Eastspring Investments is waving goodbye to Joanna Ong, its co-head of investment solutions and senior multi-asset portfolio manager, who is going on extended leave.

“Having worked at Eastspring for more than 20 years, Joanna Ong has decided to take a career break and will leave for sabbatical at the end of July 2021, returning [in the first quarter of] 2022,” a spokeswoman for the firm told AsianInvestor by email.

Joanna Ong

Ong manages or co-manages some of the big participating ('Par’) funds at Eastspring, which is the fund management arm of insurer Prudential Corporation Asia. These include the Par fund for Prudential Singapore.

A participating policy is a life insurance plan that provides guaranteed benefits and non-guaranteed bonuses. The premiums of participating policies are pooled into a Par fund that invests in assets such as bonds and equities and pays customers when they make a claim or surrender their plans or when the plan matures.

Singapore-based Ong, who joined Eastspring in June 2000, is co-head of investment solutions alongside Craig Bell, who will assume full responsibility for the team during her sabbatical. They both report to Kelvin Blacklock, head of Eastspring Portfolio Advisors (EPA), who oversees the multi-asset team.

Bell has extensive experience in multi-asset solutions and investments, said the spokeswoman. He has worked at the firm since 2017 and has been responsible for managing several of the larger EPA portfolios.

Prior to joining Eastspring, Bell held roles at Hermes Pensions Funds Management and BT Pension Scheme Management, the latter being the largest UK private pension scheme.

TRANSITION PERIOD

Craig Bell

Ong will provide support and assistance to the team during the transition period until she departs in July, said the spokeswoman.

“Eastspring’s team-based investment approach built over many years and the consistent application of our investment philosophy across all of Eastspring’s strategies, together with our strong succession plans will ensure this transition is seamless,” she added.

Another member of PCA's investment team, Singapore chief investment officer Lena Teoh, went on sabbatical in August last year and was replaced by David Chua. Teoh has not returned.

Meanwhile, the news of Ong’s departure follows the recent exit of another senior executive, Singapore chief risk officer Wee Tian Sing. Wee has joined Abu Dhabi Investment Authority to run its new fixed income portfolio analytics group, as reported exclusively by AsianInvestor.

It also comes after two years of upheaval, turnover and strategy changes at Eastspring, which has been seeking to attract more assets from third-party clients. This most recently involved a move to pare its alternative investment capabilities and place a greater focus on passive strategies.

The firm has also been affected by the demerger at Prudential parent group level and the decision to repatriate some of the insurer’s assets to M&G Investments, another asset management unit within the group.