Investment Insights | 8 min read

Glacier International Roadshow 2024 Wrap-up

Preparing for the world to turn: Prosperity in partnership and the case for global investing

The Glacier International Seminar 2024, hosted by Andrew Brotchie, Managing Director at Glacier International, was a five-city engagement across SA, the first since March 2020. This platform is where Glacier International’s specialists and their global partners explore trends and pertinent matters that impact international markets and influence portfolio construction. View presentation

In his opening address, Andrew pointed out that there is a continual and growing interest in international investing. Therefore, the Seminar is not intended to make a case for global investing; rather, it is focused on the options and opportunities available in this expansive investment universe. Offshore investing should be inherently part of any client’s diversified portfolio. Glacier International’s purpose is to partner with advisers to find the best opportunities wherever they reside, and offers a market leading, full spectrum of solutions across products and investment choices.

WATCH THE ROADSHOW RECORDING

The next evolution of Navigate.

Hildegard Wilson | Head: Glacier Investment Solutions
Hildegard Wilson

Hildegard Wilson | Head: Glacier Investment Solutions
Luke McMahon | Portfolio Manager: Glacier Invest
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Understanding the client’s needs and putting together solutions and funds to best meet these needs are two key parts of what investment solutions mean at Glacier Invest.

The evolution of Navigate over time.

2012 – Glacier International Shopping List – research and analysis of the top global funds on the Glacier investment platform. 
2013 – Navigate equally weighted
2016 – Navigate Optimised
2020 – Glacier Invest launched Global Specialised Portfolios
2022 – Navigate ETF
2024 – Introducing Navigate International by Glacier Invest

Luke McMahon | Portfolio Manager: Glacier Invest
Luke McMahon

What does Navigate International offer?

  1. A simple offshore solution set to fit clients’ needs.
  2. Combined research efforts of Glacier Research and Sanlam Multi Manager International
  3. Navigate International Buy-List spans emerging and developing market managers.
  4. Intermediary support from Glacier Invest
  5. Optimised Portfolios, Specialist Portfolios, ETF Portfolios tailored to clients’ risk profiles.
  6. Navigate International offers off-the-shelf as well as bespoke options.

What does the support from Glacier Invest entail?

Skill, scale and simplicity which mean:

  • Ongoing feedback from portfolio managers.
  • Economy of scale regarding fees.
  • Global research coverage – SA and global managers combine their research efforts to examine and analyse the global fund universe of 300 000+ funds.
  • Technology that includes white labelling.
  • Enhanced portfolio construction capability. 
  • Service orientation.

The case for developed markets

AJ Gracely | Director of ESG Fayez Sarofim & Co
AJ Gracely

AJ Gracely | Director of ESG Fayez Sarofim & Co
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Sarofim & Co is an independent global investment manager dedicated to high-conviction, sustainable growth investing for over 60 years, with a successful long-term track record in outperformance while taking lower risk. Their global mindset influences their sustainable investment philosophy, which means that their mix of profits is more widespread than where they are domiciled.

Developed markets are performing well after inflation-driven weakness in 2022. This has mainly been driven by investor belief that inflation has receded, and that monetary policy will adjust accordingly. However, inflation surprises remain a risk for stocks.

AJ highlighted the five key themes emerging from developed markets and how it influences the companies they invest in and how they position their portfolios.

  1. Inflation
    Pandemic-related, stimulus-driven inflation has necessitated a policy response from global central banks that has long-term implications for portfolio positioning.
  2. Aging populations
    Demographics of the United States, Europe, and China are changing, driving a sustained increase in global health care expenditures, and necessitating a focus on prevention and improved health outcomes.
  3. Geopolitics
    The geopolitical landscape continues to evolve as the world shifts away from unipolarity (the United States as the central point of influence) towards multipolarity (the United States as one central point of influence with countervailing influences from China and Russia).
  4. Artificial intelligence
    Near-term focus has been on GPUs required to train models though focus is shifting to those companies best positioned to benefit from integrated artificial intelligence work streams. Historically, investors have underestimated the market size of major technological evolutions meaning that the expectations for AI-related growth embedded in technology sector valuations are understated.
  5. Energy transition
    Decarbonisation of various sectors will remain an important area of global investment though the scale of opportunity has driven significant investment lowering barriers to entry, increasing competitive rivalry, and decreasing returns on invested capital.

Conclusion

Developed market investors should remain focused on identifying companies that are not overly capital, energy or labour-intensive as these businesses naturally exhibit higher margins and returns on capital, giving them an advantage in dealing with changing economic conditions.

The case for emerging markets

Robert Holmes | Portfolio Manager: North of South Capital LLP
Robert Holmes

Robert Holmes | Portfolio Manager: North of South Capital LLP
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North of South is a specialist emerging market (EM) manager established in 2004, and they had three key messages that aimed to give a new perspective on the investment opportunities. Setting the context, Robert said that valuations are currently attractive with a higher than usual price-to-earnings (P/E) discount relative to the S&P and significant individual countries, such as Brazil and China, at the bottom of their price range.

Investors were encouraged to look beyond lacklustre benchmark performance that’s been largely due to China which dominates the index. Unpacking individual country earnings showed there where many countries doing much better than one would expect. This led to his first main point:

  1. “Go active, not passive”, said Robert, because “there’s a far greater spectrum of returns in the emerging world and the price discovery process is more inefficient. This gives active managers greater scope to out-perform, as well as giving better potential for diversification.”

    Whilst EM is normally associated with growth, Robert also showed how valuation is also key using Alibaba as an example. When the company was first listed in 2014 on very high earnings multiples and despite growing sales tenfold since then it’s enterprise value (market cap plus cash) is 40% below where it was in 2014.

