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The FSA Spy market buzz – 27 July 2018

OMGI loses, Nikko AM adds, Columbia Threadneedle pinches, Vontobel rotates, LGT loses; Matthews Asia is opening; GSAM roars; Facebook truths; advertising and much more.
The FSA Spy market buzz - 06 April 2018

Spy was sitting at one of Hong Kong’s more glamourous rooftop bars last night, escaping the dreadful humidity that has descended on the city as the summer grinds on. Beers were flowing more slowly than treacle in mid-winter as the service was even more dreadful than the weather. Dull-eyed waiters, who have long since perfected the art of seeing past you, despite rain dances for attention, languidly attended our lively grouping. It occurred to Spy during the conversation that asset and wealth management in Asia has many of its employees in a form of Stockholm Syndrome. Half the attendees claimed they wanted to take time out from the industry and do something more “exciting”, “dynamic” or “different” and yet without exception, they confessed they did could not leave such a well-paid industry. They may not love Big Brother, but they certainly all loved their captors.

Spy has emerged from the summer lull to discover the great job rotation carries on across the industry.

First up on the list of changes is Carol Wong at Old Mutual Global Investors who has stepped down from her role. Based in Hong Kong, Carol was managing director and in charge of distribution in the region. There is no news of her replacement. Gerard Clancy remains in charge of distribution in Southeast Asia, based in Singapore. OMGI is about to undergo a name change to Merian Global Investors as the company is no longer owned by Old Mutual plc. As of this morning, OMGI has managed a neat trick and has two funds that have delivered precisely 14.2% over the last year: World Equity and North American Equity.

Spy has discovered that Japanese asset manager Nikko has hired a local head of distribution and business development in Singapore. Darius Foo joined from Aberdeen Standard where he was senior manager of channel development. Nikko’s Shenton Emerging Enterprise Discovery Fund is up 25% over the 12 months.

Spy understands that Columbia Threadneedle has pinched Sophia Shi from M&G to expand the distribution team in Singapore. Sophia was previously associate director for intermediary channels at the British firm. Columbia Threadneedle has performed well in the US large cap space over the last year, with the American Class AU fund up a healthy 17%.

Spy has heard that Swiss private bank, Vontobel, has relocated Michael Haupt from Hong Kong back to Zurich in Switzerland. Michael was previously chief operating officer and the investment advisor for the firm in the region. Stephan Kolz, head of investment management in Asia will assume Michael’s role.

LGT has lost its chief investment strategist in Hong Kong, Stephen Corry. Spy has heard that Stephen has stepped down from his role, however, there is no news of who his replacement is or where Stephen is moving to. The Lichtenstein headquartered private bank has been steadily accumulating assets in the region and, of course, acquired ABN Amro’s Asian PB last year.

The steady march of international asset managers putting local teams in Asia continues at pace. According to a well-placed source, Matthews Asia will soon open in a new office in Singapore with a locally-based investment team. The California-headquartered, Asia-focused boutique has traditionally run money exclusively from its base in San Francisco. One must presume this will lead to a wider offering of funds and deeper support for distributors. Matthews continues to navigate the choppy waters in China with an impressive 33% return over the last 12 months for their China Smaller Companies Fund.

Who is having a good year? A voice whispered to Spy that Goldman Sachs Asset Management is making real progress with its distribution. GSAM is on a tear with its suite of “big data” funds that utilise sophisticated technology and big data analysis to improve the investment process. If Spy’s source is correct, GSAM has signed distribution agreements with four private banks and three retail banks between Hong Kong and Singapore who have agreed to add funds from this GSAM range to their focus lists. The flagship fund within the group, the GS Global CORE Equity Portfolio is up nearly 15% over the last 12 months.

Every week Spy is inundated with press releases gushing about this wealth management firm, that asset manager or this private bank. The PR statements are inevitably filled with over excited piffle. Last week a well-known Singapore-headquartered private bank issued a release extolling the news that it had ‘strategically’ hired three senior roles for greater China. Spy was left wondering when a bank does not hire strategically. Do HR departments sit around and say, “I know what, let’s hire a total doughnut for the role?” The release also included some useful suggestions for Twitter hashtags: #wealthmanagement #privatebanking. Spy has one too: #LetsTalkInAStraightForwardMannerBeforeWeAllGoCrazy

More ink is going to be spilled over Facebook’s Bad Day than other subjects in the next few days. Expect stunning metrics about the scale of their $120bn one-day market cap loss to bubble up like warm, shaken champagne (Spy’s favourite so far: you could have bought more than 325 Airbus A380 jets for that money. For context Singapore Airlines only has 118 aircraft in its whole fleet.) Spy suspects some portfolio managers who have missed the tech rally, will be rubbing their hands with a glee, or a touch of schadenfreude. For Spy, it is merely a much needed reminder that diversification matters. And it has never stopped mattering, just because one sector is on a tear. The traders in the market say they like a bit of volatility. Well, they got it.

Spy has spotted more and more wealth management adverts online in recent months: Standard Chartered, Bank of Singapore and now this week, Deutsche Bank Wealth Management. Not to be critical, but Spy was more excited about “God of Sushi” than being built around me.


Until next week…



Part of the Mark Allen Group.