Growing Barings in Private Assets & Beyond

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This is a podcast episode titled, Growing Barings in Private Assets & Beyond. The summary for this episode is: <p>Barings Chairman &amp; CEO, Mike Freno, joins the podcast to discuss recent developments in the firm’s Global Private Finance platform, the strong momentum in its public and private assets businesses, and where he and the Barings team see opportunities for growth ahead.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Episode Segments:</strong></p><p><br></p><p><strong>(01:51) </strong>– Recapping two strong years of growth for Barings</p><p><strong>(04:17) </strong>– Mike’s perspective on recent developments in Barings’ Global Private Finance platform</p><p><strong>(13:49)</strong> – The opportunity and growth ahead in private asset classes</p><p><strong>(17:00) </strong>– Serving PE sponsors with broad-based solutions</p><p><strong>(20:45)</strong> – The momentum in public markets from high yield to EM to CLOs</p><p><strong>(23:40) </strong>– Where public and private markets converge</p><p><strong>(27:53) </strong>– Barings’ continued focus &amp; growth in the insurance channel</p><p><strong>(30:16)</strong> – Organic and inorganic growth opportunities ahead</p><p><strong>(34:43)</strong> – Final thoughts</p><p><br></p><p>IMPORTANT INFORMATION</p><p><br></p><p>Any forecasts in this podcast are based upon Barings’ opinion of the market at the date of preparation and are subject to change without notice, dependent upon many factors. Any prediction, projection or forecast is not necessarily indicative of the future or likely performance. Investment involves risk. The value of any investments and any income generated may go down as well as up and is not guaranteed. PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT NECESSARILY INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS. Any examples set forth in this podcast are provided for illustrative purposes only and are not indicative of any future investment results or investments. The composition, size of, and risks associated with an investment may differ substantially from any examples set forth in this podcast. No representation is made that an investment will be profitable or will not incur losses. </p><p><br></p><p>Barings is the brand name for the worldwide asset management and associated businesses of Barings LLC and its global affiliates. Barings Securities LLC, Barings (U.K.) Limited, Barings Global Advisers Limited, Barings Australia Pty Ltd, Barings Japan Limited, Barings Real Estate Advisers Europe Finance LLP, BREAE AIFM LLP, Baring Asset Management Limited, Baring International Investment Limited, Baring Fund Managers Limited, Baring International Fund Managers (Ireland) Limited, Baring Asset Management (Asia) Limited, Baring SICE (Taiwan) Limited, Baring Asset Management Switzerland Sarl, and Baring Asset Management Korea Limited each are affiliated financial service companies owned by Barings LLC (each, individually, an “Affiliate”).</p><p><br></p><p>NO OFFER: The podcast is for informational purposes only and is not an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument or service in any jurisdiction. The material herein was prepared without any consideration of the investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of anyone who may receive it. This podcast is not, and must not be treated as, investment advice, an investment recommendation, investment research, or a recommendation about the suitability or appropriateness of any security, commodity, investment, or particular investment strategy.</p><p><br></p><p>Unless otherwise mentioned, the views contained in this podcast are those of Barings and are subject to change without notice. Individual portfolio management teams may hold different views and may make different investment decisions for different clients. Parts of this podcast may be based on information received from sources we believe to be reliable. Although every effort is taken to ensure that the information contained in this podcast is accurate, Barings makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information</p><p><br></p><p>Any service, security, investment or product outlined in this podcast may not be suitable for a prospective investor or available in their jurisdiction.</p><p><br></p><p>Copyright in this podcast is owned by Barings. Information in this podcast may be used for your own personal use, but may not be altered, reproduced or distributed without Barings’ consent.</p><p><br></p><p>24-3600934</p>
Recapping two strong years of growth for Barings
02:22 MIN
Mike’s perspective on recent developments in Barings’ Global Private Finance platform
09:35 MIN
The opportunity and growth ahead in private asset classes
03:08 MIN
Serving PE sponsors with broad-based solutions
03:42 MIN
The momentum in public markets from high yield to EM to CLOs
02:53 MIN
Where public and private markets converge
04:12 MIN
Barings’ continued focus & growth in the insurance channel
02:21 MIN
Organic and inorganic growth opportunities ahead
04:25 MIN
Final thoughts
01:35 MIN

Greg Campion: In the almost four years that CEO Mike Freno has been at the helm here at Barings, the firm has continued its growth trajectory and not just in revenues and assets under management, but perhaps more importantly in these services and capabilities that the team can provide its clients in areas like public and private fixed income, real assets, and capital solutions. Of course, all of this growth doesn't come without its challenges, from macro uncertainties to increasingly competitive markets. So where does Barings stand today, and where is it going tomorrow?

