Asset managers in Asia are innovating by building networked operations across multiple and disparate markets in the region, creating what will be templates for use by their Western peers, says Steve Matthews, chief operating officer of trade processing technology provider Omgeo.

“The challenge is to achieve harmonisation across different markets that are certainly not homogenous by any stretch,” says Boston-based Matthews. “It requires our clients to have a very open mind and to be innovative to solve those problems.”

An example is Manulife Asset Management, which has offices with investment capabilities in the US, Canada, the UK, and 10 markets in Asia, with a total of $217 billion in AUM. Its global head of investment operations, Ismail Gunes, is based in Hong Kong, which is where he is overseeing the multi-year build-out of a bespoke global operational platform that it expects to be used by other asset managers in the future.

The North American firm, which has in-house middle office operations in all the markets in which it has a presence, is creating a central portfolio accounting function, located in Manila. The platform will be tailored to meet the individual needs of each country market.

“We are trying to determine the business model in each country and to define the business model and risk model around it,” says Gunes. “That’s the biggest challenge. We are trying to marry global concepts, with very localised business requirements.” 

Matthews suggests that a lot of innovation is going to come out of Asia, "because [here] you need to operate in a number of different ways to address the needs of multiple markets. 

“Our Asian clients are some of the most efficient and forward-thinking in terms of driving automation and avoiding manual processes. We’re going to end up learning a lot from partnering our clients in Asia that we can share with Europe and the US.”

Omgeo plans to boost its headcount in Asia – where it has one-third of its 600 global staff – as the demand for more operational networks is expected to grow in line with the region’s burgeoning asset management industry.

The firm last week announced the hire of Cornelia Dagdag, the former chief executive at the Philippine Central Depository, who will head the growth of Omgeo’s business among broker-dealers and banks in Asia. Dagdag takes on the role of executive director for sales and solution delivery, based in Manila.