private unlisted assets.

Another positive development mentioned to The Lens by a number of big players in the region was the relaxation last year of Icelandic capital controls.

The controls were introduced by Iceland following the global economic crash as a means of stabilising the country’s economy and were in force for almost a decade before last year’s relaxation.

There are already signs of a wave of investment by Icelandic investors into foreign assets while foreign investment managers are increasingly eyeing up investment opportunities in Iceland.

The Nordics region has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing but things have accelerated further in recent years.

Whereas ESG was once seen in the region as a ‘nice thing to have’, it has now, according to Heaney, become
“a licence to operate rather than a marketing tool”.