Mike Freno: Well, I'm really excited about the future for Barings, just given the fact that we've got portfolio of capabilities that I think our clients want and I think our clients need and our ability to drive their excess returns while putting those together in a solutions base to be a strategic partner. That our success and the success of the outcomes can only happen as a result of the talent that we have at this company, and I'm incredibly confident in our ability to execute because of that talent and because of the way we work together as a team.

Greg Campion: That was Mike Freno, chairman and CEO of Barings, and this is Streaming Income- A Podcast from Barings, I'm your host, Greg Campion. Coming up on today's show, Growing Barings in Private Assets and Beyond. Before we get into the conversation, if you're not already following us and you're interested in hearing our latest thoughts on asset classes like high yield, private credit, real estate and more, just search Streaming Income on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts. With that, here's my conversation with Mike Freno. All right, Mike, welcome back to the podcast.

Mike Freno: Great to be here.

Greg Campion: I'm excited to have you here, believe it or not, it's been two years since you've been on this podcast.

Mike Freno: It seems like yesterday.

Greg Campion: Which is crazy, but obviously a ton has gone on over that time period. So just to name a few things that have happened since the last time you were on the podcast, and don't worry, I'm not going to start naming the top billboard song of 2022 or anything like that. But we've opened some new offices, most recently Dubai, we have helped to launch and grow a reinsurance company in Martello Re, and if our listeners are interested, we did a podcast episode with CEO Dennis Ho, if they'd like to learn more about that. We've closed on multiple acquisitions over that time period, most recently too in Australia, Altus Property Partners and Griffin Capital Investments. We have also transitioned a$ 20 billion portfolio finance team from MassMutual as well as a$ 10 billion equipment finance platform into business.

Mike Freno: Barings business.

Greg Campion: Both really interesting businesses. We've also sharpened our value proposition for clients, really focusing in on our ability to deliver excess returns through public and private fixed income, real assets, and capital solutions. And last but not least, we've seen assets under management continue to grow now to over 400 billion with record revenues achieved in the first quarter of this year, so a very busy, and I would say a very positive couple of years.

Mike Freno: Yeah, it's a great list, it's not exhaustive, we've done a lot, I'm really pleased with the momentum we have and all the work that the team has done. It shouldn't be lost on people too, that we're actually going to conclude our three- year transformation from our operating model, we'll come to a conclusion at the end of the second quarter. That's a huge accomplishment for any company to go through something of that long and to be basically on time, and your completion is really a testament to what the team have done. So we've got not only success from the top line that you commented on a lot of things from a growth area, but also strengthening and providing more resilience in our operating model is a huge accomplishment.

Greg Campion: Definitely. I'm glad you mentioned that, it's been a huge kind of all hands on deck team effort within the firm to revamp all of our technology and systems, so ton of positive momentum. I want to talk a lot about a number of those things that I just mentioned, but I thought we'd start with something that's been in focus recently and that is the departures that we had recently in our global private finance platform. So I'd like to ask you just maybe if you can give our listeners a little bit of insight into exactly what happened there and maybe how the Barings team has responded.

Mike Freno: On March 8th, we had 22 total individuals resign, 17 of which were on the investment team related to what we call middle market direct lending specifically, 11 in Europe and six in the United States. It wasn't something that we expected and certainly wasn't something that we wanted to see happen, but what I will say is, the reaction by the team immediately following after that. It was on a Friday around the globe, certainly in London and the US teams gathered early in the morning to really make sure we were communicating with our teammates and really for preparation of what Monday was going to be because we wanted to be very proactive in reaching out to our clients. And we started doing that at really eight o'clock in the morning on the east coast in the United States doing that and making sure that everything was working, be it private credit, direct lending, middle market lending is a very labor- intensive asset class, and so our focus was really, are we able to meet revolver draws or delay draw fundings, are there capital call lines? Ensuring that our client's capital was safe, and we demonstrated that we were able to do that and certainly that's the focus in the early days and then thereafter was really getting back to business as much as we possibly could.

