Spy has returned from the Christmas holiday period to hear incessant “detox” chatter from the health-kick warriors who, once a year, pretend they are trying to be healthy. This tedious process is known as “Dry January” when all joyful talk of craft beers, fine wines and the occasional Martini disappears for a few forlorn weeks. Spy is one of those fellows who treats imbibing the same way he does investing: regular, without silly attempts to improve the timing. After all, didn’t Aesop wisely say, slow and steady wins the race? Still, Spy wishes all those misguided abstainers as much of a happy new year as he does his fellow indulgers. After last year’s horrific December, which had markets wobbling worse than poorly-made jelly, Spy notes a relief among portfolio managers at the small bounce that has taken place thus far in January. The problem is that nobody seems to have any conviction. One emerging markets PM said to Spy over a sickeningly healthy pomegranate juice, that he “is feeling terrified it won’t last” after licking his wounds from 2018. The optimist in Spy reminds his readers that the best investments are usually made when one is feeling a tad uncomfortable and seldom when the world is looking rosy. Cheers!
As the year has rolled in, Spy has come across more than a few people who have taken up new positions. The great asset management shuffle in Asia carries on at pace.
First up, Grace Chow has stepped down from her role as head of marketing and communications for Asia-Pacific at Columbia Threadneedle in SIngapore. Spy understands that Grace has taken a sabbatical from the industry for family reasons and expects to return at some point. She has been replaced by Yang Phen Tio, who began at the firm earlier this month from Eastspring, where she was previously in the channel marketing unit.
Spy has now discovered where Grace Yeo, formerly in the intermediary and institutional sales team at Nordea has gone to. Grace has swapped Capita Green for One Raffles Quay in Singapore and has joined Capital Group. Grace has joined Capital’s institutional sales development team as an associate director.
Lombard Odier Investment Management in Singapore has had a change in its marketing team, too, notes Spy. Tamora Chan, head of marketing and communications for Asia-Pacific, who has been with the company for five years, has recently stepped down. Kaitlyn Yang has replaced Tamora, which is an internal promotion. Kaitlyn was previously at HSBC for seven years, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong Income Partners has lost their marketing and communications manager, Carmon Cheung. Spy understands that she has been replaced by Agnes Fong and has no news as to where Carmon is moving to.
Leaving the myriad marketing changes behind, Spy notes that boutique Singapore-based wealth manager Lumen Capital Investors has recently hired Laurent Leque as head of portfolio management. LCI was set up by former CEO of Julius Baer Singapore, Wilfried Kofmehl, who is currently chairman of the business. The firm‘s impressive-looking team have typically come from global private banking firms and Spy expects this niche player, who has rather flown under-the-radar, to gather more prominence in the years to come.
Spy took the opportunity to see which funds for sale in Asia have managed to perform in the last six months. The winner? Those mercurial geographies, Brazil and Indonesia. Five of the top ten funds in the last six months, according to FE, have been Brazilian country funds with three coming from Indonesia. For example, Aberdeen’s Brazil fund is up 27%, so is JP Morgan AM’s with BNP’s Parvest not far behind on 24%. For the record, Spy did not hear a single asset or wealth manager talk about Latam or Indonesia last year.
There is an old proverb, “Watch what I do and not what I say.” With all the annual forecasts being published, many of which have been cautious but optimistic for 2019, Spy finds it interesting to note that Blackrock has announced it is cutting 500 jobs, or 3% of its workforce, according to a Bloomberg report. In all fairness, Blackrock did big culls in 2013 and 2016 and that was no indication that markets were going to fall by the wayside – quite the contrary in fact. To Spy, it seems that Blackrock has used recent turmoil to do some healthy pruning from its 14,900 strong team.
Merian Global Investors announced this week that its CEO, Richard Buxton, was steeping away from the CEO role to focus on running the money. Spy could not agree more with this move. Spy would argue they are two very different skills and both all consuming. Hat tip to Mr Buxton for giving up the reigns.
One of Spy’s colleagues could not help but notice a giant advert for the wealth management service, launched in September last year, by Chinese giant Ping An at Changi Airport this week. Ping An is encouraging consumers to download the app for its LU Global Service. The firm offers simple investing solutions and funds by Blackrock and Pimco.
Until next week…