There’s nothing really new in today’s brief, Wall Street Journal piece on investing in frontier markets, though the point about certain funds tracking benchmarks in this field (i.e., the MSCI Frontier Index) and thus leaving investors particularly exposed to certain countries and certain sectors is worth repeating.  If you’re in a “frontier markets” fund that lives and dies basically by how Kuwait does, or how financials do, are you really as optimally invested in “frontier markets” as you could/want to be?  Silk Invest’s Food Fund, for example, is a private equity vehicle that seeks to capture the growing demands on Africa’s food processing and sales industries.  Yet this strategy is more or less absent from a Fund concentrating solely on banks or, say, telecoms.   So while retail investing in frontier markets may continue to be, in the words of Christopher Bliss, portfolio manager of the BlackRock Frontier Markets Fund, “like vermouth in a martini–just a splash is enough,” it’s worth considering that not all martinis are alike and likewise, the top-down dynamics and fundamentals underlying the slew of frontier markets are diverse as well.  Thus, it’s in this frontier sphere more than in any other sector of the investment world, I’d argue, that the range of alpha that can be generated by managers is most considerable relative to more liquid markets.  It pays to really be discerning in what kind of manager you’re investing with, what his or her vision is, and how that vision is being represented in the Fund’s holdings.  Save the index-based investing for the developed markets.

Advertisements