Greg Campion: Now I know that the last couple of months, you and a team have spent a ton of time with clients, I know you've been on the road quite a bit. Tell me a little bit just about how those conversations with clients have gone?

Mike Freno: Communication is big, we've always tried to foster a culture that is very transparent both internally and externally with our clients, and these are partners that we've had for many years and hope to continue to have them for many years in the future. And so sharing as much information as we could as soon as we possibly could was part of that. You can do those via phone calls, but it also often benefits to be face- to- face with them. So many of us have dusted off the passports and have spent a number of weeks on the road, and I've just got back from the Nordics, two weeks before that I was in the Middle East and Asia and many of our teammates are doing something similar. And so I will say our clients have been, by and large, incredibly supportive, their questions are the right questions to ask, the information that they're asking is the appropriate information to request, and so we're working through that. But I would say on average, the response has been very positive and a very high level of confidence in the overall Barings platform, the support of the enterprise as a whole, and then also the support of our parent company, MassMutual.

Greg Campion: Mm- hmm. Tell me a little bit more about your conversations with MassMutual if you can.

Mike Freno: Mass has been invested in direct lending for over 20 years, and if you take it back from middle market direct lending to other types of direct lending, and I'll use throughout this podcast, when I say direct lending, it's broader than just middle market lending to sponsors and corporates. This spans a variety of different capabilities, some of which you mentioned at the beginning that we're bringing in, but is a much broader skillset. So MassMutual's been involved in investing in those asset class well beyond 20 years. But middle market lending specifically for 20 years, as that started to evolve, it looked a lot like the early days was a mezzanine market, and then it went to term loans and things of that nature, which tended to be more bank markets, but insurance companies had gotten into that. So it is a core part of MassMutual's overall exposure and their asset allocation, moreover, they have billions of dollars of exposure directly to the asset class in addition to fund investments, and their commitment is only increased through this period of time, and so we look forward to continuing to deploy capital on their behalf, we've done it since March 8th and we'll continue to do that going forward.

Greg Campion: Mm- hmm. Now, just in the wake of the departures that we mentioned earlier, I know that you and the team made some changes in terms of leadership in that GPF business, tell me a little bit about some of the changes that you made there.

Mike Freno: We accelerated some succession planning, we did immediately put into a place a new IC, we have four individuals to start with that in each region. We've just hired a new individual who will join the IC in North America once he starts with us, he is an individual that had been with us for years and we're grateful to have him come back and join us again, and so those things were rolled out. We have a deep, deep bench, and that's one of the great things, this platform still remains at over 85 investment professionals. And if you look across Barings, our heritage and our culture is really in fundamental analysis and we have a deep, deep credit culture, and that spans from not only our high yield or leverage loan, our direct lending, our capital solutions, but we do that across the firm, and so that's in our DNA, that's in our heritage. And we have a few new faces in things and a few new leadership roles, Tyler Gately is taking over the US, Stuart Matheson, both on the capital solutions and private finance side, stepping into larger leadership roles and have really done a great job of leading the team through this over the last couple of weeks.

Greg Campion: Really helps to have that deep bench and that credit expertise proliferating throughout the organization. One of the things that I've heard from senior management is that this event, maybe somewhat ironically, has been really a galvanizing one for the teammates and the group here at Barings, tell me a little bit about your perspective on that.

