Downside scenarios

The violence in the Ukraine leaves me with an incredibly numb feeling in my stomach. To some older folks it may appear like a flashback from the time when the Soviet Union disintegrated amid strife in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Yet this also seems like a slow-motion train crash people feared but never really thought possible. In this it reminded me of another event in the post-Soviet space.

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Painted tanks near the Great Patriotic War Memorial, Kiev 

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Argentina

As evident from the flurry of posts put up here over the last couple of days (buildings, Puerto Madero, Torre Dorego, Museo Xul Solar, Clorindo Testa and MAMBA/MACBA), my wife and I just got back from ten days in Buenos Aires (plus a short stopover in Lima on the way back). This was my second time in this fascinating city and country. Below some personal observations.

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Veronica di Toro, Simetrica No. 16, 2009, on display at MACBA

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Social Impact Bonds

I don’t get many comments on this blog but one of the few I did get urged me to look at social impact bonds (SIBs). It came in response to a critical post I wrote on impact investing. SIBs are a potentially major instrument in impact investing in which payback is linked to a pre-defined (social) outcome. Most of them don’t deserve the name bond as they exhibit more option-like characteristics. But that is not the only source of my theoretical confusion surrounding SIBs.

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Again for a lack of a better photo – view down Broad Street, downtown Manhattan

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Global Frontiers Inc.

One of my favourite aspects of working in emerging market fund management was the frequent travel across the world for on-the-ground research. I would meet thoughtful people and return home with lateral insights, helping our team invest more profitably at less risk. A former business contact of mine set up a business that designs such trips for institutional investors. I joined him a few weeks back.

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Impact investing

Triggered by a visit to a recent meet up here in New York, I have been thinking about the impact investing industry. In one way or another, much of my finance career had something to do with it. The question now – is it the future and worth much more of my personal focus? I can’t help but being skeptical of the industry. Some pointers on why below the jump.

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For lack of a better photo (?) – Kashgar cattle market, western China, 2004

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Turkey

Part of the past occupation series: My predecessor in the asset management job had a penchant for all things Turkey and correctly predicted the constitutional court’s verdict on the AKP closure case back in 2008. So I kind of had to follow the country closely, also given the long-term EU convergence bet that is very popular in emerging market fund management. This resulted in three trips; all memorable and all quite meaningful given the institutional intelligence we had built over the years.

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