In 2008, the global asset management industry lost $9.8 billion of assets from mutual funds, retirement products and publicly known institutional mandates. Professionally managed AUM fell from $53.0 trillion at the end of 2007 to $43.2 trillion a year later, or about 18%.

The picture in Asia ex-Japan is better, according to Cerulli calculations. Professionally managed AUM fell from $1.6 trillion to $1.3 trillion during 2008, or about 19%.

That would suggest a similar scale of decline but from a smaller base, says Ken Yap, Singapore-based director for Asia and Australia.

However, about two-thirds of this loss comes from China's mutual fund market. Remove that and the losses in the rest of Asia start to look much more modest, with a loss of around 10-11%.

The Chinese market has rebounded sharply since the start of the year. "What this suggests is that AUM growth will be 5-6x over a five-year period instead of 11-12x that was originally projected," Yap says.

Moreover, while most of the losses in the United States have been in equity funds, Asian retail investors retain appetite for equities.

The small size of Asian markets means this relatively good news is of little comfort to many global fund houses, which cannot afford expansion in emerging markets if their home office is troubled. For those managers with a stable business, however, this year represents a good chance to break into Asia.

Worldwide, Cerulli has downsized its industry growth forecasts, from 7.9% by 2013 to 5.5% (compound annual growth rates), suggesting the global level of professionally managed assets will reach $56.5 trillion -- just a bit more than where it stood at the end of 2007. The proportion for Asia could grow, but this is likely to depend on the volatile Chinese market.