Spy was drinking a dry martini or two in an exclusive downtown club this week discussing Bank of Singapore’s coup of acquiring Barclays Wealth under DBS’s nose. The question, now, is whether they will keep the bankers and the book, the hardest part of any wealth acquisition. Bank of Singapore has an impressive track record of growth and the added scale should allow them to compete more effectively with global heavyweights Julius Baer, UBS and Credit Suisse and local rival DBS. It seems a sensible deal to Spy, who seems to have unjustifiably cynical reputation in the marketplace….
Is BNP Investment Partners sending out a very strong message to the marketplace? Spy thinks so. Last year Mandy Lui was lured over from Schroders to join their team on private bank sales. Now Spy hears rumours that Jackson Fok has been pinched from the JP Morgan AM retail team to join BNP in their Hong Kong office. Combine these hires with their popular European Multi-Asset Income Fund, which seems to have caught PB fund selector imaginations, and a picture of a Group on the move springs to mind.
Des Moines-based US pensions and insurance investment giant Principal and its subsidiary Principal Global Investors, has re-branded recently. With a shiny new blue logo, the company wants to be known simply as “Principal” across all brands. Principal is following in the footsteps of Swiss competitor UBS, which also wants every part of its business to simply be known as “UBS” (old timers like Spy remember the days of UBS Global Asset Management, UBS Securities and more). Principal is clearly hoping that less is more in building a global brand in asset management.
Spy notes that Franklin Templeton has filled an empty slot in its sales team in Singapore with the hire of Monica Tang. Monica was previously with Principal and will now help with private bank relationship management. She will be working with Isabella Chan and Christophe Vande Walle.
It seems the Chinese authorities are not averse to asking arch capitalist rival, the United States of America, for help in extremis. The plea for help was through an email. Reuters reports: “Confronted with a plunge in its stock markets last year, China's central bank swiftly reached out to the US Federal Reserve, asking it to share its play book for dealing with Wall Street's `Black Monday' crash of 1987. The request came in a July 27 email from a People's Bank of China official with a subject line: `Your urgent assistance is greatly appreciated!’ Spy notes that a crash with Chinese characteristics is remarkably similar to a Western crash.
Is Investec going to be the next asset manager to go full retail in Singapore? Spy hears rumours that the galloping zebra is close to being granted (if it has not already) a full retail license in the Lion City. Investec has had Tobie van Heerden based in the tropics promoting Investec’s institutional funds and it seems he will soon be joined by a retail team too. Watch this space.
For unknown reasons, rumours seem to come thick and fast in Spy’s direction. If his sources are correct, another asset manager due to expand in Singapore is Old Mutual Global Investors. OMGI has traditionally had limited “accredited investor” distribution in the city state, with help from sister company Old Mutual Wealth International, but is now due to add a fully-fledged wholesale team to serve Southeast Asia. Carol Wong, head of sales in Hong Kong, will oversee a new person to be based in Singapore once hiring is completed (expected in the next few weeks).
Spy would like to tip his hat to a fellow Asian financial industry journalist today. Spy has learned on the ever-reliable grapevine that Leigh Powell, longstanding brand editor at Asian Investor, rival publication to Fund Selector Asia, is accepting the King’s shilling and stepping down to join an asset manager in Hong Kong and leaving the grubby world of financial news reporting behind. Good luck in your new role, Leigh, your quality writing shall be missed.