Allfunds, which claims to be the world’s largest fund distribution network, is set to open an office in Hong Kong as part of its Asian expansion plans and has hired two executives to man it, AsianInvestor has learned.

The Madrid-based firm has brought in distribution veteran Louis Poon to head the new branch, its second in the region after Singapore, according to a well-placed source. He most recently worked at Taikang Asset Management in Hong Kong and before that was head of Asia distribution for Russia's VTB Capital Investment Management.

Internationally, Allfunds has clients that include commercial banks, private banking institutions, asset managers, insurance companies and fund supermarkets. Its appointment of Poon may point to a particular interest in family offices; he is the senior executive vice chairman of the Hong Kong-based Association of Family Offices in Asia. Like insurers and private banks, family offices act as both users and distributors of funds.

Louis Poon

Joining Poon will be Stephanie Chan, who until July last year worked in client management at HSBC Securities Services and had a similar role at BNP Paribas Securities Services before that, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Chan and Poon both received licences for their new roles from Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) on March 25. 

Poon will report to David Perez de Albeniz, Allfunds’ Singapore-based head of Asia, who received an SFC licence on the same date.  

This is Perez’s second stint in charge of the region; he previously held the role from August 2014 to 2018, overseeing the set-up of the Singapore office in 2016. He relocated from Madrid in October last year, according to his LinkedIn profile, after Alexis Fosler had left the Asia head role some time before that.

VOTE OF CONFIDENCE

Allfunds' Hong Kong branch has been in the works for some time, but it had been delayed initially by months of protests in the city last year and then by the coronavirus outbreak this year, a source familiar with the platform told AsianInvestor

David Perez de Albeniz

That the firm is nonetheless pressing ahead with its plans is a vote of confidence in Hong Kong as a financial and investment hub. It also seems a likely indicator of Allfunds' ambition to ultimately tap the mainland Chinese market.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment for this story when contacted by AsianInvestor

Allfunds describes itself as ‘wealthtech’ company offering big data and analytics, portfolio and reporting tools, research and regulatory services. Founded in 2000, it has €620 billion ($675 billion) in assets under administration (AUA) globally across some 125,000 products on the platform, including mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. 

However, the platform faces challenges in building its business in Asia, most notably banks’ heavy dominance of fund distribution in the region. The firm also targets insurance companies and wealth managers, but the volumes through those channels are still relatively small.

Moreover, institutional investors do not tend to be big users of platforms like Allfunds. “We are more likely to deal directly with ETF providers or specialist ETF brokers,” one Hong Kong-based investment manager at an insurance firm told AsianInvestor.

Separately, Allfunds announced on March 31 that its head of data management, Jose Carlos Oviedo, has joined the board of directors of Openfunds. It is a non-profit association founded 2015 by UBS, Credit Suisse, Bank Julius Baer and FE Fundinfo with the aim of establishing a common industry standard to improve the exchange and dissemination of fund data.