Fund Management

Europe's Universal Investment Eyes Farther Shores, Expansion Continues

Editorial Staff 17 July 2023

Europe's Universal Investment Eyes Farther Shores, Expansion Continues

Here's a brief conversation with a European fund management services business with deep roots in Germany. Adding organisations and reach over the years, it has got its sights on other markets.

For asset managers seeking to connect their wares with the European and wider world’s fund-buying community, there are a lot of firms saying they can hold clients’ hands. But in this market, experience is often the edge.

A business that doesn’t necessarily have the shiniest of brand names, Universal Investment, is a player that has been operating for decades. The group, which continues to ink a number of M&A deals, administers just shy of €1 trillion ($1.11 trillion) of assets. And it is growing. 

“We started out in Germany in the biggest market in Europe for raising assets and moved these onshore markets into offshore. That makes us unique as providers,” Keith Milne, CEO for Universal Investment Ireland, told this publication recently. Milne is based in Dublin. 

This year, the business secured “significant” investment from CPP Investments and continues its partnership with Montagu, the private equity investor. CPP Investments is part of the Canadian Pension Plan. In 2022, Universal Investment bought European Fund Administration in Luxembourg. In May 2021 the firm won approval from the Central Bank of Ireland to complete the acquisition of Irish fund management company Metzler Ireland. This was part of its plans to become a large European management company, or “ManCo.”

“Our M&A approach is based on three pillars: extending our product portfolio, entering new markets, and enhancing our business in our core markets. Scalability remains a crucial factor for the latter two pillars. With the current market environment characterised by rising costs, especially driven by regulatory demands, it is of the utmost importance to have the critical mass to be able to invest in expertise, digital transformation, and automation,” Milne said. 

Universal Investment, founded all the way back in 1968, launched its first white-label fund in West Germany, as it then was, in 1970. This is very much a “Europe”-based business, although it has eyes further afield.

“We are such a well-known brand in the DACH region [Germany, Austria and Switzerland] and it gives our partners and clients a broader reach, and under one roof,” Milne said. Last year’s Luxembourg business deal enables Universal Investment to push its presence into the French and Swedish markets, he said. 

Universal Investment, Milne said, is the largest fund services provider in the German-speaking world. 

Besides work in these European Union member state countries – Ireland and Luxembourg are both major hubs for UCITS funds – the organisation has a representative and sales office in the UK. 

“This is a pan-European offering – we have lots of experience, stability and reach,” he said. 

“If you have managers looking to set up in Ireland we will support distribution…much more than our competitors can really do,” Milne continued. Although certain other distribution firms can offer a sort of “chaperone” service, they don’t have their own asset management expertise that clients like to draw on, he said. 

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