Service provider Ernst & Young has set out to near double revenues from its newly integrated Asia-Pacific financial services organisation, targeting a 60% headcount expansion in four years.
The company, which provides assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services, has moved to unite its North Asia and Australia businesses into what it terms a seamless regional partnership, with integrated profit & loss across locations. It has also relocated a raft of senior personnel to Asia. All changes are effective from July 1.
The company has now organised itself into three global regions to mirror the activity of its clients: in an Asia-Pacific time-zone, a Europe and Africa time-zone and an Americas time-zone.
Keith Pogson, the firm’s renamed Asia-Pacific financial services leader, says the pooling of regional resources provides Ernst & Young with critical mass and scale to reinvest in the business. It also gives it a deeper talent bench to tap.
"When you get down to it at an operational level, it does make quite a difference because you change the mindset of how you work with your clients," he explains. "The mindset is 'how can we serve you', rather than 'how can we serve you in, say, Hong Kong or Singapore', because there is now a commonality of interest."
He says the firm will be looking to make a minimum investment in financial services personnel this year of $25 million. “That might not sound a large number, but it is about people specifically, not business as usual,” he adds.
The integration brings together 2,500 Ernst & Young financial services employees, and the company says it is aiming to hire a further 1,500 within three or four years.
They will focus on three sectors: banking and capital markets (which makes up about 60% of the firm's financial services revenues), asset management (20%) and insurance (20%). Pogson does note, however, that many asset management activities are buried within the banking and insurance segments, and so suggests the breakdown figures are not fully representative.
He adds that the firm is looking to grow annual revenues from about $560 million at present to $1 billion within three or four years.
Pogson expects growth in the asset management sector to outperform over the longer term, driven by the region’s wealth dynamics as well as regulatory reforms in Europe and the US .
“I would genuinely expect to see asset management outperform the other two segments in scale, predominantly driven by wealth creation and retention in Asia-Pacific, and also the relative push factors of regulation upon the banking system,” he says.
He also refers to what he calls the global thematic as evidence that Asian asset management will be a beneficiary. With the horrible investment environment in Europe and the slowly rebounding US economy, most people are directing money into Asia.
"I think we are starting to see a re-emergence of private equity and venture capital in the Asia-Pacific zone," he adds, mentioning China, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia and India.
Ernst & Young is focused specifically on financial centres in Singapore, Hong Kong, mainland China, Australia, Korea and Vietnam. In terms of markets, Pogson says he is bullish on Indochina. "The focus will be on emerging markets and on Hong Kong and Singapore as responsive hubs to those emerging markets."
In terms of personnel changes, Roy Stockell, who was the firm's asset management leader for Europe, Middle East and Africa based in London, relocates to Hong Kong to become Asia-Pacific leader for asset management.
Meanwhile, Marc Symons, who led the financial services transaction business in New York, also relocates to Hong Kong to cover Asia-Pacific transaction services, particularly key in the PE and VC segments.
Further, George Saffayeh moves to Hong Kong to look after hedge fund-specific business, having carried out the same role in New York, while asset management partner Elliot Shadforth relocates from Sydney to Hong Kong in a similar asset management role.
Pogson confirms that Ernst & Young is looking to fill leadership roles across Asia-Pacific to deliver the full width of its service offerings.