The Carlyle Group has hired its first head of Asia investor relations for global credit, a role created to tap the large and growing appetite for private debt investments.

Tracy Lau took up the post in Hong Kong last week as the first dedicated fundraiser in the region for credit strategies at the Washington, DC-based $230 billion alternative asset manager. She reports to Nathan Urquhart, New York-based global head of investor relations at Carlyle.

Lau previously ran institutional distribution for Greater China and Southeast Asia at Barings, a fund house owned by US insurer MassMutual. Before her near-10-year stint there, she worked for BlackRock. She declined to comment when contacted by AsianInvestor

Tracy Lau, new at Carlyle

Lau's appointment reflects greater emphasis among the big alternatives managers’ on having specialists in-region, said Andrew Oliver, co-head of the Asia financial services practice at recruitment firm Profile Group.

“The Asian market is now yielding much more in terms of potential investment dollars, and [clients] want to be covered and serviced locally,” he told AsianInvestor.

“Added to that, Covid-19 means that GPs [general partners, or asset managers] from the US, UK and Europe cannot travel and in reality won’t in 2021. So if they want [to raise] the money [in Asia], they are investing locally.”

Rick Johannessen, Hong Kong-based managing partner at recruiter Wellesley Partners, made a similar point.

“We know several other firms looking to hire senior product specialists to lead capital raising and client relationship activity in the region,” he said, “as GPs are looking to hire more technical product expertise for an increasingly savvy LP [limited partner, or client] base.”

Indeed Blackstone, another big alternatives manager, made a hire similar to Lau's last year by bringing in Julie Chang to raise funds for its liquid and semi-liquid strategies.

PRIVATE DEBT DEMAND

Institutional demand for private debt – as well as less liquid markets such as private equity and real assets – has expanded strongly in Asia in recent years, as investors have sought both higher yields and stable income.

Asia Pacific-based GPs raised $11.23 billion in 2019 for global private debt strategies, up from $3.45 billion in 2016, according to data provider Preqin. The figure, understandably, fell last year to $5.37 billion, as the Covid-19 pandemic made fundraising more challenging.

That trend is set to continue. Numerous asset owners in the region have, in recent months, indicated their intentions to add exposure to private credit strategies such as direct lending, infrastructure or real estate financing.

They include Korean insurers such as DGB Life, Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance and Fubon Hyundai Life; Korean state funds such as Korea Post Savings and Public Officials Benefit Association; and Malaysian state-linked fund manager PNB.

And opportunities for investors to provide financing in return for yield appear to be increasing, as numerous banks continue to pull back from lending in non-core markets.