Asset and portfolio management
FinTechs belonging to this category offer asset and portfolio management services via an Internet platform or software programs and usually manage and dispose of the assets of their customers long or short term according to their specifications without actually holding the property or the possession of those assets. FinTechs providing information about and access to overnight or time deposit accounts at national and foreign banks and which execute the transactions to these accounts also belong to this category. Some FinTechs, however, only act on request of the customer.
Apart from that, some FinTechs offer software or Internet solutions enabling users to manage and plan their personal finances on their own by providing graphics, overviews and compilations of their financial data and sometimes indicating financial risks or opportunities, but without actually managing the assets.
Attitude of the country towards modern asset and portfolio management services
The German asset and portfolio management market continuously aligns with the related business models such as (crowd-)investing and brokerage. About 1.2 million people are estimated to use personal financial management systems in Germany.
The most developing businesses in the portfolio management sector are automated financial portfolio management and robo advisory. The asset management sector is mainly tech-driven and shaped by the trends of cloud computing, Internet of Things, advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.
Obligations and requirements to provide asset and portfolio management, or ancillary services described above
Asset and portfolio management services are financial services activities governed by the German Securities Institutions Act (Wertpapierinstitutsgesetz – WpIG) and, as the case may be, the German Banking Act (Kreditwesengesetz – KWG). In addition to WpIG and KWG, the EU-wide Regulation (EU) 2019/2033 on the prudential requirements of investment firms from 27 November 2019 (Investment Firms Regulation – IFR) as well as anti-money laundering and data protection regulations are to be complied with. The WpIG derives from the Directive (EU) 2019/2034 on the prudential supervision of investment firms from 27 November 2019 (Investment Firms Directive – IFD).
According to WpIG and KWG, offering asset and portfolio management services requires a license in cases where the asset manager is granted a broad discretionary power to make decisions on behalf of the client. Whether WpIG or KWG provisions apply depends on the scope of business. KWG applies in cases of more than EUR 30bn on their balance sheets on monthly average in the last 12 months and the conduction of issuing business, proprietary trading, or proprietary business. In all other cases, WpIG applies.
License costs depend on the specific business model and result from fixed and time spent costs. Fixed costs are typically in the range between EUR 3,262.00 and EUR 10,114.00, and additional time spent costs depend on the complexity of respective business model.
Among other things, particularly sufficient initial capital consisting of Common Equity Tier 1 capital (CET1) available in Germany is required to obtain a license. In case of asset and portfolio managers who, in providing financial services, are not authorised to obtain ownership or possession of funds or securities of customers and who do not trade in financial instruments for their own account, an amount equivalent to at least EUR 50,000.00 in CET1 is required.
When offering portfolio management services, the service providers shall comply with requirements for the initial capital, as well as with the funds requirements at all times. According to Art. 92 Regulation (EU) No. 575/2013 (Capital Requirements Regulation, or CRR), these are: a CET1 capital ratio of 4.5%, a Tier 1 capital ratio of 6% and a total capital ratio of 8%. When calculating the capital ratios, the fixed overheads of the respective asset manager have an important impact.
Additional comments regarding the legal situation for asset and portfolio management services or what FinTech’s must be aware of in this business area
A license is not required in cases where the asset manager, also via a software created by them, is tasked only with the implementation of those investment decisions which have to be subject to explicit approval of the client on an individual basis. Therefore, the question of whether or not the investment decisions are based on the asset manager's own discretion is critical.
Depending on the actual service, the asset and portfolio management service may still qualify as an investment broking, investment advice service or contract broking, for which a license with similar requirements is required.
Many German regulatory requirements are derived from EU law or are influenced by EU-wide developments. EU requirements are implemented and transposed into German law rather strictly. Therefore, the German market is an ideal entry market for EU-wide asset and portfolio management businesses.
The legal entities that will later perform the regulated activities and therefore hold the license should be established at a very early stage. Given this, preparations required for the regulated activity can be duly conducted (for example lease agreements and personnel hiring).
Market size for asset and portfolio management services and biggest companies in this business area
Germany provides for the largest investment market in Europe with approx. EUR 3.9 trillion assets under management where approx. 60% of these are held by institutional investors in special funds. This market share is growing more rapidly than the mutual funds segment.
The asset and portfolio management market thus has become increasingly large. End of 2020, Allianz Group was by far the largest asset manager with their headquarters in Germany, followed by Deutsche Bank at a distance.
Additional comments regarding the economic situation for asset and portfolio management services or what FinTech’s must be aware of in this business area
Asset and portfolio management is a traditional banking business. FinTechs that operate in this business area require a banking license themselves or have to cooperate with a credit institution.