BNPP Investment Partners restructures in Asia

The firm has merged its sales and client servicing teams and reorganised into new coverage segments to refocus the business amid a raft of exits and declining AUM.
BNPP Investment Partners restructures in Asia

BNP Paribas Investment Partners is seeking to hire senior sales staff in Asia after a raft of departures, having merged its sales and client servicing teams in an internal restructure.

The integration has seen the firm suffer a number of departures, some voluntary and some not, and comes partly in response to a 24.5% decline in assets sourced from Asia-Pacific clients, from $74.1 billion as at end-June last year to $56 billion at end-September 2013.

The firm has rolled out a segmented structure that it feels is more in line with its own strengths and the direction of asset-gathering opportunities as it sees them.

It has ditched a dual institutional and distribution/retail approach to one that focuses on three segments: official institutions (central banks, sovereign wealth funds, public pension funds); private banks and family offices; and insurance companies and endowments (universities and government authorities).

The combined team is now about 45-strong, led by Cheng Tan-Feng in a newly created role as head of sales for Asia Pacific. Cheng had previously been responsible for institutional sales across North and Southeast Asia. His new roles encompasses both sales and distribution.

BNPP IP’s former head of marketing and distribution for the region, Mark te Riele, is moving to London to become head of marketing for Asia Pacific and emerging markets (including South America, Latin America, Russia and Turkey). This will be effective from January 1.

Explaining the rationale behind the strategic shift, Cheng tells AsianInvestor: “We have identified these three [segments] because for us as a firm they represent the obviously growing segments of asset owners and wealth owners. We think they have a lot in common in terms of investing behaviour, risk appetite and investment needs.”

He talks up the corporate and private wealth needs of the region’s first-generation wealthy, describing them as nimble, multi-asset oriented and open to innovation. “A lot of these things are changing product design for firms like us,” he says.

He sees insurers and endowments as the next big thing, particularly in China and Korea. “Simply the scale of assets they will have to manage as they open up and grow with demographics, these asset owners will be the drivers of supply and demand,” Cheng argues. “In terms of investment, marketing and resources, hopefully we will better be able to meet what [investors in the three segments] are looking for.”

BNP Paribas has seen a number of departures over the past year. These include Carol Wong, regional head of third-party distribution, to Old Mutual Asset Management. It is understood Wong has hired her former deputy at BNPP, Kylie Chan, to join her.

TG Lee also departed, having been in institutional sales in Hong Kong, as reported, while Halina Chui left the intermediary distribution team.

Cheng acknowledges that there has been turnover and says this can partly be explained by the internal integration. “We have aligned our resources and organisation according to what we consider our strengths,” he says.

“Some of the departures I see as a natural turnover due to a change in the type of people we are building in the teams. There has been turnover that has come with the integration, some voluntary and some not,” he says, declining to discuss numbers.

He states he is now looking to hire four senior sales staff in Hong Kong and one in Singapore and is specifically looking for specialists in insurance, private banking, Greater China and institutional, with the roles aligned to the needs of each segment.

Without going into specifics, he says BNPP Investment Partners has big plans for Shanghai and Greater China as a whole. “We will be hiring teams of people,” he says.

As an example of what he will be looking for, Cheng points to the recent hire of Chi Lo to focus on Greater China strategies and address China liberalisation and RMB expansion. “This is not a direct replacement [for TG Lee] and that is the key,” he says. “We are not replacing, we are creating new roles.”

Asked if the firm had integrated its teams in response to AUM decline, Cheng notes it is part of a top-down response from the firm, and he highlights a reorganisation of its asset management business globally into three segments: distribution, institutional and Asia Pacific/emerging.

“That was a top-down response to refocusing our business,” he explains. “This is to align resources to client segments. Now we will have more focus when it comes to client segmentation. What I am doing on an Asia-Pacific level is reinforcing that.”

In a statement, BNPP Investment Partners confirms that Tan Puay-Lit has been appointed head of official institutions for Asia Pacific to oversee the sovereign wealth business, as reported. Tan was also named deputy Singapore CEO and head of institutional business for South and Southeast Asia. He had formerly worked as director of institutional client business in Singapore for BlackRock.

In internal moves, Lesley Lo has been appointed head of insurance and endowments for Asia Pacific to meet the liability-driven and asset liability management needs of the segment. Based in Hong Kong, she remains head of institutional business for Greater China and other Asia (including Thailand and the Philippines).

Also, Christian Bucaro takes up a new role as head of private wealth for Asia Pacific, responsible for strengthening relationships with global distributors, private banks and family offices. He joined the firm in 2005, moving from London a year ago to become head of distribution for Southeast Asia based in Singapore.

Cheng himself joined BNPP Investment Partners in 2001 as an institutional salesman. He started his career at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, where he worked as an analyst for the fixed income team within reserve management. He was part of MAS’ first external fund management selection team. It was at MAS that he first met Tan.

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