Credit Suisse AM plots Asia strategy

It is scouring the region for the optimal entrance opportunity, and will base people here next year.

Credit Suisse Asset Management is actively searching for a way to enter Asian markets within the next three-to-six months, says Clayton Coplestone, head of the firm's Australian retail funds business in Sydney. Coplestone has been given the nod to move to an Asian market to run the Asia ex-Japan, ex-Australia operation sometime early next year.

For now, however, the location and the strategy have yet to be finalised, so Coplestone has few details to divulge at this stage. The push for a presence on Asian soil began last year when the organization made a decision to divide the world into three main units, the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific, rather than run a hodgepodge of countries and sub-regions. That prompted Andrew McKinnon, CSAM's Asia-Pacific CEO, to begin scouting the region for opportunities and to understand the various regulatory environments.

The next move was to widen the roll for Brian Thomas in Sydney from heading Australia distribution to include Asia ex-Japan. Thomas, who will remain in Sydney, then sent Coplestone to work out an entry strategy. The firm is looking for a new head of retail for Oz.

To date, CSAM has operations in Japan, where it manages around $28 billion, and in Australia, where it manages A$21 billion ($15 billion), of which about 75% is sourced from domestic institutions and the rest from wholesale retail distributors.

Coplestone says the firm is not going to try to replicate its Australian experience in Asia, recognizing that foreign organizations attempting to foist a home-grown model here usually fail.

So he is in talks with regional distributors and other financial and official institutions, including some "that have tempted us with inducements to play in that space". And the firm has been leveraging its brand name and connections with Credit Suisse's private bank, investment bank and insurance arms. "The brand is huge; that's our launchpad." Credit Suisse Group claims over $1.3 trillion of assets under management worldwide.

Given the fragmented nature in the region, CSAM is open to partnerships or joint ventures or acquisitions. These relationships will in turn drive the decision as to where to base Coplestone, and whether to aim for institutional, high-net worth or retail customers.

All the firm can say, then, is that it is telling counterparts that it intends to be a serious, long-term player in Asia.

Coplestone will move to the region within six months and will seek to hire a local product specialist and someone to support his business development efforts. Once the firm secures Asian clients, it will probably look to add people.