"Grenache is the new Merlot", said my spotty faced-sommelier, as if that justified the outrageously exorbitant price of the bland Aussie plonk being offered in his oh-so-cool Hong Kong Central eatery. No thank you. Spy's taste in wine runs to old world reliables: Bordeaux clarets, big plummy Chiantis and occasional bold Riojas. Spy almost feels strangely fashionable: he is shunning emerging markets and buying the developed. Just like the Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore fund selector community…
Spy hears that Amundi has lost their head of wholesale sales based in Singapore, Dennis Quah. Spy has not heard where he is going but is keeping his ear firmly pressed to the ground whilst trying carefully not to be hit by the job-switching merry-go-round.
The instability in the Hong Kong marketing office of Fidelity continues. Spy has learned that Barbara Wong has recently left the company. Kate Fan has taken over the hot seat. Since Damian Mooney left Fidelity in 2011 to go to BlackRock, Spy believes nobody has held the key marketing role at Fidelity HK for more than 24 months.
It is end of an era in Singapore this week. Standard Life has handed back their life insurance license and closed their wealth management platform. Spy reported recently that Michael Wrigley, one of SL's former Singapore sales team, has joined Hansard. Spy has now learned that Benn Gilmour, SL's former head of distribution in Singapore, is officially putting up the sign "Gone Fishing". Benn is off to Costa Rica to take take people deep sea fishing and in the process make every single bored financial salesman (and woman) green with envy.
Is the competition in the Singapore retail fund space about to heat up? Spy hears that Goldman Sachs AM has applied to launch more than 10 funds for full retail in Singapore. Due to launch in the first quarter of 2016, GSAM will join the crowded retail space and will need to get its pristinely manicured fingernails dirty in the far flung corners of the city state. A scruffy retail bank sales room in Jurong is a far cry from the walnut-panelled boardrooms of Wall Street. Culture shock in store, methinks!
Aviva Investors has had their AIMS product approved by the MAS for retail in Singapore, notes Spy. AIMS is a low volatility, absolute return strategy created by Euan Munro, the genius behind Standard Life Investment's GARS product, which has an almost cult-like following among institutional investors. With SLI introducing their higher volatility, higher return, GFS fund strategy in Asia, Spy will watch with interest to see whether AI can replicate SLI's success. Popcorn please.
Putting out performance statistics can be such an inconvenience. OCBC Wealth Management has published the return of its balanced and aggressive model portfolios between 31st of August 2012 and end of June 2015, notes Spy. The balanced portfolio has done a respectable 31.65%. Meanwhile, the aggressive portfolio has managed 33.36%, just 1.71% more in the same 35-month timeframe. That means the balanced portfolio has done an average 0.90% per month while the aggressive is 0.95% per month. It is hard to feel that the extra 0.05% return is that exciting (or aggressive) in view of the risk undertaken.
According to Hang Seng Bank the best performing sector this year is Russian equities with a 17.47% return. This is followed by China A-shares at 12%. Spy will bet a fine bottle of claret that less than 1 in 100 fund selectors and allocators in Asia has been pushing Russia. It has all been Europe, Europe and more Europe.
Spy continues to be staggered at the cost of buying funds for retail investors in Asia. HSBC Wealth Management in Hong Kong is charging a 3% "preferential initial charge" on non-bond funds plus 1% switching fees and HK$100 admin fees for funds transferred. No mention of any retrocessions and trail fees the bank is earning, BTW. Having been clobbered on those charges, the investor will be relieved to know that getting 'Investment Order Confirmation eAlerts' are 'Free of Charge'. Well, that's alright then.
Spy’s trusty band of roving photographers have spotted some new asset management advertising.
Allianz is pushing their equity range on buses:
Standard Life Investments is still introducing their brand to Hong Kongers:
CSOP is pushing their ETF success: