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Capital Markets

Credit for the masses

Faced with the declining profitability of traditional fixed income, asset managers have sought to beef up their credit teams to enable them to compete in the higher margin world of credit derivatives. But just how well do asset managers know these instruments, and are pension funds aware of the risks? Claire Milhench talks to some of the leading participants in the market and assesses the benefits and dangers of using these complex instruments.

This article appears courtesy of Global Investor

Case studies:  

Axa Investment Managers | BNP Paribas AM

Jargon

Getting to grips with credit derivatives for the first time can seem like drowning in a bowl of alphabet soup. There are ABS, MBS and CDOs, to say nothing of CDS, RMBS and WBS. But the impenetrability of the jargon is part of the attraction for fixed income managers who know their stuff. Because the more complex and technical the instrument, the less likely it is that there are thousands of other managers out there competing for the same plays.

Of course, credit derivatives have been exploited by investment banks' prop trading desks and hedge funds for years. But in the last 18 months, traditional bond managers have flooded into the sector in search of new opportunities. This has been encouraged in part by an increase in supply which has made the markets broader and deeper. The fact that profits have proved harder to come by in traditional fixed income, such as corporate and government bonds, has also pressed managers to look elsewhere.

"We use credit derivatives a lot," says Rajeev de Mello, head of fixed income at Pictet Asset Management.

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