Best of the bunny

Editor Jame DiBiasio picks his favourite AsianInvestor online stories from the Year of the Rabbit.
Best of the bunny

Much of Asia is about to close down for the lunar new year as we usher in the Year of the Dragon. Few will mourn the passing of the Year of the Rabbit.

Like a frustrating game of footy, the Rabbit was a year of two halves. The first half we were hopping merrily along. This rabbit was the Easter Bunny, fluffy and overloaded with candy, and even the Arab Spring was imbued with hope.

Then came revised market data, the US debt-ceiling debacle, and the return of the euro crisis. The second half saw our cute critter transform into something more like Bugs Bunny, humbling us with caustic one-liners and con artistry. was at the forefront of reporting and analysis on the asset-management industry in Asia throughout. Here are a dozen examples selected by the editor – not necessarily those stories that received the most internet traffic, but those that revealed something about the nature of this industry or provided unique information to our readers.

Our site will be closed over the new-year holiday, and back online on Thursday, January 26. Kung hei fat choy! Gong xi fa cai!

12. Asset managers assess impact of US downgrade
Leigh Powell, August 8

One of the biggest stories of the year was America losing its AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor’s. It spurred us to conduct research-led magazine pieces about a post-AAA world. We were also active online, such as this piece by our website editor, Leigh Powell, whose extensive interviews helped readers understand implications for portfolio construction and risk management.

Leigh's article represents a host of insightful writing on both the US and European markets covered with an eye to inform an Asia-based readership. Examples include articles by editor Jame DiBiasio just before the US downgrade, Repo markets could face repricing chaos and How safe are your money-market funds?, which looked at how investors were bracing for trouble. He also wrote about strategies to ride out the eurozone crisis.

11. Korea’s NPS appoints panel of transition managers
Joe Marsh, April 1

Not an April’s Fool joke, this story by magazine managing editor Joe Marsh broke the news of the world’s fourth-largest pension fund stepping up its use of service providers. At a time of market volatility, transitions have been big business. Joe’s story was both a scoop and in-depth, giving the market an inside view on the growing sophistication of one of the region’s biggest asset owners.

10. China emerging as new base for quant hedge funds
Yvonne Chan, December 19

Reporter Yvonne Chan highlighted a fast-growing area of business that has otherwise avoided the limelight. It is part of the growth of alternative investment strategies in China, despite the dearth of shorting instruments beyond index futures. AsianInvestor magazine has also delved into China’s unregulated funds industry, one of the most exciting developments in the country’s financial landscape.

9. Fortress, Bain and Abax set trend for China ‘go-private’ deals
Simon Osborne, August 22

The revulsion following revelations that some US-listed Chinese companies were cooking their books has led to the idea that unloved managements with genuine stories should de-list and go private, with a view to listing again in Hong Kong or elsewhere in Asia. Reporter Simon Osborne, who left AsianInvestor in December, was ahead of the pack in identifying the players and analysing their strategies.

8. Julius Baer gains QFII licence, expands RMB offering
Joe Marsh, March 10

AsianInvestor reported the news about this Swiss private bank becoming the first to win a QFII licence and roll out renminbi-denominated products. It is the start of a huge trend for private banks in Hong Kong and Singapore. For astute fund executives, our story gave plenty of heads up about providing innovative products to an important wholesaler. For private bankers, the story gave an inside look at how Julius Baer went about winning this licence.

7. Meet the Diggles: Asia’s biggest family office launches with Vulpes
Simon Osborne, March 3

The shift from one of Singapore’s most experienced hedge-fund managers to operating a family office is indicative of how these industries are going. Hedge funds went on to have a terrible year; family wealth in the region continued to institutionalise. This story was a scoop; we also covered the demise of the Diggles’ Artradis fund, which closed early in the year.

6. Bank of Korea to hire reserves management head
Dr Lee Insup, September 15

Our Korea correspondent, Dr Lee Insup, broke this news about Bank of Korea looking to professionalise how it manages its substantial pool of assets. He followed up with more stories about restructuring the reserves-management team and hiring a new CIO from the market, all bold moves for this conservative central bank.

5. HKMA enters alternative investments
Jame DiBiasio, April 28

A scoop, as editor Jame DiBiasio reveals that the HKMA invested over $2 billion to real-estate and hedge-fund subsidiaries. Central banks continue to diversify across the risk spectrum, while investors of all stripes continue to raise allocations to products that aren’t correlated to their traditional holdings of public securities. HKMA is among the biggest, and most secretive. The story was news to the market.

4. E Fund set to sell retail QFII fund by year’s end
Leanne Wang, October 12

This was an early shot across the bow regarding the importance of what’s now called RQFII, or renminbi-QFII, and which was once referred to as ‘mini-QFII’. Reporter Leanne Wang has been on top of big themes including RQFII and the dim-sum market all year long. This is an early example of many stories from her that broke news as well as kept our readership abreast of fast-changing opportunities.

Other examples include Investment firm boasts of synthetic route to onshore China, Issue of RQFII guidelines expected by year end, and Jostling begins among fund firms after RQFII launch, as well as breaking news on money markets, regulation of private equity and many other China-related topics.

3. North American pension funds look to deepen Asia relationships
Jame DiBiasio, November 12

It’s a truism that Western investors will allocate more to Asia, but why, when and how? Jame DiBiasio’s analysis of the likes of Calpers highlights the opportunity that Asia represents for international real-money accounts, but also how difficult it is for even the biggest to operate here, particularly given the fact that Asia doesn't need capital. Look for institutional investors from the West to seek partnerships, JVs and advice on how to best tap Asian economic growth. 

2. India’s Sebi responds to fund manager frustrations
Leigh Powell, May 5

India’s retail funds market holds incredible promise but it seems as though regulatory authorities are undermining that. The Securities and Exchange Board of India has a reputation for being aloof and above questioning by local industry executives, but Leigh Powell found the director behind Sebi’s controversial moves eager to defend the regulator’s decisions and explain its vision for a vibrant fund-management industry. Sebi has since attempted to undo some of its rules around commissions, engendering a welcome response from the funds industry, as Leigh writes in Indian managers reflect on a year of positive change by Sebi. This interview represented a unique window into the thinking behind one of Asia’s most powerful regulators.

1. Asia’s ETF industry tipped for a shakeout
Joe Marsh, August 29

AsianInvestor has covered the rise of exchange-traded funds in Asia for more than a decade, and particularly in the past two years, as investors began to use these transparent, low-cost beta instruments. ETFs seemed to be a bright spot in the post-crisis world.

But Joe Marsh sensed that the industry was becoming overcrowded at a time when regulators were becoming wary of the synthetic variety of ETF. This prescient article warned that the region might see big changes. Joe then broke the news on October 26 that an international firm was about to delist its Hong Kong-listed ETFs. We had solid reason to believe this was Lyxor, a tip that proved accurate.

ETFs remain an important part of the industry, and regulators have resumed approving synthetic products, as reported by Leigh Powell (Are synthetic ETFs set for a rebirth in Hong Kong?) but our reporting cautions the industry that offerings must be truly innovative and properly structured if they are to succeed.

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