The Dutch pension asset manager's Asia Pacific head of real estate says his team has just had one of its busiest years ever and that 2021 is looking similarly promising.
To conclude the year, here are my favourite 12 stories from our site over the past 12 months. These arenÆt necessarily the ones that attracted the most viewers. There were many important stories about mandates, people moves and market events û too many to include here. Rather, they are stories that tell a bigger tale about the asset-management industry in Asia.
12. ôInfrastructure funds raise nearly $10 billionö, 13 May, by Rita Raagas De Ramos
Between them, Morgan Stanley and a partnership involving Credit Suisse and GE raised a huge amount of assets for global infrastructure portfolios, which included Asia exposures. We would go on to write more stories in this vein, but this was the point when investor appetite for infrastructure as an asset class became obvious û and presaged a move by many Asian institutions away from hedge funds in favour of ôalternativeö alternative investments.
11. ôChris Ryan joining Fidelityö, 13 January, by Jame DiBiasio
We cover a lot of stories about people being hired (and more recently, being fired), but for the regionÆs asset-management industry, this story was of a greater magnitude. Ryan is the respected executive who led ING Investment Management to a powerful position in the region. His move to the biggest independent asset manager operating in Asia was going to be big no matter what. That he then convinced Fidelity to change its China strategy made it all the bigger.
10. ôBill Miller finds opportunities in battered financialsö, 30 June, by Rita Raagas De Ramos.
Legg MasonÆs star equities manager made his final public stand in this interview, just before the bottom fell out. He epitomized the wisdom of the world being swept aside by the global financial panic. He represented the views shared by many people û IÆd venture to say, 99% of us, including many Asian sovereign wealth funds, which today rue their stakes in US financial firms. Miller, for all his brilliance and experience, didnÆt see the link between problems in the relatively minor world of US subprime mortgages to confidence in credit at the most visceral level. He thought he could catch the falling knife.
9. ôInvesco outsources Taiwan fund admin and TAö, 25 August, by Jame DiBiasio
This may seem like a strange item to include. Surely in a year as this, talking about this kind of back-office mandate is strictly from Palookaville. But behind the fireworks that dominate newspaper headlines are processes that dictate how funds actually work. AsiaÆs fragmented nature leads to challenges of scale and efficiency for money managers. I chose this story because it represents the reality of incremental progress and maturation throughout the region, and of the daily toil that supports all of these businesses. Never take the ops guys for granted.
8. ôHamilton Lane to advise PFA on private equityö, 29 January, by Jame DiBiasio
JapanÆs Pension Fund Association won our Institutional Investor of the Year award this year for a variety of reasons, mostly to do with governance. But the PFA has also been an early mover û in Japan and regionally û when it comes to diversifying into funds of private-equity funds. It has become clear that such services will be very popular with Asian institutions in 2009, as they look to access private-equity funds and further diversify risk. The PFA has the resources and savvy to understand the nature of risk in private-equity funds, however, but not all of its copycats will. Remember Bernie Madoff and do your own due diligence on this kind of provider.
7. ôDragonBack to launch volatility hedge fundö, 22 August, by Simon Osborne
SimonÆs covered the rise and fall of the regionÆs hedge-funds industry like a rash, and his output is under-represented in this list, perhaps because so much of his investigative work went into features for AsianInvestor magazine. But this story is one of those early signals about who was going to survive the coming storm. And, as youÆll see below, the storm was made obvious.
6. ôFunds industry failing retail investors, says CIOö, 17 April, by Jame DiBiasio
Funds industry CEOs gathered at an industry conference in Hong Kong to slap one anotherÆs backs and congratulate themselves on a brilliant few years. One person, Alex Ng of Fortis (formerly of ABN Amro Asset Management), made a speech that contained a prescient warning. Ng argued that both manufacturers and distributors are deluding retail investors by insisting they should always invest in equities, which has had the perverse effect of opening the door to structured products, ETFs and hedge funds, rather than promoted long-only funds. He suggested rewarding distributors on the basis of NAV performance, not via front-end loads. His talk presaged the discrediting of bank distributors that hammered regional markets just a few months later.
5. ôYamato LifeÆs demise raises questions about asset modelsö, 13 October, by Liz Mak.
No one has covered the impact of the credit crunch on Asian institutional investors like Liz has this year. With great detail she has uncovered the vulnerabilities of pension funds and insurance companies in China and Taiwan. If anyone has documented the mechanics of how Asian financial institutions are ôcoupledö to America, itÆs Liz. I chose this story for its detailed examination of regulation, accounting practices, market events and investor strategy to understand how the credit crunch is going to reshape how Asian institutions allocate assets, a theme she has continued to follow both in print and online.
4. ôAsian hedge funds concede early goal in Januaryö, 4 March, by Simon Osborne
I would have loved to include on this list SimonÆs story on how subprime toxic assets threaten Asian hedge funds from August 2007, but thatÆs cheating. So this story will suffice, as it is one in a long series by Simon warning that risk controls among Asia-oriented hedgies and funds of funds were lacking. This story was pretty simple, just noting that performance had slipped in early 2008, but SimonÆs follow-up commentary makes clear that managers should dismiss this as a mere blip at their peril.
3. ôLehman factor may imperil hedge fundsÆ pledged cashö, 18 September, by Jame DiBiasio.
Simon was talking about the risks of re-hypothecating assets held by prime brokers weeks before Lehman Brothers collapsed. Here the subject was first aired û to my knowledge, for the first time by any media in the world û in the immediate aftermath of that debacle. The story outlined the mechanisms and legal aspects to the fact that many hedge funds werenÆt going to get their money back. Simon also helped report on this story.
2. ôBond managers expect government bailoutö, 31 March, by Jame DiBiasio.
As soon as Bear Stearns went down, discussions with very experienced fixed-income managers revealed the necessity for sustained, unlimited government bailouts of the financial sector as the only way to restore trust in the money-market system. Six months before Hank Paulson saw the light.
1. ôAsian investors in LehmanÆs structured products await fateö, 17 September, by Liz Mak.
LizÆs story revealed the extent of exposure among both retail and institutional investors to Lehman Brothers as a backer of structured products. In particular it revealed the exposures at Huaan Fund Management, which a few days later announced it would guarantee its Lehman-backed funds. And four days later, retail investors in Hong Kong took to the streets to protest their lost savings, which has set off a firestorm over the regulation of distributors and the sale of structured products, across the region. This story is the shot across the bow that warns of a potentially huge regulatory overhaul that will have major implications for how investment products are packaged and sold, for high-net-worth individuals and institutions as well as for retail customers.
Record low borrowing costs in Australia are feeding demand for the country's real estate, with domestic and global investors raising their allocations into the sector.
Experts have a diversified view on the appeal of private assets across the region, but one thing's for certain - inflows are rising, particularly into China and the US.
Malaysia's Armed Forces Fund hires new CEO; Canada's Omers appoints Asia capital markets managing director; HSBC Asset Management creates alternatives unit, appoints CIO as its head; Bank of Singapore names global wealth head; Aware Super hires IFA head; Hong Kong names acting head for MPFA; Schroders adding to Asia ESG headcount; and more.
Asian fixed income assets – including Hong Kong dollar (HKD) bonds – are luring growing numbers of global investors who are striving for reliable and consistent returns amid macro uncertainty compounded by rising inflation and rates, according to HSBC Asset Management.