BNY Mellon IM to replace Harden as Asia chief

The firm has begun to search for a regional CEO after an internal email confirmed Alan Harden had opted to return to California to spend time with family by the end of this year.
BNY Mellon IM to replace Harden as Asia chief

BNY Mellon Investment Management has launched a search for a new Asia-Pacific chief executive to replace Alan Harden, AsianInvestor can reveal.

An internal email seen by AsianInvestor and sent out on September 2 by Mitchell Harris, president of BNY Mellon IM, confirmed that Harden had decided to retire at the end of this year after nearly five years as regional chief.

“He plans to move back to California to spend more time with his family,” said Mitchell. “Over the next four months [Harden] will continue to oversee the Asia-Pacific team to ensure a smooth transition.”

A spokesperson for BNY Mellon IM confirmed the email. It is understood the firm is looking at a number of options to replace him.

It does have a consensus-driven six-strong executive committee. Prominent names from Asia on that body would include chief operating officer Doni Shamsuddin and chief administrative officer Jane Caire.

It is unclear whether BNY Mellon might promote from within. However, one Asia-based source pointed out that Harden himself was an external hire.

“BNY Mellon IM had a small presence in Asia prior to Harden’s arrival,” he noted. “Harden significantly built up the business and at its peak had more than 100 staff across Hong Kong and Singapore. But that has been clipped over time.”

A spokesperson for BNY Mellon IM confirmed that the business has 165 staff in Asia, but had only 20 when Harden joined.

The source added there were big cost pressures on the asset management business. It comes in the wake of activist shareholder pressure in the US at its parent, Bank of New York Mellon, where they have been pushing to improve operating pressure across the board. “Various things have been put on ice, including a lot of things earmarked for Asia,” said the source.

Certainly Harden would have been under scrutiny after BNY Mellon IM moved to shut down its separately managed account (SMA) platform and lay off staff in Asia, as exclusively reported by AsianInvestor.

It was seen as a loss of face for Harden, who had set out to build out its wholesale offering. In June this year AsianInvestor questioned BNY Mellon IM on Harden’s future at the firm and was told he would be staying on as regional chief to grow the business.

The Spectrum SMA platform, originally run by AJ Harper, was introduced to offer high-net-worth investors access to SMAs for as little as $1 million, well below the typical $100 million minimum for institutions globally.

In January 2014 BNY Mellon IM succeeded in signing up its first five external fund providers to the platform: BlackRock, Capital International, Henderson Global Investors, Lazard Asset Management and UOB Asset Management. They saw it as a new distribution channel, as reported.

However, it appears the Spectrum business failed to take off with third-party distributors, chiefly private banks. Following AsianInvestor’s report, BNY Mellon confirmed its “difficult” withdrawal from the SMA platform.

CIMB Private Banking was left to express its disappointment and surprise at the decision, given that the Malaysian firm had already signed up wealthy clients to the platform, as reported.

But in his email, Mitchell concluded: “The Asia-Pacific business has grown to over $100 billion under [Harden’s] leadership [from $56 billion when he took over]. He helped to build new businesses in the region including wealth management, which continues to grow steadily. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for all his contributions.”

BNY Mellon as a group has 13,000 employees across Asia Pacific.

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