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FEATURE: Taking Measure Of The Hunt For Yield In Private Credit

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor , February 13, 2017

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A hot topic for investment right now is private credit. Advisors to the wealthy tell this publication there is considerable interest in the sector. What are the opportunities, and risks?

There is a hunt going on among wealth managers - a hunt for yield. And that pursuit has seen a surge of interest in what might be loosely dubbed private credit. 

Family offices, private banks and other advisors to the wealthy, sometimes less inhibited in exploring more esoteric asset classes than rule-bound pension funds and retail investors, have been among the early adopters. Family offices, for example, often come up in conversation when managers of private debt funds talk about money-raising pitches.

Certainly, the demand for yield in an ultra-low interest rate environment is encouraging shifts into areas such as peer-to-peer lending, SME-related finance, and into funds that offer debt of varying maturities and sizes in a world where banks have retreated to the sidelines, at least for the moment.

“It seems that everybody is interested in it,” Mark Fitzpatrick, managing partner at Glide Capital, a Miami, Florida-based firm focusing on areas such as private loans, told Family Wealth Report. “Our business is going out there and finding family offices, RIAs and others that want to add private credit to their portfolios but who don’t have the teams to do it.”

“We like small business lending and real estate lending,” he said. Maturities of loans tend to be measured in months, not years. 

An issue, however, is that with some wealth managers leaving large banks in recent years and heading to RIAs and setting up on their own, they lack some of the old information and depth of data to help source new deals for clients, which is where a firm such as Glide, and its ability to due to the necessary due diligence and analysis, comes in, Fitzpatrick continued. (To see another story about Glide, click here.)

Private capital - a term that can cover debt, equity, real estate and infrastructure - is on the rise. Relatively illiquid compared with listed stocks and widely-traded credits, the premium that investors are paid for such illiquidity is attractive because interest rates are on the floor (although starting to creep higher, perhaps). Data from Preqin, the research firm, points to the trend. Through 2016, 130 private debt funds secured an aggregate $92 billion in investor commitments, falling from $97 billion raised in 2015, but is greater than in any other year since 2008. 

According to figures from the Alternative Credit Council and Deloitte in 2016, the private credit market grew from $440 billion in 2015, to $560 billion (source: Financing the Economy 2016). In Europe, a boost is coming from institutional capital. In the US, the sector is by far the largest, in terms of total size and new assets raised. The research found that most financing is going to businesses with pre-tax profits of $10 million or more. Most loans are greater than $5 million in size and half are in the $25 million-$100 million range. In comparison, bond market financing, a common form of non-bank finance for larger corporates, is in the $100 million-$300 million range.

Private credit covers a multitude of channels including areas such as peer-to-peer lending platforms where conventional banks are taken out of the equation. This whole area is sometimes dubbed “alternative finance”, attracting the interest of the wider financial industry, and regulators. In the case of the latter, a concern may be that this is an area yet to be fully tested by a recession.

A number of participants operate in this market and one theme has been of how former bank employees have, since the 2008 financial crisis, taken their skills from large trading floors to create their own boutiques. Examples include the likes of Firebreak Capital (see an interview here) and BroadRiver Asset Management (see here). 
 

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