Mike Freno: I couldn't agree more to be candid. I went through it, I happened to be on my way to London when we first heard about the news, so I continued there and I spent the weekend and up until Tuesday of the following week in London, I was joined by several colleagues in the London office. Similar things were set up in the US, and folks were coming back from spring breaks, people were on vacation with their family, it happened to coincide with a number of spring break calendars in the US and folks unfortunately left their families at the beach or wherever they were to come back and support one another. And that's incredibly powerful to see that happen, others were just in the office to say, I'm not sure how I can help, but if I can do anything, I'm here for support. That speaks to the culture of things, and people say, well, we're doing it for the company, the reality is the company is a mission and the company are people. There's a brand to it, but the reality is when they say, I'm doing this for the company, they're doing it for the person who sits next to them, they're doing it for the mission that we have at Barings, and that was incredibly powerful to see. It was an amazing thing to go through that with people, but to see the way folks supported, folks who were immediately impacted, but then there were folks in other parts of the organization who said, I'm here just to help, I don't know exactly what that will look like as I said, but I'm here to support and I'm here to help any way I can.

Greg Campion: Yeah, I think it's been pretty powerful to see basically the entire organization step up and say, what do we need to do to serve a client, and what is in their best interest and how can I help? So I think that's been pretty powerful and inspiring. Well, this business that we're talking about, GPF, global private finance, very important business for Barings, has been a big growth driver in probably over the last decade or so. So if you think about just these recent developments that we're talking about, how does that impact where you see this platform and how it goes from here?

Mike Freno: It hasn't changed our strategy, will it take a few, maybe tactical turns differently than we expected it to be? Possibly, we've had to roll out new ICs, we've had to do some other things. But let's be clear, we are still active, we have deployed almost a billion dollars now of new capital to work since we've had the departures that's over with a number of sponsors. So we continue to be very active in the business and we'll continue to do so, we obviously need to replace some individuals, we'll make some hires, I mentioned we have one joining in the US, we hope to have two additional hires starting in July on our European team, and then it's going to be to continue to move the business forward. We're going to be in this business for a long period of time, our parent company is going to continue to be the investor with us, and the goal is to continue to move it forward as it was before, giving it the resources that it needs, the support that it needs, and then ask folks to execute.

Greg Campion: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Obviously a very strong team remains over 85 investment professionals in our direct lending business, and as you mentioned, putting roughly a billion dollars to work just since early March.

Mike Freno: Look, it gives people an opportunity to step up in roles as we've all throughout careers with anyone who is making a career progression and upward mobility. It often takes a departure of someone ahead of you, and I think we won't paint this as a positive event that happened, but certainly for some individuals in their careers, this is a positive, they get a chance to take on roles that they were prepared for, that they're interested to do in stepping up in that regard. And so what we need to do is balance, giving those individuals the opportunity to grow in their career and then complementing that with bringing in outside resources. And so from that standpoint, it's been nice to see that a number of our very deserving colleagues are getting an opportunity to take on larger roles.

Greg Campion: It makes sense, comes back to having that deep bench of credit talent. Let's zoom out just a little bit, so you alluded to this earlier, but this global private finance platform which focuses on middle market direct lending, this is part of a much bigger, broader private assets business within Barings. And when you and I spoke on this podcast two years ago, one of the things that-

Mike Freno: You're not letting that go, are you? It's two years, I'll come back more frequently if you'd like me to.

Greg Campion: ...We'll get it scheduled. But you at that time spoke about your expectation that the firm would continue to lean into private assets, and I think you were talking about that being driven really by two things. One, client demand for private assets, and two, just the team's ability to deliver alpha in these asset classes, that comes down to origination and structuring and things like that. But I think you saw a real pathway to continue to expand more broadly in private assets. So let's get the updated view from you on where are we today in that journey, and where does that go next?

Mike Freno: Well, I think if I recall two years ago, Greg, when we spoke, there's two ways you can deliver Alpha, there's the security selection side of it, which we do exceptionally well on our liquid businesses, which are really mature businesses and are doing incredibly well. And so I don't want to leave those out, and hopefully we'll get a chance to talk a little bit about those during this conversation as well. And then there's the origination capabilities, obviously security selection becomes very important in underwriting and things, but as you're doing on the private side of things, it is that unique origination that really adds the value. And so we have been investing in that, it is a different process from an investment standpoint, you're not taking things from the street, you're going out and finding these assets to some extent and you're competing with others to originate those. That has been a theme that we've been developing out on the middle market direct lending side, but also portfolio finance that you referenced earlier is certainly one that does that, that is a very, very bespoke offering to clients, and it's over 20 billion for us, it's going to be a great business for us in the future. The asset finance business, which is really a leasing business is another one of those. And then it goes back to things that we've been doing for well over 50 years on the private placement side, those unique assets add additional yield to a portfolio for commensurate risk that you see on the public side. And so that partnered with our infrastructure side of things and in capital Solutions as you mentioned, are areas that we are continuing to invest real estate debt, another one is, which is probably considered a unique origination. So we have an incredible portfolio of capabilities, it's now our job to really continue to execute on that and then continue to grow those businesses in the future.

