2021's marquee award winners, explained (part 2)
Every year, AsianInvestor's editorial team conduct an intensive analysis of the region's leading asset management service providers, fund products and asset managers, to ascertain the top organisation of each category over the previous year.
The winners of these categories must combine a mixture of business performance, growth and progress, measured on both quantitative and qualitative criteria.
Below, we conclude this year's explanation of our awards with the second half of this year's marquee winners. This year's champions were picked by our panels of judges from shortlisted entrants for each award category. We want to thank our judges for taking the time to offer their views on each of these participants. The award entrants were assessed on their business growth, reaction to the pressures of Covid-19, and product innovation and meeting client needs.
Please click here to read the first part of our marquee awards. In addition, you can click here to view the first part of the asset class awards and click here to see the second part. You can also click here to view the explanations for the winners of the first half of our local fund manager awards, and click here to view the second part. And to read about the rationales behind this years top Asset Service Providers, please click here.
BEST PASSIVE FUND MANAGER (ASIA-FOCUSED)
CSOP Asset Management
The efforts of CSOP Asset Management to be on the frontlines of exchange-traded fund (ETF) product development, distribution and liquidity continue to bear fruit.
The fund manager saw its assets under management rise by over 68% during 2020 to over $10 billion, in large part as a result of it having launched a series of well-received passive products during the year. Over half this amount was in the hands of institutional investors.
By the end of 2020, CSOP AM was managing 27 ETFs or exchange-traded products, which had a combined AUM of over $8.5 billion.
CSOP AM remains a powerful player in the secondary market too. It boasted nine of the top 20 most-traded ETFs on the HKEX. Its dominance is particularly evident in the leveraged and inverse product space, where it accounted for over 95% of market share by size, while the combined AUM of the products surpassed HK$13.14 billion ($1.69 billion).
Other milestones in the year included CSOP launching the first Hang Seng Tech Index-tracking ETF, called CSOP HS Tech ETF, which broke the historical listing day turnover record originally set by Hong Kong’s first ETF, the Tracker Fund. By the end of 2020, the HS Tech ETF’s AUM stood at over HK$6 billion.
Added to this, CSOP AM continues to create products to offer investors in Hong Kong a chance to build passive exposure to China’s stock market. These included the CSOP CSI 500 ETF and the Star 50 Index ETF. All-round, the manager continues to build on its existing strengths to stand at the forefront of passive investing in Hong Kong.
BEST INSTITUTIONAL PRODUCT/STRATEGY
HSBC Asset Management – infrastructure debt platform
The infrastructure debt investment platform of HSBC Asset Management was established to help meet a need – namely the rising appetite of institutional investors and particularly life insurers for fixed income products that offered a little bit more yield but remained safe.
Established in 2018, the platform has grown to possess funds under management of well over $2 billion by the end of 2020, much of which it had invested across dozens of transactions with over 20 issuers. offers secure, long-term cashflows that can be incorporated into the liability-matching program of insurance companies.
2020 proved to be a busy period for the infrastructure debt team, which ended up investing over $500 million across close to 20 different deals. These included acting as a lead investor in deals across Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and the US in investments that included investing into private debt of an Asian electricity transmission company and debt issued from a South American solar panel company.
HSBC AM says the track record of these investments has been strong so far as well, providing an average gross yield premium of over 100 basis points above similarly rated corporate debt.
The infrastructure team also continued to gain new investment allocations during the year. One sizeable Asian insurer committed to invest over one million dollars into its Senior Global Infrastructure Debt Fund in November 2020, following a competitive selection process. Similarly, another regional insurer agreed to invest well over $100 million into HSBC AM’s higher yielding Global Infrastructure Debt Fund in January.
AIA was one institution to pick HSBC AM’s infrastructure debt services, in 2019. At the time, group chief investment officer Mark Konyn explained his reasons for choosing HSBC AM, complementing its “unique insight and experience in infrastructure across the region, and a proven track record of sourcing opportunities”.
BEST ESG STRATEGY ADVISER
As one of the most dedicated fund managers when it comes to environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles, Amundi has continued to underline its credentials in Asia over the past year.
The France-headquartered asset manager had €378 billion ($460.48 billion) in responsible assets under management at the end of 2020, including $19 billion in green bonds. Last year it completed ahead of time a plan for all of its open-ended funds to include an environmental and social impact analysis of the companies into which they invest.
Amundi has committed personnel to ESG across the world. It has close to 100 people either directly employed in its ESG business or offering dedicated ESG roles in its global asset management business. And there are plans for some more, particularly in the US. It is expanding its product array too, recently launching a social bonds fund, one of the first to be available.
In Asia Pacific, Amundi has continued efforts to expand the region’s investment engagement with ESG. In Asia Pacific, it had previously announced a $500 million Asia bond climate portfolio with Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in September 2019, and it followed this a year later with the establishment of a Climate Change Investment Framework in September 2020.
The purpose is to help investors better understand how companies are matching up to the Paris Agreement. Amundi was then appointed by AIIB to manage a $500 million Asia Climate Bond Portfolio in January 2021, which seeks to invest into labelled and unlabelled corporate bonds from issuers based upon the framework.
In addition, the fund house’s Planet Emerging Green One fund, which was the first ever emerging market green bond fund when launched in 2018, has enjoyed such success since launch that Amundi followed it with by introducing the Amundi Funds Emerging Market Green Bond Fund in September 2020.
BEST ASSET MANAGER FOR DIVERSITY
HSBC Asset Management
As part of HSBC Group, HSBC Asset Management has sought to inculcate better inclusiveness through its Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) initiative. The programme is led by (the somewhat ironically named) Stuart White, global head of strategy for HSBC Asset Management, and he also a member of the Diversity Project, a cross-company initiative to champion more inclusiveness across the investment industry.
