Natalia Petrova is the Executive Director at Concord Asset Management (CAM), a registered investment advisor providing clients with innovative asset management solutions. She has over 15 years of experience working in asset management, capital markets, equity and fixed income trading and securities sales. Wanda Rich, editor of Global Banking & Finance Review, recently spoke with Natalia to find out what sets CAM apart from its competitors, what opportunities are available in an increasingly volatile market, and her predictions for the coming year.
Last year, Concord Asset Management celebrated 15 years of operation. How has Concord Asset Management developed over the years?
Concord Asset Management has proven to be a leader in the non-bank asset management industry in Bulgaria, focusing on mutual funds management and innovative products. Since I joined Concord Asset Management three years ago, the company has doubled in AuM in UCITS funds; the first interactive education for investors in the country was released; an online-based platform (Concord Online) for remote investing in mutual funds was introduced, and for the first time, the digital onboarding of clients using eID application was introduced in an asset management company in Bulgaria. We have also launched a regular investment product called ‘EXCELLENT Financial Plan’ which allows saving and investing at the same time. However, the challenges are still ahead of us. We are working on products that could bring even more diversity for our clients. We have applied to the Bulgarian Financial Supervision Commission for obtaining a full license for the asset management company to manage alternative investment funds.
Why should investors choose Concord Asset Management over other asset management companies?
As our company’s slogan says, ‘We are different.’ We are flexible and we aim to be close to the investors, to create trustworthy and innovative decisions for their portfolios. We strive to be pioneers in developing new products in Bulgaria. Our goal is to become a preferred partner for South East European asset management solutions.
How did Concord Asset Management adapt operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted not only in changes to people’s habits and their way of living – the companies have also changed. We started to become more digital, to develop solutions and platforms that would be just one click away from the customers. We are proud that we haven’t lost our market share during the pandemic. Our business is dependent on the development of the capital markets, so we have worked to achieve good performance and wide diversification by optimising the risk of the portfolios.
What are the current opportunities you see for investors right now? What advice do you have for them for riding out the increasingly volatile market?
In the current environment, everyone is looking for an opportunity to invest quickly, easily and remotely. We have created a product for regular investment, and have automated the entire investment process without the necessity for the client to come to our office every month. We use an online platform and once the investor becomes our client and receives access, he/she can place orders through Concord Online. By choosing the EXCELLENT Financial Plan, the selected monthly instalment is automatically transferred to the selected fund or funds. This product is suitable for individuals, corporate and institutional customers. It has the following advantages: firstly, it is not associated with large sums, so each investor sets aside as much as he can afford; secondly, investing in the capital market through mutual funds makes it possible to achieve exposure to a very diversified portfolio with small amounts which, given an optimised level of risk, allows for long-term growth; third, capital markets are the first to react when there is an inflation, and last but not least, with a regular contribution, it is not necessary to choose the right time for investing or to react in volatile markets. The investment is regular – for example, every month – and not dependent on market timing, so it is not significantly affected by periods of market decline.
How do your advisors help clients achieve the best returns?
We are convinced that clients must be well informed about the character of their investments. The financial products they choose should fit to their goals, experience and risk aversion. The diversified portfolio always helps when aiming to achieve long-term stability and good performance. Our mission is to provide all the relevant and necessary information to the investors so they can make well-informed decisions for the product that best suits their intentions.
What was your best performing fund in 2020?
We always rely on independent opinions of our products and different local or international rankings. Last year, our balanced fund ‘Concord Fund 1 – Shares and Bonds’ was awarded first place in Bulgaria in the Mixed Balanced Fund category by the Investor Finance Forum, and first place in MoitePari’s 2020 rankings. ‘Concord Fund 3 – Real Estate’ was named by MoitePari as the best equity fund (2018-2020), and ‘Concord Fund 5 – Central and Eastern Europe’ was awarded third place in the Equity Fund – Emerging Markets category by Investor Finance Forum for 2020. For us it is important that several funds from our product mix have been distinguished by independent observers over the years.
What does the year ahead look like?
The year started positively for the fund management industry with more than a 7% increase in the AuM worldwide, according to EFAMA. The Bulgarian market surpassed EUR 1 billion for the first time, per the data of the Bulgarian Association of Asset Management Companies. The world is looking into the new trend for ESG and green investing. Concord aims to develop more distribution channels this year and we are working on innovative products, searching to attract more liquidity and investor interest in Bulgaria. It will be another positive year to enjoy.