Spy found himself with an Australian commodities fund manager, drinking too many glasses of Saké in a Sheung Wan eatery, discussing Chancellor Merkel’s electoral chances. “Globalisation, hey, what’s it ever done for us?”, quipped my host with a wry smile. “Everyone is talking about President Trump and Brexit, but the real black swan is the German election later this year. Like Maggie Thatcher before her, Europe’s current Iron Lady is facing the possibility of a swift exit from power and the rise of an anti-EU, right wing party in her place. “Her worst nightmare”, commented my erudite Aussie friend. “All this has consequences for globalisation. We are seeing pushback and it will have an impact on our investments. Nobody is sure how this will play out.”
Spy hears word that Ashley Dale, the highly productive marketing director of Mirae Asset Management has left the firm. This follows on from the news that Mirae's Sabrina Kwek has moved to Allianz GI as reported by Spy. No report yet of Ashley’s replacement.
The rumour mill grinds in Spy’s direction with news that Serene Lim who has been analysing funds and products at Credit Suisse, and is part of Rod Larqué’s team in Singapore, is leaving for pastures new. Spy may be jumping to incorrect conclusions, however, it would seem that Su-Mein Cheng’s empty seat at HSBC Private Bank may be just the landing spot for Angie….
News reaches Spy that Kent Ng, long time fund salesperson for Columbia Threadneedle, has resigned and is stepping down from his role. If Spy’s hearty band of sources is correct, Kent may be handing out a Swiss business card with the letters J and B prominently labelled. Spy is not too sure that Kent will be doing a client facing role in his new guise.
What’s going on at Credit Suisse wonders Spy? The talk is that no new funds are being contemplated at the moment and may not be for the whole of H2. It seems all of CS’s energy is going into launching their new 1% wrap product to compete with UBS’s similar offering. Knocking on Rod Larqué or Charis Wong’s doors may not get fund salespeople very far at the moment. Let’s hope the new wrap service lasts longer than CS’s ill-fated seg-mandate service, which was launched in January with much fanfare, and has already closed down.
It has gotten harder to get access to Goldman Sachs Private Bank hears Spy. Jonathan Tung, long time fund analyst in Hong Kong, has crossed the divide over to Goldman Sachs Asset Management and is now in a specialist product role helping the sales teams with their clients. That leaves only Bryce Wan to petition for access.
There was a time that Old Mutual Global Investors was known as a minor fund of funds player. The change of strategy, and path to rapid expansion, seems to have taken place with the audacious and successful bid to pinch Richard Buxton from Schroders in 2013. Individual strategy teams have been hired, distribution outside their own channels has grown rapidly under Warren Tonkinson’s guidance, and suddenly OMGI has about £30bn in assets under management and appears to be on a roll. Spy recalls that apart from the imminent opening of the Singapore office of OMGI, the company has recently taken on Rob Weatherston, formerly of Blackrock, to run Japan equities for them in Hong Kong. Watch this space.
Has the entire wealth and asset management industry in Hong Kong and Singapore been sitting in the midday sun too long, contemplates Spy? With current sluggish economies in Asia, most firms on both sides of the divide are raising assets at snail’s pace (or so they claim) and yet everywhere Spy looks, firms are hiring. Asset managers are adding marketing, sales and admin roles. Wealth managers are hiring RMs and analysts and product specialists. Everybody is hiring, but nobody "is making much money". Still, perhaps it all makes sense – the asset and wealth managers tell their clients to think long-term and it is possible every firm is doing the same. Asia will bounce back, it always does, and better to have people in place than to be scrambling around when the milk starts flowing again.
It seems you can’t shake a stick at an asset management salesperson who is not qualifying, qualified or contemplating qualifying for the CFA. Asia-Pacific is the largest source of exam-takers, with 77,510 registered for the June 2016 exam (this weekend), accounting for 45% of the total globally, the CFA Institute said. Spy hears that M&G’s Grace Teh is another willing victim enduring the daunting task. Spy’s own academic studies ceased in the dark ages with a gentleman’s respectable 2:2 in modern history from a minor Red Brick University in middle England and since then has only been supplemented with a diploma in talking nonsense and a certificate in wine tasting. He sighs in awe of the young whippersnappers undertaking brain tickling studies.
Until next week…