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The FSA Spy Market Buzz – 11 Sept 2015

Mandates are all the rage at UBS; new advertising from Pictet, BNP Paribas and Nikko; fund discounts at OCBC; speculation at Stan Chartered; successful fund managers under 40 and much more.

Spy found himself in a grimy bar, off a grimy street, in grimy Kowloon this week, still amazed that the the shiny ICC can be located so close to so much accumulated dirt. I asked for a whisky and the barman started pouring Jack Daniels. “No, whisky, not whiskey!”, I chided the hapless bartender. Oh, well never mind – bourbon has its uses when markets are tough and lackluster. “Make it a double”.

Spy was eavesdropping on several fund players discussing UBS’s change in direction: out with ‘fund transactions’ and in with ‘mandates’. Mandates? All sounds like a new way to push discretionary services and take back control from the third party asset managers. “The flipside is,” said one, “we will surely have less access to investment councillors and private bankers and will now have to spend more time keeping portfolio managers happy. Fewer people to deal with but also concentrated risk.”

His fellow drinker snarled with a touch of delight, “It is not just us, the UL and VUL insurance boys and girls are feeling it too.” Will the Swiss discetionary model work in Asia, Spy wonders? No word that UBP-Coutts, Credit Suisse or Julius Baer have followed suit yet. But no doubt they will be watching as closely as the Spy is.

So, Judy Hsu has been promoted to CEO of Standard Chartered in Singapore as reported by FSA here.  Late british billionaire, Jimmy Goldsmith’s acute observation springs to mind, “When you marry your mistress, you automatically create a vacancy.” So too with promotions: Judy’s global wealth management role is now free. Will Alexis Calla get the job? Probably, is the word on the street, but you never know. Will Winters, the Group CEO, came from JP Morgan, so they might look for new blood outside. 

Speaking of banks, at Credit Suisse in Asia five senior investment bankers are leaving as the CEO Tidjane Thiam shifts the bank’s focus to wealth managment, according to a Bloomberg report.

Spy notes the timeless adage, ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’; cynical, but true. BlackRock gets a new $400m QFII quota this week and loudly applauds the Chinese for opening up their capital markets. Spy reckons those QFII quotas will be increased and handed out to all comers soon as capital continues to flee the Chinese market (and country). Reuters reported that Chinese foreign exchange reserves fell by $93bn last month, and, according to Bloomberg, volume in Chinese CSI 300 and CSI 500 Index futures have plummeted 99% killing off the  “world’s biggest stock-index futures market.”  Watch this space for more friendly QFII quotas from our friend in need.

Hat tip to Financial News for their recent article on top 40 under 40 Rising Stars in Asset Management. Plaudits to all those mentioned, but Spy, in his grizzled old way, wonders whether these rising stars, many of whom have never seen an interest rate hike on their watch, or perhaps started managing money after the GFC, should be lauded until they have endured a real crisis like the one China has had this year. The best name on the list has to go to the 35-year-old deputy head of fixed income for Italy at Generali Investments, who glories in the name of Fabio Cleva. That job at his age? He must be clever.

OCBC Wealth is doing a fund sales push in Singapore. Only if you buy online, until the end of September, up front charges are slashed across the board to only 1%. Taking a closer look at many of the preferred (or recommended) funds, Spy notes that many are underwater this year, e.g. Lion Global Malaysia, down about 18%, First State Global Resources down around 35%, etc. The contrarian in me says buy those ones but no doubt Mr Jolly Consumer will be rushing to the India and Japan funds which mostly remain in positive territory e.g. Aberdeen India Opportunities Fund SG up ~4% and JP Morgan Japan Equity up ~28%. Markets change, buying habits do not.

The summer slumber of asset management advertising appears to be ending. Spy’s reliable band of photographers have spotted BNP Paribas Investment Partners making noise. A giant billboard in Raffles Place is promoting their European Multi Asset Income. Spy’s team has also spotted the same campaign at bus stops in the CBD of the Lion City.


In Hong Kong, Pictet is out in force with a new campaign advertising its thematic Global Megatrend Selection and High Dividend Selection funds – not only in print but on TV too.

NikkoAm was spotted online with a small generic branding  campaign playing up its hidden qualities.


Spy spotted another ludiscously ‘generous’ incentive offer for wealth management services, this time from Wing Lung Private Wealth Management. WLPWM want’s you to put HK$10m into their platform and in return you get dinner and a one night stay (stand?) at the Grand Hyatt Hotel with a notional value of HK$5,000. There must be cheaper ways to get a night at the Hyatt, even with their newly revamped rooms.


Spy, who is in hot demand, has a new way to be contacted: All submissions entirely anonymous. 

Part of the Mark Allen Group.