Greg Campion: So many interesting businesses there, you're basically rattling off my future podcast calendar here with inaudible.

Mike Freno: I'm giving you a plug there.

Greg Campion: Yeah, we're going to be diving into portfolio finance on an episode soon, I feel like that is a very underappreciated opportunity.

Mike Freno: It's going to be great for us.

Greg Campion: Thinking about this broad scope of private asset classes, so if you think about everything from direct lending to capital solutions to portfolio finance, I'm curious, when you and the team go and sit across the table from a private equity sponsor and you say, we're here to help you with your financing needs, we have a menu of solutions, having that breadth of capabilities, how does that impact those conversations?

Mike Freno: Well, look, I think just like with our investors who want to have more opportunities with fewer people to do business with, being able to offer multiple solutions. We also have an ABL lending business, a lot of these companies have ABL type financing within their capital structure, we can offer that to them, we have the ability to offer multi- currency things. We are fund investors in many of these LPs, we lend to them, you mentioned portfolio finance, and I won't spoil everything, but when I talk about it, sometimes we lend to these private equity sponsors for their funds. And so having those connection points obviously allows for a better relationship over the long term and offers them multiple solutions to things. Again, in the broader capital solutions or solutions in general, when people come to you, what we want to be able to do, both from our investor standpoint but as well as our, we'll call them customers and sponsors, is we can do all of those things. We may not win every single one that we offer to you, but I don't want to be in a situation where someone comes to us and says, can you provide us this? And our answer is no. We should be saying, yes, and these are the terms that we'll do it on, and it may or may not fit with what they're trying to do, but we should be able to offer up just about everything they can. And if I look across the portfolio of capabilities, we don't have many gaps, we're building some of them, some of them are nascent, we haven't really touched on private ABS, but that's a really growing business that we'll see more and more on and it gives us the flexibility to do private lending, if you will, in a corporate format or even through a securitization format. But it allows us to be a broader partner with our customers than we would be if we were just a niche manager. And that not only means having the capabilities, but as I mentioned before, having those capabilities working closer together so we don't miss something.

Greg Campion: Yeah, that makes sense. Now, on that sponsor side, I know you mentioned earlier that you and the team have been having a number of client conversations over the last two months. How about on the sponsor side, I'm curious how those conversations have gone?

Mike Freno: Sponsors have been equally supportive, they've been great, some have gone to the extent to say, let us know how we can help with things. I think initially, they had appropriate questions to say, can you make these funding? Same things we were making sure that we could do those things, can you provide funding for us if we have a revolver draw? And then it became, well, are you going to be able to grow with us if we grow and we do add- ons? And part of one of your major sources of deal flow, if you will, is coming as your companies that you lend to grow.

Greg Campion: Absolutely.

Mike Freno: And you have the opportunity to lend them more for their expansions and partner with them and support them in their growth. And those are the right questions to ask, and I think we've been able to demonstrate in all cases, yes, we can do that, we will be here to support your growth. So again, I think from their perspective, hopefully we've been a good partner over the years, I'm sure there's been instances that we've had disagreements about things, but can we be responsive to them if there's an amendment, if there's a waiver need? Are we still being as responsive as we were before? Are we that same partner? I think we've demonstrated to date that we definitely have been, and as a result, I think they're going to continue to support us into the future.

Greg Campion: You alluded earlier to the public markets businesses here, and I want to make sure we do not ignore these businesses, very important part of the Barings platform one which you grew up in, so to speak, so let's talk a little bit about that. I think most of our listeners probably know that Barings has one of the largest high- yield teams in the industry, has really differentiated capabilities in areas like EM debt and CLOs and many other places as well. So just curious, broadly speaking, as you look across that public markets business, what do you see in today?

