Mediolanum International Funds, with €50 billion ($59.7 billion) in assets, has forged partnerships with Pzena Investment Management, Mondrian Investment Partners, and Atlas Infrastructure. As part of the deals, Mediolanum, the asset management arm of Mediolanum Banking Group in Italy, is investing €500 million in three boutique managers’ funds, with almost half going into Pzena.
Furio Pietribiasi, CEO of Mediolanum International Funds, told Institutional Investor that the firm will help distribute all three firms’ strategies in Europe. New York-based Pzena, whose business is primarily in the United States, will be able to extend its reach to clients in Italy, Spain, and Germany, he said.
The addition of the boutiques to Mediolanum’s multi-manager platform will also help distinguish its offerings from competitors at a time when pressure is rising on active management in Europe. The bar for investors to take on active strategies is higher than ever. In contrast to a GP stake deal, Mediolanum’s partnerships involve investing money in the funds of boutique managers, not in the asset manager itself.
“We can do more for these firms than just delivering assets,” Pietribiasi said. “Especially for players without a big presence in Europe, we are able to give them insight around distribution and put our own networks at their disposal. And we’re not jailers of the relationship. We would love to see them be successful with our competitors in Europe.” Over the next five years, Mediolanum plans to have one-third of its assets managed in-house, and the remainder by outside boutiques.
Pietribiasi said Pzena and Mondrian are both great examples of the type of specialized boutique the firm is targeting. Both firms have gotten tested by the long downturn in value strategies, but neither has changed their investment process, style, or launched more popular products. The value shops also kept key employees. “They didn’t lose steam or get distracted during this period by trying to develop other products, and they didn’t lose the team,” the CEO said.
Atlas offers listed infrastructure investments, an asset class that Mediolanum believes is on the cusp of big growth. Mediolanum is seeding a global infrastructure fund with a €70 million investment.
Pietribiasi said the firm may ultimately take a stake in the managers themselves, but not anytime soon. Any financial arrangement would come after the organizations have worked together over a period of time. “Never say never. But we don’t approach a relationship with a manager by taking a stake. We believe that a successful marriage requires a long time of dating to know each other. But obviously if these partnerships are so successful and we learn that by working together there is more and more value that can be generated, well then it may make sense to have a tighter industrial relationship.”
He added that he knows of many partnerships between asset managers that have not been successful. Pietribiasi said there are many potential problems facing these arrangements, including clashing cultures and different definitions of what it means for boutique managers to be left independent. “Often you only discover things down the road,” he stressed.