Chinese financial planner Noah opens HK subsidiary with five staff
Noah (China) Holdings announced it had opened a Hong Kong subsidiary after receiving a licence from the Securities and Futures Commission to offer investment advisory services.

The firm starts with five staff including three responsible officers. Francis Chang Chia-Yue comes in as director and CEO of Noah (Hong Kong), having been transferred from the firm’s mainland operation.

The company’s focus will be on business development, which comes under the remit of Shang Chuang, another internal transfer and one of the three responsible officers.

Kelvin Lao is compliance and risk officer, and he confirms arrangements are being made for a fund manager to transfer from an affiliate firm. He declines to name the incoming manager and says there is no fixed start date.

Noah (Hong Kong), which received its SFC licence last month, staged an official opening ceremony for its new office in Hong Kong’s Central district last week.  

It claims to be the first mainland Chinese independent financial institution to launch a subsidiary in the city, and the only one to do so that is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

“Our Hong Kong subsidiary enables us to introduce more diverse global financial investment products for our clients and reduce systemic risks,” says Chang.

She adds that it views the city as a gateway to global financial markets and a means to expand its Asia business, praising its free flow of information and mature regulatory and legal frameworks.

Noah Holdings was among a batch of four independent financial advisers (IFAs) to be granted mutual fund distribution licences in China this week – the first in almost eight years.

Among the four new licence holders, Noah is seen as best placed to offer tailored investment consulting services given that its clients are mostly high-net-worth investors in Asia.

“[Noah’s] large HNWI base positions the company to channel some HNWIs into a greater variety of mutual funds by screening products to match the risk tolerance of its capital-rich clients,” said consultancy Z-Ben Advisors.

“The primary obstacle remains convincing the largely self-made HNWI segment to readily accept, perhaps even seek, external advice on managing their hard-earned wealth.”

Noah (China) Holdings was set up in 2005 with its headquarters in Shanghai. As at September 30 last year it had over 500 qualified financial advisers in 53 mainland cities.

AMP Capital adds three PMs, targets fund launches
Infrastructure investment manager AMP Capital has expanded its Australian fundamental equities team and hired a portfolio manager to run a soon-to-be-launched global resources fund.

The firm, with over A$123 billion ($132 billion) in AUM as at the end of last year, appointed Andy Gardner as PM/analyst and Ed Rayner as senior PM/analyst, bringing to 13 the number of investment staff in its fundamental equities team based in Sydney. It comes as AMP looks to launch new products revolving around concentrated, income-focused and long/short strategies.

Gardner joined in January to focus on the Australian resources sector, having previously worked for MF Global; meanwhile Rayner is set to take up a permanent role in April running a core growth strategy, having been on six-month secondment from Alliance Bernstein since October.

Rayner’s switch is by arrangement and comes after French listed entity Axa SA sold its ownership in Axa Asia-Pacific Holdings in March 2011 to AMP, including ipac’s Australian assets. Axa had a joint-venture with Alliance Bernstein.

AMP also revealed that it planned to launch a global resources fund and had hired John Payne as senior portfolio manager to run it. He started last week, having previously run global resource strategies at Hexam Capital, Baring Asset Management, Invesco, Tiburon and Capital Elements.

Only this month AMP revealed it had won a €37 million ($49.5 million) investment allocation from its first US pension fund and endowment investor in the AMP Capital Infrastructure Debt Fund.

The fund, which invests in subordinated debt of key infrastructure assets, completed its fourth close, raising €326 million from 21 institutional investors across Japan, US, UK, Australia and Hong Kong.

AMP has made over 80 infrastructure (equity and debt) investments globally since 1988.

Nikko AM poaches Koh from Fidelity to run SE Asia marketing
Singapore-based Nikko Asset Management Asia has hired Joyce Koh in a newly created role as head of marketing. She started on February 23, having moved from US fund house Fidelity in Singapore where she ran marketing for Southeast Asia.

Prior to Tokyo-based Nikko AM’s acquisition of DBS Asset Management last year, marketing for the latter largely originated from parent DBS Bank.

Sue-Lyn Yeoh, vice-president of marketing and corporate communications at Nikko AM Asia and also previously at DBS AM, covered some of these responsibilities.

Koh’s hire follows a series of senior appointments at Nikko AM Asia in the past few months, including Eleanor Seet as president, previously at BlackRock’s exchange-traded funds unit iShares; Teck Keng Neo as head of middle and back office in a transfer from Nikko AM’s Tokyo headquarters; and Rodney Lim as head of compliance from UBS Global Asset Management.

Koh had worked with Fidelity since 2006, and before that oversaw marketing and brand development at Aviva Singapore from January 2003.

Fidelity says it has replaced Koh and the new hire will start in early March from a similar position at another asset management firm. However, it declined to reveal the name.

In an interview with AsianInvestor last October, Nikko AM's chairman and CEO Tim McCarthy noted that the firm was training its sights on launching Asian and emerging market fixed income products out of Singapore.

Nikko AM Asia had around $157 billion in AUM, including non-discretionary advised assets, as at December 31.

Withers to provide tax and trust advice out of “underserved” Singapore
Law firm Withers is set to open a Singapore office, its second Asia base, to provide tax and trust legal advice to institutions and individuals – a service it says Southeast Asia is underserved in.

Located in Raffles Place, it is scheduled to begin operations in May subject to regulatory approval – bringing to 10 the number of offices Withers has globally.

The Singapore team will feature Jay Krause, a US qualified partner who will head the firm’s wealth planning team in Asia. He will be joined by Phillip Munro, a UK and Hong Kong private client tax, trust and estates specialist. Further additions will be made in coming months.

Withers argues that its Singapore launch is indicative of the need for legal advice on cross-border tax matters among high-net-worth clients.

Krause says recent developments in international taxpayer information exchange have created demand for US and international tax knowhow in Singapore and its Southeast Asian neighbours.

“This need is increasing daily as more and more Asian institutions begin to come to grips with the far-reaching effects of the new US Foreign Account Tax Compliance (Fatca) legislation, requiring financial institutions and trust companies, among others, to identify their US clients and forward their details to local or US tax authorities,” he adds.

Withers opened its Hong Kong office in 2008.

Gray to combine global and Asia leadership in M&A consulting at Mercer
Investment consultancy Mercer has named Len Gray as global leader of its M&A consulting services business based in New York, effective immediately.

Gray, who retains his current role as regional M&A consulting leader for Asia-Pacific, will succeed Bob Bundy when he retires at the beginning of April.

“Human capital opportunities and risk mitigation in M&A transactions have never been more important and complex as dealmakers seek to successfully integrate people and processes, strengthen competitiveness and generate the maximum return on investment,” says Julio Portalatin, Mercer’s president and CEO.

Other people moves reported by AsianInvestor in the past week:

AusSuper adds Asia strategy specialist in landmark move

Pension fund picks ex-Goldman banker for Asia ramp-up