The top two executives of 3A Asia, the fund-of-hedge-funds manager formerly known as Oria Capital, are leaving the company, which is replacing them with a new chief executive and changing its name to Syz & Co Asia.
CEO Jennifer Carver and executive director Brian MacDougall are departing without fixed plans as to what they'll do next. "It's on the best of terms that we're leaving, it's just time for new things," MacDougall says.
MacDougall and Carver will be succeeded by Daniel Ghirardi, an executive based in Switzerland with 3A, also known as Alternative Asset Advisors, which is the alternative-investments arm of Swiss bank Syz & Co.
Having joined 3A in May, Ghirardi will relocate to Hong Kong from Geneva in September and assume the role of Asia CEO, as well as becoming the responsible officer for the company regarding regulatory issues.
The Swiss firm characterises the move as an expansion. Besides marketing its existing funds of hedge funds, the Hong Kong entity will introduce Syz's Oyster range of Luxembourg-registered Sicav funds, as well as institutional asset-management services from Syz Asset Management.
Syz & Co has global distribution arrangements in place with several European private banks, and these have been extended to the Singapore operations of these banks for the future distribution of the Oyster range of 23 sub-funds. Syz & Co will also be looking to serve the more local, Asian-focused private banks in the region.
In terms of geographies, the focus for Oyster will be Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
Meanwhile, the firm already has a number of advisory mandates with Japanese institutions for alternative-investment allocations and will be working to win more institutional mandates in Japan and across the region.
The focus for the institutional client work and mandates in the short-term will be on Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. "We will be consolidating our position in Hong Kong, expanding rapidly in Singapore and approaching potential partners and candidates in Japan," says Ghirardi. "In the medium-term the focus of expansion will include Australia and South Korea."
As for further hires, the short-term focus is on sales and distribution hires, followed by beefing up the research capabilities at a later stage, says Ghirardi. Syz & Co earlier this year acquired the Swiss bond team from State Street Global Advisors in Switzerland, he adds, and will be open to similar opportunities to acquire good teams in Asia.
Ghirardi worked in Hong Kong with UBS before joining Syz & Co in 2007 in Geneva, where he set up institutional sales for the Massena Group, a multi-family office based in Luxembourg. Prior to UBS, he worked in Switzerland at Prudential Bache, Harcourt Investment Consulting and Pioneer Global Investments.
Carver has already left the company and announced the move in an email to clients and colleagues. "I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know that I will no longer be with 3A Asia," she wrote. "It has been a great experience but it's time for me to move on."
Carver and MacDougall were the whistleblowers who called in regulators at their former company Charles Schmitt & Associates, resulting in a fraud conviction for their former boss, Charles Schmitt. They formed Oria Capital out of the ashes, to take over the management of two unaffected funds they were running.
Syz & Co bought Oria Capital in January 2007, converting it into its Asian subsidiary, 3A Asia. Syz initially bought 20% of the equity, with an option to buy out the rest, an option it exercised last October.
Carver and MacDougall stayed on to complete the acquisition. But, in February, they gave notice that they would leave.
"We just decided we were not having as much fun as we'd like to," MacDougall says. "It's hard to go from running the company to being an employee of the company. Both of us were ready to move on."
MacDougall was also involved in a serious motorcycle accident at the end of April, where he was hit by a car and collided with its windshield, breaking his leg in multiple places. He spent almost six weeks in hospital. "I'm now just walking on one crutch instead of two, but it's getting better, and it's taking a little time," he says. "That's my focus right now."
Carver has told friends she plans to travel over the summer before returning to Hong Kong and considering her next move.
Eric Syz, the managing partner of the Swiss bank, says the Asian operation would build on the contributions of Carver and MacDougall.
"We have identified strong demand in the region for innovative products with high added value," Syz says. "The extension of our activities will enable us to capitalise on the contacts established over the last few years to offer the full range of the group's products throughout Southeast Asia and Australia."