The CEO of Concord Asset Management knows the ins and outs of the capital markets
Natalia Petrova has over 20 years of experience in asset management, capital markets, equity and fixed income trading, UCITS products and services, and is a licensed investment consultant, broker and trader with government securities. Natalia Petrova is the CEO of Concord Asset Management, the biggest non-bank asset manager in Bulgaria, but her active roles are more. She is also Director in the Board of Directors at European Investment Management SICAV – RAIF, procurator at ABC Finance, executive director at Concord Fund – 8 Alternative investment fund, and a Chairperson of the Management Board of the Bulgarian Association of Asset Management Companies (BAAMC). Natalia holds a PhD in Finance and has been for 20 years a university lecturer in subjects such as Stock Exchange Markets, Corporate Finance, Portfolio Management, and others.
What should the smart investor consider in times of economic uncertainty and inflation?
Inflation is a leading factor when considering how to invest; investors should be aware of the available alternatives to traditional bank deposits and slow-liquid real estate property. Investments on the capital markets are an opportunity to profit while taking different levels of risk. Diversification is essential for smart investing. It consists in holding different types of assets with the purpose to limit exposure to any economic sector, company or asset class and thus reduce the overall risk of the portfolio. Although capital markets are volatile and sometimes uncertain, they give the opportunity to yield higher profits than other alternatives. However, to make the most of them, investors should follow the development of capital markets closely or, if they are incapable of doing this, they should partner with professionals. Mutual funds, for example, offer the investors an already structured, diversified portfolio with a certain investment strategy and risk profile. Clients receive professional management, liquidity and presence on the international markets that would be hardly accessed by retail investors.
How can Concord Asset Management help us become successful investors?
Individual investors need deep knowledge and constant monitoring of the market in order to react properly and reasonably to changes. A higher initial investment is needed to establish a diversified portfolio. Emotional decisions also have to be avoided. Usually this is hard to achieve. The solution is to rely on professional investment managers, like us. Concord Asset Management is Bulgaria's second largest asset management company. We have a diverse product mix – we manage six mutual funds and three alternative investment funds in Bulgaria and Luxembourg. Mutual funds provide individual investors stability and discipline in investments along with transparency, diversification and high liquidity.
What is a good long-term investment according to Concord Asset Management?
With products based on regular investment, like our EXCELLENT Financial Plan, clients do not need a lot of money to invest in the capital markets. They only have to choose a fund or a basket of funds, set a date when the monthly instalment will be paid, and define the investment sum, that can be as low as 50 leva. The product minimises the risk of bad timing and allows accumulation of certain wealth. With regular investments when the markets are down, the investors will get more shares at a cheaper price, and when the markets are up, they will get fewer, more expensive shares. In the end, the shares will have a lower average purchase price. Although markets fluctuate in time, the long-term investment horizon allows asset prices to recover, achieve growth and prevent savings from inflation. People abroad prefer such investment tools when they are saving for expensive trips, their kids' university education or retirement. Investors get high liquidity with low costs and professional management. They can always withdraw partially or fully their accumulated money; this would not affect their overall investment plan. This is one of the most appropriate long-term investment options for retail investors.
What type of clients are suitable for choosing high-risk investments?
Investors risk profiling is the heart of portfolio management. Without proper knowledge of the investor's goals, time horizon, liquidity needs, previous investment experience and risk aversion, the investment manager cannot decide what is the most suitable investment strategy for the client: conservative, moderate or aggressive. Investor's age, wealth, size and regularity of their income have to be considered too. The general rule is: when the investor is younger with fewer commitments and obligations, stable income, significant wealth or long-time horizon, it is more likely to take bigger risks in order to achieve higher returns. The longer horizon is crucial to give the capacity to ride over short-term market fluctuations. High-risk investments are also suitable for professional investors, for example in alternative investment funds with broad investment limits and capability to invest in all types of assets.
Which Concord Asset Management products deserve more attention from potential investors and why?
If I have to elaborate on just one of our products, it would be Concord Fund 3 – Real Estate, a sector fund that invests in REITs on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange. Recently, the fund was awarded first place at the Investor Finance Forum in the category "Equity fund – Bulgaria". With the disclaimer that a fund's past results are not a guarantee for future success, the last 10 years average annual yield of the fund exceeded 6% and doubled the average inflation for the same period which represents an appropriate strategy for capital preservation and growth. The investment in units of the fund is redeemable in few business days which is an advantage compared to direct investment in real estate property.
Before you joined Concord Asset Management you were in the bank sector. What inspired you to change lanes?
Before joining Concord Asset Management, in 2018, I had been working at Raiffeisen Asset Management for 10 years. The greatest part of my career was focused on asset management. Concord Asset Management gave me the opportunity to start working in the non-bank sector with an incredible team of proactive and driven colleagues who are eager to conquer new heights. Since I joined the company, our AuM increased 4.5 times, we restructured our product mix and launched new funds. We became the first and only fully licensed alternative investment fund manager in Bulgaria. We launched an online platform with a remote onboarding process for the clients, we created the first interactive learnings on mutual funds. For me, Concord is an inspiration. I love my job and each day it offers me dynamics, new challenges and opportunities. I wish this to continue in the future as well.
You are a university lecturer. What is the most important thing that you want to teach your students?
Teaching is my other passion – I love to communicate with young people. During my lectures I try to systematically pass on all my knowledge to them, to give practical case studies and real-life examples, to provoke inspiration and gain their interest. I always say that universities provide the basics but one has to continue upgrading with practice, hard-work and desire to grow. I want to teach my students to think, seek and not get deterred by difficulties.
Do you remember when you realised that finance was your thing?
It happened by chance. Before I always thought that I would become a journalist, organize events, have a travel agency or write poetry but in the university, I enrolled in International Economic Relations and then in Finance. Then I finished my internship at the Bulgarian National Bank and got intrigued. I started my career as a financial analyst and I obtained my brokerage and investment consultant license. I began working as an asset manager when I was granted PhD in Finance. My life became entwined with the rhythm of capital markets. It has been like that for 20 years, but each day is more interesting and challenging than the previous one. There is always something that I have not done before... probably this is what you would call "my thing."
You were recently elected as the Chairperson of the Bulgarian Association of Asset Management Companies (BAAMC). What are the main challenges that the sector faces now?
Our main challenge is to make our products and services visible to investors and to increase the investors awareness about capital markets, investment advantages and risks. This can happen only with strengthened presence, improved financial literacy, close partnerships with institutions. Last June, BAAMC organised a broad educational campaign to popularise the activities and products of asset management companies in Bulgaria. This effort should continue as a part of our strategy to build trust in the funds industry, to make the products of asset management companies more recognisable and used by Bulgarian investors, while establishing the principles of the association as a standard for professionalism and ethics.
This interview does not constitute advice, an offer or an invitation to invest in financial instruments. The information in it does not constitute a recommendation for investments in financial instruments, incl. mutual funds, and should not be construed as such. This material does not provide or guarantee any financial, tax, legal or accounting advice. Consult your financial, tax, legal or accounting advisors before undertaking any transactions.