Eaton Vance sets up in Asia, plans to source bank loans

The US asset manager has hired Rob White from Banquo Credit Management to run its new regional office in Singapore.
Eaton Vance sets up in Asia, plans to source bank loans

Yet another fund-management firm has come to Asia with its eye on large institutional clients, but this one will be working on something a little different in addition to the traditional asset classes: bank loans.

Sourcing bank loans and packaging them in fund form for institutions is one of Boston-based Eaton Vance's best known offerings. But the firm has realised that improving its coverage of Asia requires credit expertise on the ground. "Having an Asian presence will bring us closer to our clients and enhance our analytical capabilities in this part of the world," says Rob White, the newly appointed regional head.

Hence, the $173 billion asset manager has incorporated in Singapore, hired White from Banquo Credit Management in the same city and expects to have a capital markets licence and fund-manager status by the end of the year. It will also have another hire in place by then – likely a professional with both marketing and investment research capabilities.

"Eaton Vance was a pioneer of the bank loan market, and it saw the merit of trying to replicate its US model in Europe," says White, who at the time was working as a loan product manager on the secondary trading desk at Barclays Capital in the UK.

"That was my first encounter with Eaton Vance, when they set up an office in London in the early 2000s," he says. "They're now bringing that same pioneering spirit to Asia."

The firm manages $20 billion in US and European bank loans, has a track record of over 20 years and is keenly observing the evolution of the Asia-Pacific loan market, he adds. 

Eaton Vance's plan is also to supplement and support other existing US-based strategies in Asia, such as global macro – it has just closed its first retail fund in that segment with $7 billion. It will "extend that strategy to Asia but in a slightly different form", says White. For institutions, that fund will be available in Ucits III format.

Eaton Vance also has great credentials in high-yield and emerging-markets equity funds, he adds, which have been successful in the US and are likely to prosper in Asia as well.

As for raising funds in the region, "we have a lot of optimism in institutional markets such as sovereign wealth funds, pensions funds, insurance companies and banks in Australia and the rest of Asia", says White.

Eaton Vance's intention is not to book assets in Asia, however – it doesn't want to replicate the procedure it has in the US, but it does plan to start running assets out of the region some time in 2011.

At present, 95% of the firm's global AUM is US-sourced and mostly (83% of the total) in retail assets. Of the remaining 5%, the vast majority of Asian assets are sourced from Japan.

White reports to Niall Quinn, London-based chief executive of the international business, and to Payson Swaffield, chief income investment officer in Boston.

As White's focus is in credit/fixed income, there will be a strong initial focus on that, but the firm also plans to raise capital for its equity funds – after all, $103 billion of its overall AUM is in equities. Indeed, early hires will probably include equities marketing and research professionals.

White has experience of both marketing and portfolio management. At Banquo Credit Management, he was largely involved in capital raising, while he has run money for Nikko and Ahli United Bank of Bahrain in the past, as well as working for Barclays Capital.

Banquo has closed its Asia-Pacific arm following White's departure.

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