The head of BlackRock’s Taiwan business has moved on, as the US funds giant restructures its client coverage and leadership team in the country following a drop in its assets under management and cuts to the sales team there, AsianInvestor can reveal.

As part of the changes, the world’s biggest asset manager has added a chief operating officer (COO) and named a new head of wealth distribution and a new general manager for Taiwan.

After nearly six years as BlackRock’s chairman and head of Taiwan, Leo Seewald has decided to pursue opportunities outside the fund management industry, Asia-Pacific head Geraldine Buckingham said.

Leo Seewald

Seewald’s last day with BlackRock was August 5, according to one local industry source, but a company spokesman declined to confirm this. He said the firm was looking to replace Seewald.

In the interim, Graham Turl, Asia-Pacific general counsel, will be acting chairman for Taiwan, while Asia-Pacific COO Andrew Hambleton will step in as head of Taiwan. Both are based in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, BlackRock has hired Amy Yen as its new Taiwan COO to take on certain duties that previously fell under Seewald’s remit. She will start in mid-August, having most recently worked as an executive director at Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, the spokesman said.

SALES TEAM SHRINKAGE

However, BlackRock has downsized its sales team in the past year, multiple sources told AsianInvestor, with one saying that four or five people have left. The spokesman declined to comment on the number of departures or how many remained, saying only that the firm retained a sales team in Taiwan.

The most senior team member to have left in recent months is Vincent Ma, who had been Taiwan general manager and head of channel sales. He departed in February and has since joined Manulife Asset Management as Taiwan general manager.

Sean Huang

Sean Huang has taken on Ma’s wealth sales duties, while Simon She, a Taipei-based member of the Asia-Pacific client product strategy team, will assume the Taiwan general manager role, subject to regulatory approval, said the spokesman.

In a further change to the team structure, BlackRock has appointed Hong Kong-based Robert Reid as interim head of client business for Taiwan. That is in addition to his existing roles as head of strategy for Asia-Pacific client business and head of client business for Hong Kong. AsianInvestor understands that Reid has taken on the expanded role to absorb some of Ma’s former duties. 

The spokesman declined to confirm whether BlackRock would appoint a dedicated head of Taiwan client business in the future.

FALLING AUM

The recent staff changes come after BlackRock’s Taiwan AUM had fallen 16.77% to $8.6 billion between the end of 2017 and June 30 this year, while total industry assets grew 14% to $277.99 billion over the same period, show figures provided by Taipei-based market research firm Keystone Intelligence.

Offshore funds account for about 90% of BlackRock’s AUM in Taiwan, while its onshore mandates totalled just $667 million as of June 30, down from $781 million at end-2017, according to Keystone.

Foreign fund houses in general have had a tougher time in recent years in Taiwan. In 2013 the domestic Financial Supervisory Commission started moving to tighten rules to encourage offshore asset managers to make a greater commitment to the local investment industry. To that end, the watchdog brought into force what it called its ‘deep-cultivation plan’ in October 2016.