Allianz Global Investors has laid off its Asia Pacific chief investment officer for multi-asset as part of a decision to do away with regional CIOs for the multi-asset division.

Stefan Nixel, who had worked at the German firm for some 14 years, left on April 6, as the dire economic implications of the Covid-19 outbreak were becoming increasingly clear. The removal of a management layer has also resulted in the recent departure of Nixel's US counterpart, Giorgio Carlino.

Stefan Nixel

There will be no change of process in Asia as a result of Nixel’s departure, including in respect of how the portfolios are run, a company spokeswoman told AsianInvestor. The regional multi-asset team was eight-strong at one point in 2017, but the firm declined to comment on its current size.

A London-based spokesman for AllianzGI said: "[The changes are] about evolving our investment proposition to ensure it continues to best meet the needs of our clients." They are not related to the coronavirus pandemic, he added. 

 

Nixel had joined the firm as Frankfurt-based senior portfolio manager for multi-asset in 2005 and relocated to Hong Kong to take up the CIO role five years ago. He had also worked for the firm in Tokyo and Shanghai, according his LinkedIn profile. Nixel could not be reached for comment.

The multi-asset team in Asia Pacific now reports directly to New York-based Thomas Zimmerer, global head of multi-asset investments, the spokeswoman said.

Zimmerer took up his current role in January, having previously served as global co-head of multi-asset alongside Carlino since January 2019, until the latter’s departure this year. The Europe CIO for multi-asset, Ingo Meinert, remains in place.

Thomas Zimmerer

Having worked at AllianzGI since 2001, Carlino had headed the US multi-asset team and lead-managed the the firm's global allocation fund since early 2015, said a note by research house Morningstar. Portfolio manager Heather Bergman took on the strategy when he left, the note added.

With Carlino's departure, AllianzGI "simplified the multi-asset leadership set-up" by moving away from the co-head structure, the London-based spokesman said.

When contacted by AsianInvestor, Carlino said he had parted with AllianzGI on good terms and was now considering a couple of work opportunities.

AllianzGI was among the many fund houses that rushed to build out multi-asset teams in Asia during 2016 and 2017. As of March 2019 it had €141 billion ($150.5 billion) in such strategies, 26% of its global AUM at that time, but declined to say how much of that was in Asia.

“PRESSURE IS MOUNTING”

However, many fund managers have been struggling to perform this year, “hence pressure is mounting”, a Singapore-based recruiter told AsianInvestor.

"It’s too early to say what other houses will do with their multi-asset teams," he said. "Most are aware that re-hiring these folks has not been easy and getting rid of them now may come back to bite them when they need to rehire.”

After all, there remains demand for such strategies in the region: in December, Chinese insurer CPIC chose five managers for its first dedicated global multi-asset mandate. 

Stil, it may be that the weaker, less profitable performers are forced into cuts in the multi-asset space – as in other investment segments – given the bleak economic outlook. That would continue a trend from the past year or so amid a tough environment, particularly for active fund managers.

Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI) saw its head of Hong Kong and Asia-Pacific head of real estate leave in April and December, respectively. Hong Kong-based David Lam and Singapore-based Kang Puay-Ju, who was also global head of the real estate multi-manager team, had their duties absorbed internally.

Other firms to have pared headcounts in Asia in recent months include Barings, BlackRock and Value Partners. Moreover, the trend of consolidating for cost-efficiency and scale has continued with the merger of US rivals Franklin Templeton and Legg Mason.