Seasoned Fund Selectors Join SFSA

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – This summer has been certainly busy at the newly instituted Swedish Fund Selection Agency, SFSA (Fondtorgsnämnden). It was only in May 2022 that the Swedish parliament entrusted the agency with the enormous responsibility of cleansing the premium pension system from unreliable actors and making it safer without compromising returns and lower costs to savers. A task like this can hardly wait, so the search for the right people to make it happen has been intense ever since.

    Results are now beginning to show. Last week, on behalf of SFSA, the Swedish Pensions Agency signed an agreement with Switzerland-based consultants PPCmetrics AG to assist the new agency with the methods, processes and tools necessary to prepare and implement fund procurement. Just days after, on 15 August, another announcement revealed a host of recruits to the SFSA.

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    As the team of experts is beginning to assemble, NordSIP reached out to two of the newly appointed members, Majdi Chammas and Tina Rönnholm. In September, they will step in as Head of Procurement and Product Offering and Head of Manager Research, respectively. Both senior managers are currently at AP1 (Första AP-Fonden), and their departure will most certainly be felt at the state pension fund.

    An important mission

    Both Rönnholm and Chammas have already been involved in forming the agency as advisors, so it was hardly a quick and spontaneous decision for them to join the SFSA. As it turns out, Rönnholm’s interest in her new assignment runs even deeper. “When I first moved to Sweden back in 2016, the second thing I did was to call the Swedish Pensions Agency to inquire when I would get my orange envelope,” she reminisces. “I was very keen to start investing my own pension money as soon as possible. The possibility we have here in Sweden to invest part of our pension money ourselves is something we should be proud of. Not every country offers this possibility. By choosing wisely, you can not only impact your own pension but also channel this long-duration money to organisations whose values you are aligned with,” she adds.

    According to Chammas, the SFSA will have a crucial role to play in the future. “Our main task will be to ensure the quality of all participating funds,” says Rönnholm. “Our daily job is to select and monitor this quality so that you can rest assured that there are no bad seeds amongst the funds you can choose between. This responsibility is not something we take lightly; it is what we will be doing day in and day out.”

    Ready for the task

    Chammas, who has been with AP1 for more than twenty years, feels ready and eager to take on the new challenge. “I have spent the last sixteen years in managers selection and have completed many public procurements in different asset classes,” he says. “I believe this will be of great help in my new role.”

    Rönnholm sounds equally confident, having worked in the fund industry for almost 25 years in various roles, transitioning from back-office to the investment side as a buy-side analyst. “Before becoming a fund selector, I had been running equity funds and funds-of-funds for a decade, including as a CIO for a multimanager franchise,” she says. “As I am an investor turned into a selector, I speak the same language as the portfolio managers we meet. I have my own experience in almost all functions at an asset management company. Most importantly, my heart lies with this industry,” shares Rönnholm.

    High expectations

    Neither of the recruits has any prior experience working with PPCmetrics AG, the consulting firm that will assist the SFSA in the fund selection process, but both look forward to getting to know and working with them. “PPCmetrics has, however, been procured and chosen by my new colleagues as the best fit for our agency and as such, I am convinced they will be a value-add to us,” explains Rönnholm.

    “I think PPCmetrics will be a great additional resource to utilise, especially while building and growing the resources at the SFSA,” adds Chammas.

    Sustainability is part of the assignment

    Naturally, NordSIP is curious to know whether and how the new managers intend to integrate sustainability considerations into their work at SFSA.

    “Absolutely,” exclaims Rönnholm. “Our new agency is committed to delivering on many dimensions, including sustainability. Our daily job will be to ensure that the funds available for you to choose from are sustainable, controllable, of the best possible quality as well as cost-efficient. The chosen funds will need to satisfy all the criteria, not only a select few,” she explains.

    Chammas agrees with her wholeheartedly. “I believe that integrating ESG in the investment philosophy and process of the asset managers is in line with sound investing and just another lens to use while analysing companies and investment opportunities,” he says.

    “Manager selection and sustainability have always been the core of our selection work, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue with the industry,” concludes Rönnholm.

    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia Axelsson, CAIA
    Julia has accumulated experience in asset management for more than 20 years in Stockholm and Beijing, in portfolio management, asset allocation, fund selection and risk management. In December 2020, she completed a program in Sustainability Studies at the University of Linköping. Julia speaks Mandarin, Bulgarian, Hindi, Russian, Swedish, Urdu and English. She holds a Master in Indology from Sofia University and has completed studies in Economics at both Stockholm University and Stockholm School of Economics.
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