BlackRock has hired Sabrina Gan from Schroders as head of retail distribution in Singapore as it strives to streamline its product offerings to clients in the region.
Gan started this Monday to work in conjunction with counterpart Julia Lee, who joined the firm this January as head of retail distribution for Hong Kong. Both now report to Heather Pelant, head of retail and private bank distribution for Hong Kong, Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Gan’s remit is to grow BlackRock’s retail distribution business out of the Lion City, encompassing product lines including mutual funds and iShare ETFs.
Pelant says BlackRock may look to combine the two approaches – active and indexing – in a bespoke offering, “possibly a combination that we haven’t even heard of yet until we really get in and understand what clients are interested in doing”.
Most recently Gan worked as business development manager for retail sales and distribution at Schroders. She departed on March 27, with a Schroders’ spokesman saying the firm is looking for a replacement.
Gan’s appointment comes as BlackRock seeks to consolidate product lines under Asia-Pacific chairman Mark McCombe, who has made retail sales one of his priorities since taking up his role in late 2011.
Since that time BlackRock has revamped its Asia distribution team, relocating Chang Lin-Yun from Taipei to Hong Kong in September as head of retail for Asia ex-Japan. It also then transferred Pelant from the US.
Meanwhile, Lavin Mok, who had joined BlackRock from EdRram in December 2010 as head of retail sales for Hong Kong and Singapore, left.
BlackRock says the reshuffle was made on the basis that institutional clients were faced with too many product specialists, marketing active or passive strategies in equities, fixed income and alternatives.
“It’s quite a dramatic change," admits Pelant, suggesting it is better for one relationship manager to be talking to clients rather than two or three, "as was the case previously”.
She notes that one major challenge of introducing such a retail distribution structure is the need to train talent so they are able to introduce BlackRock's full range of products to clients.
Another is the need for the firm to beef up its operational muscle as client offerings become more bespoke. “They are manageable [challenges], but those would be the two biggest we have seen,” says Palent.
While declining to discuss potential product launches, she notes that her client conversations have chiefly revolved around interest rate and duration risk, as well as currency.
On the question of building up its Hong Kong-domiciled funds platform prior to the mooted introduction of the Hong Kong-China mutual funds recognition scheme, Palent notes that it will be an advantage to be a first-mover and ready to act when the scheme eventually gets the go-ahead.
She adds that BlackRock has no plans to build a Singapore-domiciled funds platform.