Sources say Eddy Belmans, regional general manager for North Asia at ING Investment Management in Hong Kong, has just left. After missing out on being promoted to the regional CEO role last summer, when Chris Ryan vacated the job, Belmans decided to aim for the next best thing at ING; he is becoming Tokyo CEO for ING's insurance business in Japan.
The move will be a bitter-sweet one for Belmans. Sources and headhunters say he has an impeccable track record within the ING Investment Management business. He is credited with putting the brand's Taiwan asset management business on track, including having overseen the acquisition of ABN Amro Asset Management's onshore business. (Stephen Billiet was ING's man on the ground for that deal.)
Belmans has a reputation among colleagues -- current and former -- for being an excellent, if somewhat underappreciated, business manager. He ran ING IM Asia on an interim basis when Ryan left for Fidelity Investments. But ING opted to hire someone with a bigger profile to fill the position, and hired Alan Harden from Alliance Trust.
Harden's arrival coincided with a global reorganisation of business lines in asset management and wealth management. This put an end to any final aspirations of Belmans getting a bigger role within ING IM.
Moreover, after years of expansion throughout the region, ING Group has had to sell some businesses, in order to shore up the parent company during the global financial crisis. The biggest loss was ING's Taiwan insurance business -- the anchor client for ING IM in that market. Having worked so hard to build the ING IM franchise in Taiwan, this must have been a blow to those who participated in its creation.
ING Group has also shed a regional platform services business (a fund distribution service to IFAs), and its Asian private-banking business is also in play, with Julius Baer, HSBC, Standard Chartered and India's Religare said to be bidding for it. These would represent yet further losses to ING IM.
ING's insurance business in Japan is sizeable, both within the group and in its own right, so it looks like an attractive move for Belmans.
An ING spokeswoman says a successor to Belmans will be announced on Friday.