After five years in Hong Kong, Frank Kusse, regional CEO at ABN Amro Asset Management, is being promoted and returning to Amsterdam as part of a major restructuring of how the firm runs its business.
At present the firm is run primarily along regional lines, which has served it well in Asia, Scandinavia and Latin America, but less consistently in Europe and the United States. "Globally we are moving from a geographic focus to one driven by function," he says, noting the current structure makes it awkward for functions to be managed consistently around the world.
Kusse is, therefore,being promoted to global head of retail and will leave for Amsterdam on August 7. This is the firm's biggest business, responsible for 70% of its profits. Kusse's reign in Asia oversaw the expansion of that business in this region, including the firm's successful move into guaranteed funds in Hong Kong, the acquisition and re-branding of Kwang Hwa Investment Trust in Taiwan and the launch of its China joint venture, ABN Amro Xiangcai Fund Management. Since being named regional CEO in 1999, Asia-sourced assets under management have risen from $4 billion to $14 billion. Today the firm manages $204 billion worldwide.
Although he says it is an exaggeration to say he was promoted to model the global business after the Asian model, Asia is a geography where the firm has pursued a cohesive strategy, which includes distributing through third parties and developing product specifically for particular markets.
Even in the Netherlands, where the firm has a large business, or the United States, where it has a large banking presence in Chicago, ABN Amro AM hasn't capitalized on its opportunities. And in Europe, geographic bases in Amsterdam, London and Stockholm have distracted from developing certain businesses, particularly in Italy. The remoulding of the firm along functional lines is meant to correct this.
In addition to retail, the other functions are institutional business, private banking, equities, fixed income, the back office and product development.
The firm will continue to have geographic managers, although their role will now be more about coordinating functional mandates rather than driving local strategies. Kusse will be replaced as regional CEO by Arne Lindman, who has built up the Nordic business from Stockholm. Lindman arrives in Hong Kong on August 31.
Eight country managers will report to Lindman as well as to Amsterdam for functional roles. Asian retail is being split into two areas. Carol Wong, regional director of investment services in Hong Kong, will be responsible for selling global product to retail investors. Local-to-local business (selling locally developed product to domestic clients) will be handled on a country-by-country basis in India, Indonesia and Taiwan.
Kusse will remain on the ABN Amro Xiangcai advisory board and will invite Lindman to also participate.