ould the recent SARS outbreak add to list of travails faced by the fund industry? At a time when both a bear market and world politics are taking down trading the outbreak could take activity in the industry another notch down. Just look at what is happening in Asia.
Activity in fund shops in Hong Kong has slipped noticeably, reports Reuters
. JPMorgan Flemming Asset Management's JF Funds
, for one, has seen customer traffic through its branches fall by 20 percent since the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak began. In response, the manager of $31 billion in assets cancelled investor workshops.
Meanwhile Singapore-based AIB Govett (Asia) Ltd
has pushed off a planed launch of a new retail fund in Singapore until either the third quarter. It had been planning to open the fund in late May or early June, reports Reuters
The news agency reports that fund investors have switched to using the phone and the Internet to conduct their business. JF Funds says that in-coming phone calls are up by 40 percent.
If SARS were to spread into North America (currently the largest outbreak here is in Toronto), fund firms could take some comfort in the fact that American fund investors are generally well ahead of Asians in using the Internet and phones to purchase shares. Net access in much of Asia is far more costly than in the U.S. and investors there prefer more face-to-face contact than Americans.
Still, any event that prolongs the sense of ennui among investors cannot be a positive for fund firms. You had better start planning now just in case.
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