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January 2, 2024 | Emerging Markets Debt
Emerging Markets Debt: 3 Ways We Are Differentiated

Head of William Blair’s Emerging Markets Debt Team, Portfolio Manager

Marcelo Assalin, CFA, partner, is the head of William Blair’s emerging markets debt team, on which he also serves as a portfolio manager. He is also a member of William Blair Investment Management’s leadership team. Before joining William Blair, Marcelo was head of EMD at NN Investment Partners, a role he began in 2015, and lead portfolio manager for blended debt portfolios. Previously, he was the lead portfolio manager for NNIP’s local currency strategies. Before joining NNIP in 2013, Marcelo was a senior EMD portfolio manager and head of emerging market sovereign debt and local currency at ING IM USA (now Voya Financial). Before that, he worked in various capacities, including CIO from 2005 to 2008, at SulAmerica Investimentos. Marcelo began his career as a credit analyst at Bank Boston in Sao Paulo, covering Brazilian companies. Marcelo received a B.A. in business administration & accounting from the University of São Paulo.

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Marcelo Assalin, CFA, partner, and head of our emerging markets debt (EMD) team, explains why, as fundamental emerging markets debt investors, we believe our distinct approach, our dynamic mindset, and our diverse team help to enable us to deliver better potential outcomes for our portfolios and clients.

Watch the video or read the transcript below.

1. A beta-bucketing approach helps us seek to generate compelling risk-adjusted returns.

We believe that emerging markets debt is more than one single investable universe. We identify three universes: a group of high-risk countries, a group of medium-risk countries, and a group of low-risk countries.

We believe the strength of our EMD capability is based on the strength of the people within our team.

We do that for three reasons: First, we believe it provides for a more efficient allocation of our risk budget across the risk spectrum; second, it provides for better relative value assessment because we compare countries of similar risk; and third, we believe it provides for a better risk-management process because we can more clearly identify the different sources of risk that the portfolios are exposed to.

2. Dedicated investors like us seek to take advantage of disconnects between actual and perceived risk.

There is a disconnect between risks and perception of risks when it comes to investing in emerging markets debt.

The asset class has evolved tremendously over the years. Today, it’s more than one-quarter of the global fixed-income universe, and yet it remains underinvested and underrepresented in global fixed-income indices. And because of that, it’s less covered and less understood.

Not many investors actively look at the asset class, and that creates opportunities for dedicated investors like us who can understand the asset class to assess risks and to translate this into long-term value and returns to our clients.

There is a disconnect between risks and perception of risks when it comes to investing in emerging markets debt.

3. Our diverse team helps us stay on top of diverse opportunities.

There is not one single investable universe. There are several universes, which requires a diverse mindset and a diverse set of skills.

We believe the strength of our EMD capability is based on the strength of the people within our team, the diversity of the people within our team, the strength of our investment process, and the strength of William Blair, which is an organization that has cutting-edge technology and state-of-the-art infrastructure.

It’s fascinating that every day has something new happening in the emerging markets debt world—and it’s very dynamic and it’s never boring.

Marcelo Assalin, CFA, partner, is the head of William Blair’s emerging markets debt (EMD) team, on which he also serves as a portfolio manager.

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Head of William Blair’s Emerging Markets Debt Team, Portfolio Manager

Marcelo Assalin, CFA, partner, is the head of William Blair’s emerging markets debt team, on which he also serves as a portfolio manager. He is also a member of William Blair Investment Management’s leadership team. Before joining William Blair, Marcelo was head of EMD at NN Investment Partners, a role he began in 2015, and lead portfolio manager for blended debt portfolios. Previously, he was the lead portfolio manager for NNIP’s local currency strategies. Before joining NNIP in 2013, Marcelo was a senior EMD portfolio manager and head of emerging market sovereign debt and local currency at ING IM USA (now Voya Financial). Before that, he worked in various capacities, including CIO from 2005 to 2008, at SulAmerica Investimentos. Marcelo began his career as a credit analyst at Bank Boston in Sao Paulo, covering Brazilian companies. Marcelo received a B.A. in business administration & accounting from the University of São Paulo.

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