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Thursday, June 7, 2018

After Two Spring Acquisitions, What's Next?

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

Aberdeen Standard Investments made two U.S. acquisitions this spring, and now it's time to pull it all together.

In late April Aberdeen Standard bought the U.S. business of ETF Securities. A week later the Scottish multinational closed on its acquisition of Alpine Woods Capital Investors' closed-end and open-end mutual fund business. Aberdeen now has a little under 500 staff and about $80 billion in AUM across the Americas.

Don't expect Chris Demetriou, Americas CEO for Aberdeen Standard, to rush out and do another deal just yet.

"We're very focused on integrating and digesting what we've done so far," Demetriou tells MFWire. "A high priority for us is focusing on our product development and innovation, maximizing on the capabilities and delivery mechanisms we've already assembled."

"We've now assembled a really compelling platform in the U.S. ... We've done a lot in the last couple of years," Demetriou adds. "We're very focused on making sure there's a seamless experience for our clients and our staff."

With ETF Securities, Aberdeen Standard brought over the whole small team, while with Alpine Woods they brought over the funds' PMs. Watch for the Aberdeen Standard team to use the ETF Securities capabilities to start offering some strategies in ETF format, too.

Demetriou puts the recent acquisitions in the context of the Aberdeen Standard team's broader take of where the asset management industry is heading.

"Our view for a long time now has been that this industry will become increasingly bifurcated between the big and the small," Demetriou says. "There'll be winners in the small, niche, boutique space ... And there'll be winners in the large, global diversified space that are able to bring a variety of investment solutions to bear, at a scale enabling competitive pricing."

"We've also been on that journey in the U.S. We've been working hard in the U.S. to try and diversify the business but to do that in a pretty thoughtful way," Demetriou adds. "We still see a very real place for active management, and where fee margins are pretty sustainable. We don't see a place for us in the race to the bottom [i.e. in passive investing]."

Demetriou does leave the door open to further M&A possibilities, mainly to fill in more niches, like direct real estate investing, but only where he sees a "good cultural fit and good investment philosophy alignment." He's not interested in acquisitions simply "for the sake of scale." 

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