  2. Talking further about China, his second message was to think of the emerging world as having entered a third evolutionary phase where it’s “rebalancing” away from China, which has dominated the asset class since the turn of the century. This is a positive as there’s many other attractive regions with significant reforms and investment opportunities. Examples included Asian high technology, Mexican industrialisation from near-shoring/friend-shoring and the Middle East which is diversifying away from hydrocarbons. “Emerging markets now have some of the most interesting and profitable companies in the world”.

  3. His final point, which he felt was the most important, is there’s a significant shift in orientation towards shareholder remuneration. Not only have EM countries become less risky as their macroeconomic stewardship has significantly improved, but companies are showing better capital allocation discipline which has boosted free cashflow. Well-run companies are increasingly paying dividends and buying back shares. Pension reforms and aging populations (even in emerging markets) are also elevating local savings institutions who are focused on cash dividends. In addition, legislative reforms have tightened up standards of corporate governance. Robert used the example of Petrobras in Brazil where a corruption scandal triggered significant reforms that have transformed the investment landscape for all state-owned enterprises.

Pacific North of South have two strategies, the All-Cap strategy which looks to out-perform the MSCI Emerging Market Index which it has done consistently. Their newer Income Opportunities strategy only invests in the best higher yielding companies (the yield has ranged from 7% to 10% since inception) and focuses on the total shareholder return.  The fund has returned over 29% since launch in June 2022 with a volatility of 11%.  Meanwhile, the benchmark returned just 1.57% with significantly higher volatility. 

Highlights of the panel discussion facilitated by Hildegard Wilson

  1. Will the next Apple or Microsoft come from emerging markets? On the manufacturing side, this is already happening, at the ‘pick and shovel’ end of the market, but another Apple is unlikely.
  2. 2024 is the election year around the global. How will portfolios change in light of this? The next five to 10 years are likely to be more uncertain than the last decade has been. However, in the US, the policies that are in place (e.g. inflation, interest rates) will stay in place in any administration. Globally, uncertainty will increase.
  3. Geopolitical tension between the US and China is over-estimated. The two countries are so intertwined with each other economically, that it is unlikely that tension between them will escalate.
  4. Portfolios need to be geared for uncertainty and policy mistakes, and especially in light of interest rates.
  5. Is value still the focus despite interest rates? Yes, declining interest rates are of great benefit to EMs.
  6. While central banks in DMs followed the stimulus package strategy which ultimately led t high inflation and the interest rate hikes, fiscal responses by EM central banks were muted during COVID. So, the EM inflation cycle has been within accepted in the wake of COVID.
  7. SA is a fantastic market, but the key problems are political uncertainty and loadshedding.  Confident investing is hard when energy is unreliable. EM investors look for the best value for capital, in the most stable economies.
  8. In SA, the pension fund industry is mature and developed, and therefore attractive in this segment.
Panel Discussion One

Keynote address - Investing in the age of AI

Richard Clode | Portfolio Manager Janus Henderson Investors
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Richard focused on the intersection of AI, innovation, and investment growth, particularly highlighting the significance of generative AI as the fourth technological wave and its impact on investment strategies.

Global investors approach the market through technological waves rather than geographical distinctions like EM or developed markets (DM). Understanding major technological shifts is crucial for making informed investment decisions, especially regarding clients' portfolios.

Richard Clode | Portfolio Manager Janus Henderson Investors
Richard Clode

1. Key considerations for investing:

  • Identifying winning technologies is paramount.
  • Active investment strategies are emphasised over passive ones, which tracks benchmarks and indices and are backward looking as they often reflect past performance.
  • In tech inflections traditional valuation metrics like P/E ratios may not accurately capture the potential of tech companies during transformative periods. While the ‘P’ represents price, the ‘E’ is a consensus estimate and is often not aligned to the actual value.

2. Impact of generative AI:

  • Generative AI is poised to reshape industries by enabling exponential growth and disrupting traditional workflows, particularly in white-collar sectors.
  • Investing in companies leveraging generative AI requires a long-term perspective, as the technology's full potential is still unfolding.

3. Investment opportunities:

  • Re-platforming and tagging data are essential steps to harnessing the power of AI.
  • Companies capable of delivering unexpected profit growth amid technological advancements should be prioritised.

4. Market trends and challenges:

  • The "FANG" stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) and similar tech giants may not consistently outperform simultaneously.
  • Geopolitical factors and the trend of deglobalisation influence investment decisions, with technology becoming a national priority for many countries.
  • Active management is crucial during technology inflection points, as benchmarks often lag behind market realities.

5. Future implications:

  • AI's widespread adoption will necessitate reimagining business models and workflows.
  • Balancing growth opportunities with valuation discipline is essential, particularly in a rising interest rate environment.

Conclusion

When investing in tech stocks you need to stay in the market, as it’s about time in the market, not timing the market. Solely investing in SA does not provide exposure to tech stocks and less so to generative AI, making global investing essential to optimally position clients’ portfolios for investment growth. Investors should take an active approach and exercise valuation discipline amidst rapid technological advancements.

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Sanlam Life Insurance Ltd is a licensed life insurer, financial services and registered credit provider (NCRCP43). Glacier Financial Solutions (Pty) Ltd is a licensed discretionary financial services provider, trading as Glacier Invest FSP 770. Glacier International is a division of Sanlam Life Insurance Limited, a Licensed Financial Services Provider in South Africa. Sanlam Multi-Manager International (Pty) Ltd is a licensed discretionary financial services provider, acting as Juristic Representative under Glacier Financial Solutions (Pty) Ltd. Navigate portfolios are managed by Glacier Financial Solutions under the Cat II FSP 770 trading as Glacier Invest.

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