Chris Ryan takes CEO role at Perpetual

With a bid by KKR to acquire the Australian asset manager having fizzled, the way is clear for Asia veteran Ryan to give Perpetual a new direction.
Chris Ryan takes CEO role at Perpetual

Perpetual, an independent asset manager listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, announced that Chris Ryan will assume the role of CEO and become a member of the board of directors as of February 14.

Ryan will move from Hong Kong to Sydney to take on the role. He will have three or four weeks of overlap with sitting CEO David Deverall, whose official departure is not until June but who will effectively step down in March.

Ryan, currently a consultant to Citi’s global transaction services division in Asia, declined to comment on the move or his ideas for Perpetual, other than to note it was a multi-month process to confirm the move.

Those talks would have coincided with an attempt by KKR, the private-equity group, to buy Perpetual. In October, it launched a A$1.75 billion ($1.73 billion) bid, at a time when Perpetual’s stock had skidded to a decade low, having fallen 63% from its peak in May 2007.

However, a Perpetual spokesman notes the KKR deal was removed from the table last month, without elaborating.

That clears the way for the firm’s incoming CEO to set an independent direction. Perpetual’s website says it has A$27 billion of assets under management, as well as A$210 billion of assets under administration and another $8 billion under advisory.

A spokesman says the business is roughly 50% asset management, 30% private wealth and 20% corporate trust. The trust side is the original business for Perpetual, originally known as Perpetual Trust, which began operations in 1886.

Much of its growth as an asset manager is based on the rise of Australia’s superannuation industry, now A$1.4 trillion, and expected to grow faster as the government considers raising employee contribution levels from 9% to 12% of annual wages.

In a recent interview with AsianInvestor, Perpetual outlined its ambitions to penetrate the Asia ex-Japan market place, starting with a global resources fund managed out of its existing Dublin and London offices. It is also considering opening an office in Singapore.

For Ryan this is the opportunity to combine his early industry experience in his native Australia with the past decade’s work in Asia, including managing directorships at HSBC Funds Asia-Pacific, ING Investment Management Asia-Pacific and Fidelity International’s operations in Asia ex-Japan.

Recently he has held a consulting position at Citi, in a role mainly focused on advising the bank and its clients about business opportunities in asset management in Asia. David Russell, Citi’s managing director and Asia regional head for securities and funds services, announced Ryan’s departure internally today.

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