Spy survived Chinese New Year’s eating and drinking extravaganza with a remarkable stoicism, rising to the challenge of banquets, house visits and much more. Whilst Asia took its annual break, US equity markets continued to climb higher from their December nadir. Spy has sensed a reluctance to fully believe in this rally. Indeed, over several bottles of Weird Beard Craft Beer (yes, it is a thing) with an industry colleague many arguments were hurled about as to why this can’t last. And, yet, the market seldom does what the majority wants or predicts in Spy’s opinion. If presidents Trump and Xi agree a trade deal in the next few weeks, it would surprise Spy not a single jot if the rally we have had of late turns into powerful roaring boom, especially in Chinese equities.
Spy has come across more than a few people who have switched or are soon to be changing roles.
Spy reported a while ago that Tamora Chan had stepped down from Lombard Odier in Singapore as marketing head. Spy can now reveal that Tamora has joined BNP Paribas Wealth Management as head of brand & communications in Singapore. Tamora was a journalist with Reuters for many years before switching to marketing. Spy notes that BNP Paribas WM, similar to its asset management counterpart, is working hard to educate clients on Impact, SRI and ESG investing.
In January, HSBC Private Bank pinched Cynthia Lee, veteran JP Morgan Private Bank executive to head its private wealth solutions in North Asia. Spy is not sure who has replaced Cynthia. According to Cynthia’s LinkedIn profile, she was with JPM for more than 13 years. For its part, JPM PB has been doing its best to warn clients that the investment cycle is rather mature. It has published one of the most elegant explainers Spy has seen.
For naysayers about American economic power, though, the report above reminds readers that since 2009 the US economy has grown from $14trn GDP to $21trn. Not bad for a mature economy.
Spy has also learned that Ernest Low is stepping down from his role as deputy head of investment and wealth management at Axa in Singapore. Ernest is moving to a bank in Singapore in March, although Spy has not been to establish which one, despite his most charming efforts. Since September 2018, Pierre-Emmanuel Brard has been overseeing wealth and investments at the French Insurance giant in Singapore, with Norman Wu focusing on fund selection.
Spy managed to miss a January move: Beng Eu Lim, an experienced Asia fund industry executive, has joined MSCI as head of client coverage in Southeast Asia. Beng Eu has previously held roles with Aviva Investors, State Street Global Advisers and the robo-adviser, Bento.
As many readers will know, Spy prefers to look on the amusing side of life, something he feels is all too often lacking in asset and wealth management communications here in Asia (Why are we all so serious? Perhaps a question for several glasses of Chateau Margeaux). It was therefore a pleasure to discover that Eastspring has launched a new portal with humorous outlook articles looking at market potential. It is called Insights Out and has the jolliest design Spy has seen in a long time.
If you want an inkling of what Hong Kong consumers are buying in the fund space, look no further than Hang Seng’s list of bestsellers.
Spy could not find a single fund in the top 10 that was not an income fund. We have high yield, American Income, emerging market income, multi-income, Asia-Pacific income, well you get the point. In Asia, ignore the appetite for income at your peril when trying to market funds.
There is an old saying, “Don’t fight the Fed.” In our part of the world, one may accurately say, Don’t fight the Bank of Japan. The Bank of Japan’s assets on its balance sheet are now larger than 100% of GDP. Five years ago it was merely 40% and 10 years ago a paltry 20%. It is hard to get too bearish when central banks sit with unlimited printing and buying power should things get wobbly.
Even a jaded curmudgeon like Spy is aware that Valentine’s Day has just passed. Spy noted a few asset managers trying to tell the market about the stocks “They have loved for the long term” in a rather saccharine PR push. Spy’s response: “Roses are red, violets are blue, forecasts are great, but dividends most true.” Hardly romantic but with Hong Kong’s restaurant prices, rather practical thinks Spy.
JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon was a very public and very harsh critic of cryptocurrencies, something late stage bitcoin investors probably came to view as utterly prescient. It seems the bank itself did not, however, ignore the benefits of the underlying technology. Bloomberg has reported that the bank has launched its own “coin” to help manage a core part of its own banking business. Spy strongly suspects that after the bitcoin blow-off and crash, we are now in the next stage of Gartner’s Hype Cycle with the technology: Stealthily, real applications are being developed and utilised that in a decade or two will lead to profound and valuable change.
Spy’s photographers have spotted new advertising in Hong Kong on the side of a taxi from Samsung Asset Management. The ad campaign at that precise moment was a tad overshadowed by Barings’ rather joyful peacock in the background. As in nature, so in advertising, muses Spy?
Allianz Global Investors is trying to send everyone back to school in their newsprint campaign:
Until next week…