Spy was under a certain amount of pressure from his domestic commander-in-chief this week. It had not gone unnoticed that it was International Women’s Day on Wednesday and she interrogated Spy on the lack of women managing money across the asset management industry and all but accused old dinosaurs such as Spy of being to blame. The DCiC pointed out that she runs the household finances far better than Spy and has managed to keep us solvent through the Asian financial crisis, global financial crisis, SARS and countless other calamities over the last few decades. And so Spy, belatedly, tips his hat to the many talented women of our industry who, as in so many other spheres of life, excel without as much praise, perform without as much bravado and often work as hard without as much pay as the many blokes who dominate our fascinating industry.
News has reached spy that Claudia Tan has stepped down from her wholesale business development role at Aviva Investors in Singapore. No news on where she is going or who is replacing her. Aviva announced a 30% increase in its asset management profits to £138m ($168m) this week as AUM reached £450bn. Mark Wilson, Aviva’s CEO, told Bloomberg this week that “Aviva’s results are simple and clear-cut: more operating profit, more capital, more cash, more dividend. And there is more to come.” Sounds like spring has arrived early in Norwich.
Another move that Spy has picked up on is that Monica Chan has left RBC in Hong Kong. Monica was in charge of ultra high net worth clients and had been in charge of portfolio management at the Canadian wealth manager. Spy has not heard whether Monica is being replaced at RBC or if she is remaining in the industry. Her LinkedIn bio states she remains an adjunct professor at Hong Kong Baptist university.
Pinebridge, the asset management firm controlled by Richard Li’s Pacific Century Group, has been hiring and adding to its marketing department. Spy understands that’s Patricia Lai, formerly of AB (Alliance Bernstein) has just joined the team. Pinebridge, formerly the asset management arm of AIG, has made progress in the institutional space in Asia over the last few years and their global AUM now exceeds US$80bn.
Standard Chartered Bank’s wealth management division in Singapore has publicly published its Q1 2017 fund select list. Spy has spotted some changes to its focus list, which is indeed particularly focused – a mere eight funds are included, down from 12 in Q4 2016.
Within multi-asset, JPM Global Income has been dropped in favour of Allianz Income and Growth. In equities, AllianceBernstein’s Low Volatility Equity (SGD Hedged) and the BlackRock Asian Growth Leaders have both been dropped without a replacement. Fixed income has also had some culling without replacement: The BlackRock Global Corporate Bond A2 (USD) and AllianceBernstein’s American Income Portfolio AT (SGD Hedged) are both off the list. Some of these funds have been shifted to the Core list but some removed altogether. The full list is here.
Whilst Spy remains a strong sceptic that China’s yuan is ready to play a meaningful global reserve currency role, what is undeniable is the importance of China’s economy to the global economy. Blackrock has a great blog-post illuminating China’s domestic scale. Spy particularly enjoyed the snapshot comparison between the US and China. Donald Trump may wish to add some high speed rail lines when he is “making America great again”:
Many asset managers complain of a lack of ‘cut through’ when promoting their funds in Asia. In light of International Women’s Day, Spy interrogated FSA’s own data to see the number of women who had presented at our events over the last three years. In total, FSA has hosted 37 different forums since March 2014 with 168 different speakers. Of those speakers, 151 were men and only 17 were women. I am not sure Spy needs to state one obvious solution…It is not entirely apparent why women are so poorly represented in asset management when other professional services have made much better strides over the last few decades. However, the data is stark. According to Morningstar, only 10% of fund managers in the US are women and only 2% of funds are run exclusively by women. The UK fares even worse with 7% of fund managers being female according to a report by Columbia Threadneedle.
Ever feel other people are so much more talented than oneself? Singapore-based Chia Woon Khien, at Nikko AM, is not only a brainy fixed income portfolio manager but it appears an accomplished artist too. When she is not analysing bond yields and credit spreads, Woon Khien paints scenes in nature. Her original artwork has appeared on a set of coasters that senior marketing manager Jeanie Cheah is happy to give to clients instead of mundane pens and notebooks. How the coasters came into the possession of Spy is a secret, of course. He finds them not only radiant but useful, although he only uses them for elite drinks such as Butautu Dvaro Sviesus, the Lithuanian craft beer which remains a hard-to-get favourite.
If you want to see how to make a subject interesting, you could do a lot worse than peek at Aberdeen’s latest Thinking Aloud blog on emerging market debt. (Yes, marketing directors at private banks and asset managers, I am talking to you). Kevin Daly, Aberdeen’s senior fixed income manager, opens with this line: “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” Anyone who manages to include a quote from Gustav Flaubert in an asset class outlook, gets Spy’s vote.
What if the world’s asset managers, economists, private banks and, indeed, editorial commentary is wrong about the Fed with the “lower for longer” thesis? The selling in developed sovereign debt continues at pace and last night the US 10-year Treasury note broke through the 2.60% yield. March looks certain for a rate rise in the US and if the non-farm payroll job numbers this evening come in stronger than expected, you will hear a clamour for further rises. Meanwhile in Europe Mario Draghi is keeping his political master, the EU, happy but infuriating ordinary Germans with no change in euro rates or a reduction in QE while announcing a cautious outlook for Europe. Spy will bet Draghi did not even take a single glance at the data, despite inflation in Europe rising, but instead looked at the electoral calendar in France, the Netherlands and Germany before making his rather dovish call.
Until next week…