BlackRock’s head of channel sales in Taiwan will leave the firm, against a backdrop of a stagnating assets in its local actively managed products, even as the firm's exchange-traded funds business flourishes.  

Vincent Ma's last day at the asset management giant will be February 28, a company spokeswoman told AsianInvestor, which could not ascertain what Ma’s next move might be.

Ma oversees fund sales through wholesale distributors such as banks, securities houses and insurance firms, and has been with BlackRock since 2012, according to his LinkedIn profile. 

Sean Huang will succeed him but with a different title – head of wealth sales distribution – following a company restructure this year, the spokeswoman said. Huang is a director on the retail team in Taiwan according to his LinkedIn page.

Sean Huang: promoted

The move comes as BlackRock's Taiwan assets under management (AUM) slipped recently.

Blackrock's offshore funds in Taiwan recorded an $887 million drop in AUM between October 2017 and September 2018, Donna Chen, founder and president of Taipei-based consultancy Keystone Intelligence, told AsianInvestor.

That said, its offshore funds posted a total 11% increase in AUM over the last five years. As of September 2018, the firm had $8.4 billion in assets across 52 offshore funds, up from $7.6 billion five years ago, said Chen.

As for onshore products, as of September BlackRock had five insurance-linked mandates totalling $700 million, and $174 million in AUM across 10 onshore funds, she added.

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.

ETF ATTRACTION

Nonetheless, BlackRock's exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are doing well in Taiwan, and it seems they are becoming a key business focus there, a Taipei-based executive at another asset manager told AsianInvestor.

The BlackRock spokeswoman declined to comment on the ETF point, saying only that the Taiwan business had launched target-date umbrella funds in July and had registered an equity fund this year.

However, that the firm's ETF business is thriving in Taiwan appears to be supported by recent comments made to AsianInvestor by Geir Espeskog, Asia-Pacific head of distribution for iShares, BlackRock's ETF arm.

Insurers in Taiwan are increasingly using ETFs within their investment-linked policies as core components of their portfolios, he told AsianInvestor last month. BlackRock has raised $1.35 billion from insurers in Taiwan for ETFs for use in such products this year, taking total iShares assets in this segment to around $3 billion, Espeskog said.

“They’ll fill certain gaps or certain parts of their asset allocations with ETFs," he added. "In some cases, they fill their whole asset allocation with ETFs. We’ve seen the segment in Taiwan grow rapidly."

Separately, BlackRock last month announced new regional leadership, announcing the appointment of Geraldine Buckingham as chair and head of Asia Pacific, succeeding Ryan Stork, who will become deputy global chief operating officer.

Both appointments will take effect in February, when Buckingham will relocate to Hong Kong from New York, with Stork moving in the other direction.

*This story has been updated to reflect growth in AUM over five years, but a fall in the past year.