Mike Freno: Well, I think those three that you named, high- yield will include loans and bonds and that on a global basis, our CLO business where we're buying tranches of CLOs as well as our emerging markets, those are top five, top 10 platforms. And so these are definitely franchises in and of themselves and have seen growth in their own right over the last several years. I look at each one of them, we continue to see a lot of interest in high- yield and we'll call it multi- asset credit, it was something we took steps along the thesis of bringing teams closer together to partner and work well together. We've continued to see that opportunity set come and we mix different flavors from time to time, sometimes it's loans and bonds, sometimes it's loans on a global basis, sometimes it incorporates structured credit CLOs, sometimes it incorporates EM. But having those menu of options and the ability to put them all into one product is a real differentiator, and the ability for us to customize solutions has been a benefit to us and as continued to see. And I think the number's probably north of 3 billion of wins as it relates to high- yield/ multi- asset credit that we've seen at the beginning of this year. You mentioned the CLO platform, I know we've done one deal so far this year, I believe we're warehousing for additional deals. Last year, of note, which is really something to be proud of, we were one of two managers throughout the world who was able to issue a CLO in the US and in Europe and then also do it in the middle market space. So you think about how many people are participating in the CLO market as issuers, there was only two of us who were able to capture really all the markets, and so that's really something to speak of. And the emerging market business both on the local, the sovereign, and the corporate side has seen tremendous growth over the last several years and is continuing to see interest in that asset class as we talk. I know we've just had road shows down in South America on that and has some really positive feedback and received some flows from that, so collectively, the portfolio, if you will, of capabilities is working very, very well together.

Greg Campion: It seems like there's a tremendous amount of momentum there, just seeing and it feels like on a weekly basis, we're hearing about a new mandate that's been awarded to the team, which is a testament to the efforts of those teams in serving our clients. Speaking of facing off with clients and what we can offer them, we talked about private markets, we talked about public markets, think about when you go and you sit down with the CIO of a pension fund or insurance company. I'm curious if that is a differentiator or how that impacts those conversations when you can say, look, I'm big over here on the public side and big over here on the private side, and I'm thinking specifically probably about more about most of these credit asset classes.

Mike Freno: If you think about a portfolio, for most investors, it's going to have a combination of private and public. We talk more about private because it is a newer asset class for most company or most investors to start investing in. I think insurance companies for years have had aspects of private assets within their portfolio and as part of their strategic asset allocation. And look, it's no surprise that given our heritage and given our largest client of MassMutual, that we are well- equipped to deliver on a lot of these private capabilities. But also keep in mind, they still have needs for liquidity and therefore they still need to be invested in liquid assets as well. And so I think the future of asset management, and while we see traditionally alternative managers who have evolved from maybe just private equity to now doing real estate and to ultimately being very big credit players, I suspect most of them over time will also develop some liquid capabilities. Many of them probably have high yield and leverage loan capabilities, they advise structured credit, and even as those who are managing big pools of insurance assets, a lot of an insurance company's asset allocation sits in investment grade QCIF bonds. And so I think more and more you'll see that, but being able to offer all of those and being able to construct them, equally important, and that's one thing. And I know you've spoken to our insurance solutions team in the past, being able to construct that in a thoughtful way to help them with their challenges because all of the things that you mentioned, whether it's a pension, whether it's an insurance company, whether they're individuals, we all have" a liability" that we're trying to solve for, whether it's retirement. Whether it's a policyholders return, whether it's an annuity's return, whether it's a pension liability, all of them have a liability problem that they're trying to solve for, and us being able to offer a lot of solutions to that is a really, really benefit for us.

Greg Campion: Yeah, it makes sense. I think as well about, in some areas, there's a convergence between public and private markets, and I think even about some of the pieces of content that our team has written, recently, the team wrote a piece about private credit CLOs, which is a real emerging area, and also Tyler Gately and Stuart Matheson just wrote a piece about the what's going on with that kind of top end of the private credit market and how that's competing with the broadly syndicated market. Their conclusion of that is actually that the traditional middle part of the middle market, that's actually much more attractive for covenants and structural productions and all that kind of stuff. But it is very interesting to see that convergence that's going on, and you mentioned ABS earlier, it's happening in ABS, it's happening in public and private credit, a lot of different places.

