New corporate fund structures in Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore - the OFC, CCIV and VCC, respectively - are aimed at making these domiciles more attractive to asset managers and investors. But while they share a similar goal, their different approaches mean there are significant differences between them, making that choice complex.

With years of asset servicing experience in supporting competing schemes such as UCITS, we understand how each vehicle’s structure and rules may affect fund managers’ costs, investment strategies and business goals. 

This two-part series explains the background and key features of these structures, and outlines what asset managers need to know when considering whether to include them in their fund manufacturing and distribution strategies.

GETTING TO GRIPS WITH OFC, CCIV & VCC

Asset managers need to consider a number of factors, including regulatory, competitive and investor demands, when considering where to domicile their investment fund offerings.

In Asia Pacific - where assets are forecast to double from their 2016 levels to nearly $30 trillion by 2025, according to PwC - Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong are looking to further build and reinforce their positions as regional asset management hubs.

Regional governments and regulators are committed to attracting investment, increasing cross-border trade and regulatory cooperation to create a dynamic and globally competitive funds management industry. The introduction of the new corporate structured fund vehicles in Asia Pacific offers a credible and compelling offering.

Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong are looking further to build and reinforce their positions as regional asset management hubs
 

The introduction of these structures comes at a time of increased efforts to develop a single regional market for funds through various cross-border passporting schemes - notably, the ASEAN Collective Investment Scheme (ASEAN CIS), the Asia Region Funds Passport (ARFP) and bilateral schemes such as the Hong Kong- China Mutual Recognition of Funds (MRF) scheme.

MORE CHOICE, GREATER FLEXIBILITY

The new structures introduce some important benefits, such as allowing an umbrella and sub-fund structure, and reduce some compliance requirements. Part two of this series assesses some of the advantages and disadvantages of each, as well as the ancillary factors driving fund managers (and investors) to consider them.

This article outlines the basics behind:

  • Hong Kong’s Open-ended Fund Company (OFC), which launched in 2018 (Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission).
  • Singapore’s Variable Capital Company (VCC), which is expected to launch in early 2020 (Monetary Authority of Singapore).
  • Australia’s Corporate Collective Investment Vehicle (CCIV), which was expected to launch in 2019, but now looks likely to launch in 2020.

HONG KONG’S OFC

Hong Kong’s mutual funds have not been able to accommodate diverse needs from fund providers, though its laws have long allowed asset managers to set up investment funds in a unit trust structure. The OFC allows them to set up under a corporate structure.

Unlike a unit trust structure, the OFC does not require a trustee, but acts for and on behalf of itself. Additionally, its enabling law – the Securities and Futures Ordinance – permits it a variable capital structure, which is not the case with companies formed under the Companies Ordinance.

Cost-wise there is little difference between the OFC and the unit trust structures. However, if we compare the cost of selling the funds established in Hong Kong versus outside Hong Kong, there is a cost benefit to set up as an OFC: An OFC is simpler and cheaper because it only requires compliance with Hong Kong legislation.

An OFC can have an umbrella and sub-funds structure, and the law supports cross-investment of sub-funds. It can be public or non-public, and must have a board of directors with at least two individual directors. It must appoint a fund manager, an external auditor, and a custodian who has responsibility for all safekeeping of assets.

A key benefit promoted by the authorities is that being domiciled in Hong Kong provides access to mainland China, although whether or not the OFC funds will be distributable under the MRF scheme has not yet been clarified, according to Regulation Asia.

SINGAPORE’S VCC

This specialised corporate structure introduces a fourth fund type to Singapore and is designed to provide fund managers with greater operational flexibility and help them reap economies of scale and monetary savings.

The enabling law, the Variable Capital Companies Act 2018, supports umbrella and sub-funds structures, with sub-funds able to appoint a local board of directors and use the same service provider as the umbrella fund.

A VCC covers both traditional and alternative assets, can be open-ended and closed-ended, and can be used for retail and non-retail strategies. A retail fund requires three directors; a non-retail fund requires one.

According to The Global Competitiveness Report 2018, Singapore’s strategic positioning in the region and its role as one of the world’s most competitive nations should further attract interest from asset managers.

AUSTRALIA’S CCIV

With the largest fund management industry in the Asia Pacific region, the introduction of the CCIV could prove to be a boon for the country.

CCIVs have a range of benefits: they have an internationally recognised corporate structure limited by shares; they are designed to integrate with the ARFP cross-border initiative; and they complement the existing regulatory framework, potentially creating cost efficiencies and reducing compliance costs.

In a first for Australia’s fund management market, a CCIV must have one sub-fund (and can have more). Additionally, sub-funds can offer a range of investment strategies delivering increased investor choice, scale and cost-savings.

To protect investors, sub-funds’ assets and liabilities must be kept separately, with each CCIV required to have an authorised corporate director, which must be a public company. It is expected that the law will permit both retail and wholesale CCIVs and introduce a depositary requirement for retail CCIVs.

The second part of this series looks more closely at some of the factors that fund managers and investors should consider with funds that use these new structures, and their prospects for success.

Thanks to our Asia Pacific footprint and global cross-border expertise, BNP Paribas can help clients to identify the impact of the different schemes from a cost of administration or ability to support different investment strategies perspective. We provide support from set-up with trustee, custody and transfer agency services, as well as fund administration.

Read more on the benefits, drawbacks and challenges to consider, in Part 2, on the BNP Paribas Securities Services website here.

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