By Jonas Wäingelin

Aktia is a Finnish banking group that have activities spanning over many areas including retail banking, life insurance and asset management. On the asset management side, through its subsidiary Aktia Asset Management (AAM), the bank oversees over 8 billion euro comprising direct and fund investments in various asset classes globally. Ville Toivakainen heads the alternative investment initiatives of AAM, which is one of three key focus areas, the other two being Emerging Market Debt and Nordic equities. In an interview with Nordic Investor, Toivakainen shares his views on why Aktia has had a long-term focus on emerging market debt and alternative credit, what he looks for on the alternative side and how he selects managers to Aktia’s fund-of-hedge funds portfolio.

”Our activities within Aktia Asset Management is partly done through in-house teams and partly through external managers. Within our focus areas, we manage equities and emerging market debt portfolios in-house while on the alternative side we use external managers”, says Toivakainen, who joined Aktia two years ago from OP Financial Group to set up the alternative investment unit.

The mandates run by AAM spans from tailor-made investments for large institutions to mutual funds targeting a broad audience, according to Toivakainen. The goal, especially for institutional mandates, is to offer something that stands out from the crowd. On the equity side, that manifests itself through a focus on Nordic small-caps, while on the fixed income side, the emerging market debt focus is a differentiator. Within alternatives, trade finance strategies have been favoured along with other strategies showing strongly uncorrelated features to the equity and fixed income parts of the portfolio.

”Emerging market debt has been a focus area for over ten years, and we have built strong internal competencies as the asset class has matured over time. Within this strategy we run over two billion euros making it a significant portion of our overall assets.”

we focus on strategies that are less crowded given we do not want to be the 10th manager offering same solutions.

”Our ambition to offer something new to our clients explains the efforts we have pursued within EM debt, but also within equities, where we run for example a Nordic micro-cap fund as well as on the alternatives side, where we focus on strategies that are less crowded given we do not want to be the 10th manager offering same solutions.

The client focus for Aktia Asset Management is Finnish institutions, where approximately 5 out of the 8 billion managed are coming from. However, there is a