Mike Freno: Well, this is just an evolution. If you looked years ago, a deal in the US and certainly in Europe could have been a 500 to $ 700 million deal that was syndicated in the leverage loan market. Fast- forward to where we are today, those are usually done with small clubs or would fall into the direct lending space. And so being able to participate in all markets as they evolve is critical and I think will continue to be, and I don't want us to be limited to only participate in the private space or only to participate in the public space. And you mentioned that there's a convergence, and I think it's very well advertised of what we'll call traditional asset managers moving into private space, but I actually think it's in a much more quiet fashion, those that have large pools of capital for specifically insurance are probably managing many of those liquid assets internally as well and not outsourcing those components.

Greg Campion: Yeah, it makes sense. Well, let's talk a little bit about that insurance channel, insurance and the partnerships that we have with our insurance clients. Obviously, a major focus for this firm strategically and just every day operating on the ground. So tell me a little bit about why insurance is so important to Barings from a strategic standpoint and maybe how you expect it to evolve from here.

Mike Freno: Well, clearly, our largest client and our parent company is an insurance company, so that's clear, and they make up about 200 billion give or take of our AUM, so roughly half on that. In addition to that, we have over 50 billion of third party insurance assets, and I think the number's over 150 unique clients, so clearly it's a focus for us. I do think it fits our DNA well, again, if you look back at our heritage and the genesis of where we came from, we are programmed to do this very, very well, it doesn't mean we don't do all other things, but certainly understanding the liabilities from an insurance company. And there is an element of more of a permanent capital aspect to it, which allows you to do more things in the private space. And so if I look across what we have with our insurance company, what we have with our reinsurance company that we partner with others on, and then our third party, it's an incredibly important part of our business, but one that I also think matches our skill set and our thought process and our style and philosophy exceptionally well.

Greg Campion: And do you expect to continue to grow that business? I know there's an announcement on the European insurance team that's about to-

Mike Freno: Absolutely.

Greg Campion: ...Hit, anything else like that?

Mike Freno: Yeah, we'll continue to invest in it, it's going to be a growth area. To your point, we are making a hire to expand those capabilities because the nuances and the regulations and understanding of certain things in Europe is different from it is in the US. And this is really another example of how we want to build out capabilities globally, as we've always talked about, we mentioned two acquisitions that we made at the beginning, what were previously Altus and Griffin, to expand our capabilities on a global basis, we need to do it on the solution side as well, because what is normal in the US or regulated in the US looks different in the UK, looks different on the continent of Europe and certainly looks different in Asia PAC. And so you should expect to see further expansion of that team over time to really cover the globe.

Greg Campion: Let's talk about where we go from here. So you mentioned earlier that you didn't think we really had many gaps in terms of the asset classes, where you want to be to serve our clients the way you want to serve them. As we look out, let's say five or 10 years, I'm curious how you see this continuing to evolve. I've heard you talk in some other venues about a willingness to consider acquisitions if the right business becomes available, et cetera, where's your thinking on that today?

Mike Freno: Well, with M& A, I think the key thing for us has got to be a cultural fit and then an ability to integrate. There are different philosophies and strategies to running an asset manager, you can run a multi- manager affiliate, and that works for some folks, and that's a strategy and approach. We've tried to avoid that and really focus on things that we can fully integrate into the Barings ecosystem, and so that means everything from systems to sales to HR rather than have things separately. I think over time, it's served us well because it now allows us a more seamless solution to individuals rather than if you have four or five separate standalone companies that are trying to work together. And so that's a hallmark of what we're going to continue to do, so it's got to be a cultural fit with the people who want to join an enterprise that looks like us, and then it's got to be one who's willing to be fully integrated into what we're doing. We can structure deals in various ways, but those are the two big things that we need to make sure we accomplish when we look at M& A. And we'll continue to do it, there's a number of things we're looking at now, as I've said before, I think there are more adjacencies and tangential to capabilities we have now rather than going into new exact new things. But we can grow a lot of things organically as well, and I've spoken with Amina who heads up our DAE business in terms of how would we look if we did things from an infrastructure standpoint, infrastructure equity, how does that partner with our infrastructure team? Secondaries on the credit, secondaries on the private equity side of things, so we can build a lot of that organically. I did mention ABS at the beginning, we need to invest and get more talent and people on that to go out and start originating some of those. We're going to have balance of organic and inorganic, and then we'll need to continue to invest on the sales and distribution side. We have more products that are of interest to clients than we've ever had before, and we can only put so much throughput through the current distribution. And so we're actively hiring on that side and then find where we need to add on the operation side to support it because a lot of these private assets are much more labor- intensive than stocks and bonds are. And you can outsource stocks and bonds to a prime brokerage account if you need to, they settle relatively easy. These are much more complicated, and we need to make sure that the infrastructure there is to support what I expect to be the growth.

