Trading through the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect surged to its highest level last month since launching in November. In April, market turnover on the Hong Kong Exchange rose to an all-time high of HK$252.4bn ($32.6bn).
There has been a lot of talk about north vs south capital movement, but Stevenson believes that has been overstated when judging the market linkage itself.
“If you look at gross flows and not net flows, there has been fantastic movement in A and H shares. That kind of day-to-day movement in basis points generally comes from higher levels of liquidity coming through the market.
“So we’re already seeing that the programme is working, it’s just not measured on the same metrics markets are usually judged on. We’re quite positive on the Stock Connect.”
Beneficial ownership – the legal certainty and enforceability of the rights of northbound investors holding A-shares bought via the Stock Connect – remains a sticking point.
“We’re hoping that for our European funds the issues around beneficial ownership will be resolved soon, and that well be able to adopt Stock Connect into our entire UCITS product range.”
Baring is also preparing to launch several Hong Kong-domiciled funds, which will be announced later this week.
China going west
Chinese asset manager interest in Europe is picking up, Stevenson said.
A few years ago, China-related fund activity centred around Western asset management firms looking for a joint venture partner in China. Now the reverse is happening, and activity is flowing two ways.
“We’re seeing a lot of Chinese financial houses who have done exceptionally well in fairly tricky markets, who might have subsidiaries in Hong Kong, trying to push out or launch product platforms in places like Luxembourg, Dublin and London looking for a distribution partner.”
China Construction Bank, Bank of China and ICBC have set up European headquarters in Luxembourg, for example. Chinese asset manager Harvest Fund Management said in September it would set up a London office.
The influx of Chinese asset managers is just at the beginning stage, he said.
Europe will see “the inevitable entrance of large-scale Chinese asset managers or banks moving into the European asset management market.
“It makes sense for them to come here. Europe has almost homogenous regulations, a one-size-fits-all product set, a lot of very big and wealthy institutions. We’ve seen a lot of Chinese firms trying out the US, which is a difficult market to crack in the context of mutual funds. Europe is the next largest market.”