Stock markets might be at record highs, corporate earnings might still be weak, global growth may be stuttering, but fund managers believe there is still room for a move higher in equities this year.
Gavin Rankin, the EMEA head of managed investments at Citi Private Bank, a bank where customers typically require $25 million to join, told CNBC that he has been favoring European equities but still sees opportunities elsewhere.
"U.S. equities have had a phenomenal run, particularly last year, but there's some upside left in those markets," he said on the sidelines of the Fund Forum International event in Monaco.
Jim McCaughan, CEO of Principal Global Investors said that sentiment at the event was rather "mixed" which, he added, gave him hope that there was still room for some more upside in developed market indexes. Some investors have decided to take their money away from equities and onto the sidelines, he said, which he saw as a bullish sign for the asset class. He added that the U.S. was currently seeing promising growth and predicted a further move up for the country's stock markets. Europe, helped by easy monetary policy by the European Central Bank could also move higher.
Audit firm PwC at the beginning of the year predicted a major boon for the fund management sector. Its estimates indicated that global assets under management would rise to around $101.7 trillion by 2020, from a 2012 total of $63.9 trillion, representing a compound annual growth rate of nearly 6 percent.
Rankin told CNBC that clients have understandably become more risk-averse after the global financial crash of 2008. Meanwhile Peter De Proft, the director general at the European Fund and Asset Management Organisation (EFAMA) has seen a marked increase in interest from retail investors, with money finding its way into longer term funds.
With more money being given to these management firms in the hope of finding some yield, asset managers are also looking beyond developed market equities. Rankin said he had recently moved more exposure into real estate and into private equity. De Proft said he was more bullish on funding small- and medium-sized businesses, calling them the "backbone" of the European Union.
A more leftfield view came from Tom Brown, global head of investment management at KPMG. He predicted that the industry was on the verge of a shake-up from the likes of Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOGL), with the technology giants dipping their feet into financial services, mimicking a similar move by China's Alibaba.
"One of the things the industry really has got to face up to is the new technology that's available. Our lives are all changed by the use of tablets and mobile phones. We expect to organize our lives on these things," he told CNBC at the event. He added that traditional baby boomer investors would give way to the next generations who would be more willing to use new technology in association with financial services and investment.
"I think the industry really hasn't yet embraced the innovation and opportunity from new technology," he added.
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