HSBC Asset Management has numerous goals as part of its DE&I initiative, including tolerance training, increasing the representation of women to senior roles and raising the representation of minority groups into senior roles. It has also signed up to the 30% Club, which aims to ensure at least 30% of senior leadership roles are women by 2020; it stood at 30.3% by last year.
The fund house does not just espouse these principles, it has key examples of diversity. Its global chief investment officer is Joanna Munro, a founding member of the Diversity Project. Meanwhile the Asia Pacific CIO is Cecilia Chan, Mary Bowers is head of global high yield and Tina Radovic is global head of credit research. She oversees a team of around 45, 40% of whom are female.
In Asia itself, HSBC Asset Management has embarked on inclusivity projects, including recently agreeing to act as a sponsor for the ‘Inspiring Girls’ international charity project in Hong Kong. The project, which will be operated by Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide in Hong Kong, partners with local and international schools in the city to show girls the enormous array of career possibilities available to them, including into finance and asset management.
In addition, during 2020 HSBC AM developed a customised ESG Investment Module in partnership with Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) for its client-facing teams. The fund manager also sponsored the CFA ESG certificate for its investment teams.
BEST ASIAN FUND HOUSE
UOB Asset Management
For the third year in a row, Singapore-headquartered fund manager UOB Asset Management has impressed for its dedication to evolve the services it offers institutional, corporate and retail clients alike at home and in the region.
This year’s judges particularly highlighted the fund house’s focus on both technology and environmental, social and governance (ESG), two areas that are becoming increasingly integral to asset managers across the world.
In the former, UOB AM could point to the launch of UOBAM Invest, its robo adviser investment service, to retail clients in Singapore and Thailand. The fund house had originally launched the product as an online portal for corporate clients in 2018, but it rolled it out to the retail market amid the Covid-19 pandemic emergence after observing spikes in demand for digital investing products.
The rollout has been a success so far, with UOBAM Invest garnering well over S$400 million in assets from retail investors in Singapore and Thailand as of February 2021. This was on top of close to S$1 billion that it has gained from several hundred corporate clients located in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
On the sustainability side, UOB AM became a signatory of the United Nations supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) in January 2020 and has built a specialist team to ensure ESG is incorporated into its equities, fixed income and multi-asset investment teams. It also added a Sustainability Academy in 2020 to offer a series of training and development programmes for over 400 of its employees in the region.
UOB AM was active on the product side too, creating a United Sustainable Credit Income Fund, Singapore’s first bond fund for retail investors that focuses on bonds from companies making progress under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Lastly, UOB AM continues to steadily expand its business across Southeast Asia. In January 2021 it acquired VAM Vietnam Fund Management and renamed it UOB Asset Management (Vietnam) Fund Management. The fund house is now busily helping provide its new subsidiary with sustainable, smart beta and multi-asset strategies, as well as offering it data analytics and artificial intelligence support.
The latest acquisition will ensure that UOB AM, which already sources over half of its assets under management from outside of Singapore, continues to enjoy growing client diversification.
BEST ASSET MANAGER
Amid a trying year for all fund managers, Invesco stood out for its growth, professionalism and dedication to meeting the needs of asset owners across Asia.
The fund manager enjoyed a robust year for assets under management, expanding its regional total by around one third to well over $150 billion, in large part due to expanding in China. The majority of this was in managed assets, which grew by over 40% during the year.
Invesco’s products have generally been good performers. Over five years, around 75% of its products outperformed their peers; over one year, the amount was 60%. Meanwhile 85% of its Asia Pacific funds beat their benchmark medians over five years, and 88% did so during 2020 alone.
China remains a key strength for Invesco. Its local joint venture Invesco Great Wall enjoyed inflows of close to $10 billion last year, supported by fund launches, while its AUM expanded by nearly 50% to hit Rmb432 billion ($67.52 billion). This was based on part on strong performance; over 90% of its China equity products outperformed their benchmarks over one, three and five years.
In tandem with this, the business has successfully gained more traction with institutional investors in China, growing by over 50% last year to over $30 billion.
While China was the jewel in Invesco’s Asia crown, it boasted successes elsewhere too. One was the fund manager’s Bespoke Beta Strategy, which was developed to passive buy and maintain bond positions across a wide array of bonds using a specific index and fundamental credit and liquidity screening. It launched in Japan last year and garnered a multi-billion mandate by the beginning of this year.
Elsewhere, Invesco picked up new mandates from government-linked sovereign investors across Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, which included winning a $100 million ESG equities mandate from a client in the latter region. Further such mandates are being discussed.
The ESG drive is emerging elsewhere too. The manager has long excluded investing its Asia equity and Greater China portfolios into alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, pornography, gambling or controversial weapons, but it has supplemented this with its ESG-specific mandate focuses.
Invesco also responded quickly to the impact of Covid-19, with its chief global strategist and representatives hosting daily calls and creating webinars and publications to best inform clients across the globe. Webinars proved to be particularly useful, with sessions for Indian high new worth individuals regularly drawing 400 clients, and some doubling that amount.
Last, Invesco has continued to innovate on the product side. It worked with key Thai clients to launch fixed maturity products for local investors limited by how much they can invest internationally; as a result, it quintupled its mutual fund assets in the country from the end of 2019 to February 2021.
Other notable advances included launching the Invesco China Equity Fund in November 2020, which drew several hundred million dollars of investor assets through distributor Credit Suisse in three months.