Spy checked his post box every day this week for his ticket to Davos and came to the conclusion that the Swiss postal service must be getting worse... Instead of hobnobbing with the global elite in the snow, Spy slinked off to an alcohol-free hypothermia-inducing air-conditioned cinema to watch the big screen adaptation of Michael Lewis’s The Big Short. Spy was viscerally reminded of 2007 /2008 when the world stood on the precipice. Stomach churning memories indeed; one can only hope some lessons have been learned. Spy is not a film reviewer, but if he was, he would give it 5 out of 5 stars.
Spy hears that PIMCO Asia visited its office in Sydney and pinched the local head of Australian marketing to be its new Head of APAC Marketing. Melissa Reeves is now located in PIMCO’s Hong Kong office at the IFC. Melissa joins several months after PIMCO lost its title of “manager of the world’s largest emerging market bond fund” as investors exited the asset class droves. No doubt Melissa will continue to work on marketing messages that try and persuade investors that PIMCO is more than the sum of Bill Gross and Mohammed El-Erian’s legacies.
Street talk suggests that Muzinich & Co, the New York-headquartered corporate credit specialist, is due to open in Asia this year. With more than $20bn in corporate credit strategies, many of which have performed extremely well, Muzinich will add more debt offerings to Asian investors and jump into a crowded field.
Spy notes that Dutch asset manager and debt specialist NNIP (formerly ING IM) has hired a new head of wholesale distribution, a position which has been vacant for a while since Chia Chia Chng went to J.P. Morgan AM. Eric Chiang is joining in February from BNY Mellon Asset Management. Eric, a familiar face in Singapore, has also had stints at Fidelity and Franklin Templeton.
Are Asian private banks finally coming around to multi-asset, wonders Spy? He has recently heard that a number of PBs have taken on multi-asset funds and several are in the process of on-boarding. PBs traditionally avoided multi-asset on the basis that “they could do the same function at a portfolio level”. The only problem is, with largely advisory books, clients don’t always listen to their portfolio construction ideas. By including multi-asset funds into the portfolio the RMs and ICs can help smooth bumpy performance. Watch this space.
What happens when sovereign wealth funds become sellers and not buyers? Asian and Middle Eastern SWFs have traditionally been huge sources of institutional sales for the fund management industry. But that appears to be changing as low oil prices force governments to plunder their reserves. “They are selling, they are selling a lot," said Paolo Scaroni, deputy chairman at Rothschild & Sons to Bloomberg. Spy hears that fewer salespeople are making the pilgrimage to Kuala Lumpur and Brunei at the moment for this very reason.
With Aberdeen having filled their head of distribution role with Alexis Ng, the other major job still vacant in the asset manager premier league remains obvious. Schroders appears to be taking its time to fill its head of Asia-Pacific marketing role, with Grace Ho long since having put her feet under a desk at Manulife AM. Rumours abound that, like PIMCO, Schroders are looking Down Under for her replacement. With the Aussie dollar tanking, perhaps marketers are willing to leave the Lucky Country behind for a while and put up with Hong Kong’s smog.
Hat tip to the wise words overhead this week by a leading fund selector at a famous Swiss private bank. Upon being asked how he felt about the year ahead after such a shaky start, he replied, “The year has 52 weeks in it, why judge it by the beginning only”. Why indeed?
Spy understand that Martin Currie, the specialist manager headquartered in Edinburgh, now a part of Legg Mason, has had some people move out of Singapore. Mike Gibb, previously doing a wholesale sales role, has gone back to Edinburgh and is now supporting MC’s roll out with LM on a more global basis. Kimon Kouryialas, who is in charge of institutional sales in Asia, is relocating back to Melbourne but will continue to service the APAC market from Australia.
Some research by the Statistical Ideas blog points out that strategists are generally perennial bulls and have an overly optimistic view of investment returns. In some research covering 18 years of “beginning of the year predictions”, 95% of the time strategists expected the year ahead to produce positive gains. The reality was only 73%. Surprisingly, some firms in the data have never produced a negative outlook for the year.
LinkedIn has produced a guide to the most overused words on CVs and recommends job hunters avoid them. They are: motivated, creative, enthusiastic, track record, passionate, successful, driven, leadership, strategic and extensive experience. Spy thinks those equally could apply to Asian asset management marketing copy. Spy further recommends avoiding these clichés too: performance, risk management, unrivalled, dedicated, expertise, quality and volatile.
PIMCO seems to be channelling Star Wars in its advert at Hong Kong airport. All that is missing is Luke’s light sabre.
China Asset Management is obviously displaying its Photoshop skills and promoting a hedge fund launch in Hong Kong.
Until next week…