The global fund management industry is a potential source of risk for emerging markets because of its vast size and herd-like investor behavior that can exacerbate asset price fluctuations, a BIS report said on Sunday.
In its quarterly review, the Bank for International Settlements said the selloff that rocked emerging economies last year was a reminder of how “the activity of large asset managers can significantly affect small and illiquid asset markets”.
The presence and influence of asset managers in emerging market economies (EME) has grown significantly in recent years, BIS said, citing data showing emerging bond funds alone had quadrupled assets under management (AUM) between 2007-2017.
The total AUM of emerging market funds tracked by the Boston-based EPFR Global consultancy had risen to $1.4 trillion from $900 million before the Lehman crisis, it added.
While these amounts are dwarfed by the AUM of funds dedicated to the United States or Europe, they are large relative to emerging stock and bond markets.
“The large size and concentration of AUM of asset managers in relatively small and illiquid EME asset markets are a potentially important source of concern. Any decision by asset managers with large AUM to change portfolio allocation can have a major impact on EME asset markets that are relatively small,” BIS said in its report.
While acknowledging the benefits of foreign investment for developing countries, BIS noted that successive crises over the years had highlighted how investors may destabilize EME asset markets – “accentuating both booms and busts”.
The problem was exacerbated by fund managers’ use of common or similar benchmarks, BIS said, referring to stock and bond indexes against which investors measure their performance.