The new unit will be led by Choon Wah Wong, who was recruited from Partners Group where he was a senior portfolio manager. Ted Roy, who was formerly deputy manager on Standard Life’s secure real estate fund, is transferring from Edinburgh to Singapore to join him.
Standard Life Investments is applying for a Capital Markets Services Licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore and fund launches may be in store for the future, a spokeswoman said.
The four-strong Singapore office, which opened last week, is completed by Tervinder Chal as head of finance and operations – he was formerly country chief for Singapore at Irish fund operations outfit Alter Domus – and Jason Lam, a business developer specialising in sales to wholesale buyers and private banks in the region, who is currently based in Standard Life Investments’ existing sales office in Hong Kong.
Though the new office represents the first on-the-ground fund management capabilities for Standard Life Investments, Lam’s distribution role is also key. A spokeswoman said: “Singapore is a gateway to south east Asia. We have been doing a lot of business there. It’s a leading hub for many private banks.”
Standard Life Investments, which manages £269 billion, is one of the UK’s leading investment managers but, unlike some rivals, is thin on the ground in Asia. A little more than 50 of its 1,500 staff work in the region, split between the 40-strong Hong Kong hub, a sales office in Tokyo employing 11 people and small representative offices in Beijing and Seoul. There is also an office in Sydney.
Colin Clark, the fund manager’s head of global clients, said at the firm’s annual update to analysts in May: “In 2010, we had a limited global footprint… when we started to internationalise in earnest which I think I would date at about 2009-2010, we focused first of all on mature Western markets – go where the money is.
“Asia is growing very fast and it is important we establish a presence there, but it is still going to be 2050 before the assets in Asia as a whole eclipse the size of assets of the Western markets.”
Nevertheless, he said, since 2014 Standard Life Investments’ Asian assets have grown by 80% to £10.3 billion. It has established a number of partnerships with financial groups in the region – HDFC in India, Sumitomo in Japan, Manulife, a Canadian insurer active in the region, and most recently, in May, the Chinese asset manager Bosera.
As well as distribution clout – SLI funds are sold through these firms’ networks – SLI’s clients will have access to the firms’ own Indian, Chinese and Japanese equity and fixed income funds. The new Singaporean property capability, however, adds another tool.
In addition, the firm has also transferred Mark Baker, a fund manager on its London emerging market debt team, to the Hong Kong office, in order to stay close to markets in the region.
In a statement on October 12, Rod Paris, chief investment officer and executive director of Standard Life Investments, said that building a presence on the ground: “allows us to be closer to investors and gain deeper insight into regional markets”.