Blair Pickerell, one of the architects of the Asian funds market as we know it, is to retire at the end of this month after a 30 year career spent working across the Asia region.
The former Jardine Fleming, HSBC and Morgan Stanley IM CEO, now chairman of Nikko Asset Management in Hong Kong, will take up an independent directorship with a major US fund house, but expects to work at less than 50% of his current capacity.
“I have concluded that I have reached the stage when I should be spending more time doing things that I enjoy and less time stuck behind an office desk," said Pickerell in a private email. "Accordingly, I recently informed my employer (Nikko Asset Management) that I plan to retire from 1 August."
However 'semi-retire' is probably a better description, he admits, given the decision to retire from Nikko AM was driven by a recent offer from Principal Financial Group to serve as an independent director, an appointment he will take up from mid-August.
“This will require me to visit the US around five times per year to attend board meetings. I will continue to serve as an independent non-executive director of Dah Sing Financial Holdings in Hong Kong and as a member of the International Advisory Board of SEBI, the Indian securities regulator. My goal is to be busy with such activities only around 40-50% of the time."
Pickerell has cut an increasingly isolated figure at Nikko, as the 'multi-local' business strategy cultivated by former Nikko chairman and CEO Tim McCarthy (himself ex JF), was dismantled following McCarthy’s departure in 2012, and business strategy was increasingly driven from Tokyo.
McCarthy’s successor as CEO, Charles Beazley left the firm in early 2014 and Takumi Shibata assumed the CEO role, in addition to his roles as representative director and president.
Pickerell authored an insightful recent history of the Taiwanese funds market for AI’s 15th anniversary issue, which reveals some of his own influence in not just Taiwan, but Hong Kong and further afield.
He joined Nikko Asset Management in 2010 having previously been CEO Asia for Morgan Stanley Investment Management from 2007 and CEO Asia Pacific for HSBC Investments from 2003 to 2007. He began his career in Asia with Jardine Matheson in 1984, becoming managing director of Jardine Pacific in 1995 before taking on the role of chairman at Jardine Fleming (JF) Funds in 1999.
Speaking to AsianInvestor about his career, Pickerell said the most significant change that occurred during his time was the banks deciding to distribute funds. “This was something which started with us (JF) in Taiwan and the result is that it has revolutionised the distribution of funds (prior to this, it was mainly done by IFAs in Asia and Europe), making them much more widely available to retail investors all over the world."
"I have learned a great deal and made many friends from my 31 years at Jardines, HSBC, Morgan Stanley and Nikko Asset Management."
He and his wife Sandy plan to continue to live in Hong Kong.
Asked by AsianInvestor for a comment on Pickerell's departure, Nikko AM CEO Takumi Shibata said, “Blair has been instrumental in the expansion of our Asian business over the past five years. We are grateful for his tremendous contribution and we wish him the best in his future endeavours.”
Following Pickerell’s retirement, the senior person in the Hong Kong office of Nikko AM will be Yasuaki Ogiwara, head of sales for North Asia. Ogiwara joined in May 2015 after 28 years with Nomura Asset Management as sales head, based variously in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Europe as well as Japan. Shibata is also ex-Nomura.