If there's one certainty for the financial sector worldwide, it's more regulation. Whether the picture is global, like last week's G20 summit in London, or local, such as the inner deliberations within regional regulatory bodies, more rules are being placed on the buy side. Capital requirements, limits on leverage, enhanced disclosure, know-your-client rules, product sign-offs, taxation...everything is on the table.

Are fund managers ready for this? According to a recent survey carried out by AsianInvestor and Clifford Chance, buy-side executives say yes: 79% say their organisation is ready to handle the rising costs and resources that result from increased regulation.

We then asked industry professionals what steps their organisation must take to handle regulatory changes. Respondents could list up to three priorities, and 64% of them included upgrading risk-management capabilities. This proved by far the most popular response. Other steps flagged by 25%-29% of respondents include establishing or enhancing disaster-recovery capabilities, increasing budgets for professional advice and increasing budgeting on systems.

The emphasis on risk management is no surprise, but James Walker, funds partner at Clifford Chance, suggests most people have yet to think it through, noting that 'upgrade risk management' is a pretty broad expression. "However, it is interesting that in these tough times, managers are clearly focusing on this area," he adds.

What does catch the eye in this question, however, is the low priority placed on increased budgeting for legal and compliance functions, or establishing an in-house legal capability, or hiring a dedicated compliance officer.

Fund managers and asset owners are hoping to outsource as much of their legal/compliance needs as possible, Walker explains. It remains to be seen if this will cover the growth in regulatory and compliance-related issues certain to hit the industry, both locally and across borders.

AsianInvestor and Clifford Chance appointed Ipsos to conduct a survey, online and through interviews, with industry professionals around the world. The survey took place during the week of March 9.

We received 214 complete responses, with 39% coming from independent or affiliated asset management companies, 17% from service providers to the buy side, 11% from distributors of investment products and 10% from institutional investors. The majority of respondents were based in Hong Kong or Singapore, with a roughly similar distribution from other regional markets.

Of this group, 41% were senior managers or partners, while 27% were in sales/business development and 11% were analysts or portfolio managers.

The full survey results appear in the April edition of AsianInvestor magazine.