Greg Campion: Even if it wasn't an acquisition per se, would you consider strategic partnerships in certain asset classes?

Mike Freno: Yeah, I think one of the ways you've seen a number of things that folks have done, competitors of ours have done is partner with banks from an origination standpoint to fill gaps that maybe you don't want to build out. And just using, for example, we partnered with banks on a lot of different things already, but do you have one that's more focused on that? And again, and this would be a different strategy, but I would view it as an adjacency to what we're doing, we would obviously need to raise additional capital around it because it would be unique. But if you wanted to go down a path of doing direct lending or middle market lending to non- sponsors, that's a totally different way to approach it. And really partnering with banks do well because they have a lot of these clients, and I think you've seen a number of competitors out in the market announce those things. Those are things we talk about and we bounce around a lot, but we've got a track record of doing that, you mentioned Martello Re, we've partnered with two really good partners of ours in Centerbridge Partners and Brown Brothers- Harriman to create that. So we are certainly open to it and someone's phrase, the co- opetition, times you cooperate and times you compete, and I think as long as it helps us serve our stakeholders, our clients, our people, and then ultimately our owners, the policy holders, we're open to just about anything.

Greg Campion: Well, Mike, we've covered a lot of ground here, we've talked about private assets and public assets, insurance partnerships, M& A, so thank you for whipping through all things Barings with me for a little bit, I think this has been super helpful. I just want to turn it over to you to finish here, any final thoughts that you wanted to share with our listeners and viewers?

Mike Freno: Look, you did a great job of covering a lot of things, I promise I'll come back in quicker than two years and I won't let it be that long if you invite me back to it. But I'll say, we've covered a lot of the things, I think there's a bright future for us ahead, I will certainly want to say I just could not be more grateful for the work that our teammates have done over the last several weeks and certainly over the last several years to get us to where the spot is. Certainly from the growth side as well as what we're going through from our digital transformation, our clients and investors have been incredibly supportive, our sponsors. And still our strategy remains the same, that's going to change. Again, I believe that a strategy should have resilience through good markets, bad markets, good times, bad times, tactics have to change, obviously with events that come, but our North Star, as we call it, and our focus to go forward is still there. I'm optimistic about the future for us, we've got a lot of positive momentum and we hope to continue to execute. We'll invest in our businesses with people, we mentioned we'll invest in distribution, we'll invest in operations, but we continue to be a growth company and I think over the next several years, you'll see that growth continue.

Greg Campion: A lot of reasons to be positive and optimistic, and I look forward to having you back here in less than two years to get an update on where all this goes from here. So Mike, this has been awesome, thank you very much.

Mike Freno: Thank you, Greg.

Greg Campion: Thanks for listening to or watching this episode of Streaming Income. If you'd like to stay up to date on our latest thoughts on asset classes ranging from high yield and private credit to real estate debt and equity, make sure to follow us and leave a review on your favorite podcast platform. We're on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and more, and if you have specific feedback, you can email us at podcast @ barings. com, that's podcast @ B- A- R- I- N- G- S. com. Thanks again for listening, and see you next time.


Barings Chairman & CEO, Mike Freno, joins the podcast to discuss recent developments in the firm’s Global Private Finance platform, the strong momentum in its public and private assets businesses, and where he and the Barings team see opportunities for growth ahead.