[Ko Ran] Fund managers playing catch up with blockchain
[Ko Ran] In order to become a fund manager in Korea, a person must be a Certified Investment Manager. It is often described as the “one-and-only” certificate related to fund management and it is said that demand for the certificate will only increase in the future. For a person who wishes to work in the fund management industry, this certificate is a must. Also, those who earn the certificate needs to receive a refresher education online every two years to renew the certificate. Why is this certificate story related to blockchain all of a sudden? The online class due for completion by May 21 this year included a class about blockchain. It is not a breaking story that Korea’s investment industry has shown an interest in blockchain. In Sept. 2019, the Korea Financial Investment Association held a weeklong offline class named the “Understanding of Blockchain.” Those who are in charge of managing data and computations for investment companies attended the class. What’s intriguing about the latest online class however is that it was targeted not towards ordinary employee involved in making calculations but towards fund managers who stand at the center of the finance world. Fund managers are those who take care of client capital. In the stock market, they are one of three major institutions that are able to buy the stocks. With that in mind, having fund managers studying blockchain means the cryptocurrency market could have some inflow of capital soon. The refresher education for asset managers is comprised of 10 classes, ranging from explaining related regulations to the latest trend in investment. The content of the lesson itself was in fact a downer. It was focused too much on fundamental and basic knowledge about blockchain, and even that was outdated. It touched on cases of 2018, but in the blockchain world, a lot of things can happen in two years. And it was disappointing to see that this class was designed towards fund managers who are actually engaged in making investment decision, not ordinary people. When asked about the refresher, the Korea Financial Investment Association's answer was not satisfying. “It wasn’t a class that’s been made with cryptocurrency investment in mind,” the association said. It added that the class included only the basics about blockchain. #Rani’s Note: A new but weak wave in digital finance Nonetheless, there have been changes. The new name card of SK Securities has a slogan saying “Digital Finance Platform, SK Securities” on its back. It was odd to see a brokerage house defining itself as a digital finance platform. Although SK Securities is not currently engaged in any type of business related to digital assets, it is important to see that it has set a new direction for its future business. It means that SK Securities realized that its current business structure will not be profitable in the future for a midsize brokerage house. There is a new wind blowing in the industry for sure. Traditional asset management company Fidelity Investments has recently set up a separate asset management company that is dedicated to digital assets. Intercontinental Exchange, the mother company of New York Stock Exchange, has established what’s called Bakkt, a digital asset investment platform. Korea is experiencing a similar but weak wave of change lately. Korea might encounter the era of digital assets sooner than expected.