At first glance, this may not seem to be anything new. Yet this particular initiative matters. Not only is it the result of collaboration between asset owners and the investment industry (in the form of the Investment Association), but also because the code’s stated aim is to become the “gold standard” for best reporting practices. To date, the initiative has not received a huge amount of attention, though a number of prominent investment businesses have already indicated their intention to sign up to the new code.
This hasn’t been the only transparency related story to appear in the news this week. Only yesterday did the Transparency Taskforce (a consumer group) criticise the Investment Association’s efforts on fund charge transparency; separately, UK broker Numis has called for standardised reporting from listed asset management businesses. All of which comes with the spectre of MiFID II looming large in the background.
Transparency and accountability have long been major themes within the investment industry, as our own research has consistently shown, but these latest stories would suggest the importance of these issues is beginning to increase once again.
For the asset management industry, this creates both challenges and opportunities. Yes, there is of course more for investment firms to do in order to demonstrate they are meeting best practice; at the same time, those that act early and, importantly, showcase their efforts proactively are well placed to enjoy “first mover advantage”.
Ultimately though, stakeholders and other target audiences are no longer only interested in what asset managers are doing; they are just as concerned about how they are doing it. Communications plans will need to become more sophisticated and nuanced as a result, with investment firms needing to be able to clearly demonstrate the merits of their different approaches and how these are in investors’ interests. That may sound a little obvious, but you can’t just assume external audiences will just take it as red that you’re following best practice.