London-listed F&C Asset Management has re-hired Alvin Chua as head of Asia in a newly established role to target fresh institutional assets and potentially launch Asian funds on the ground, as well as joint ventures.
Chua, who started as executive director on February 1, is returning to his old stomping ground after three years, having first joined F&C as head of distribution and business development for Asia in June 2008 and spending 11 months at the firm. He confirms he was the company's first employee on the ground in Asia.
“You try not to burn your bridges and I kept in touch with F&C in the intervening three years,” Chua tells AsianInvestor.
He expresses hope that he will be able to launch an Asia-Pacific product and thereafter bring an investment professional on board, although plans are still fluid at this stage. “What I wish for and what happens may be two different things,” he says.
Chua’s hire brings the number of staff based in F&C’s Hong Kong office to four, including Amy Chau, who has Chua’s old job as head of distribution and business development for Asia.
F&C is a mid-sized UK and Europe-focused manager with around $160 billion in assets under management globally (it does not break out its Asia numbers). Chua estimates that over 80% of its assets consist of long-only equity and fixed income, with most of the remainder in alternatives including real estate, single strategy hedge funds and private equity funds.
It traces its origins back to 1868 with the launch of the Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust, the first ever publicly listed pooled investment fund.
F&C manages assets principally from three investment centres: London, Amsterdam and Edinburgh. Its clients include a range of insurance, institutional and retail investors.
When F&C first hired Chua in 2008 it described the move as a milestone and part of a three-year revenue growth plan, with intent to focus on opportunities in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. But that was before the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing global financial crisis.
Last year proved to be a tumultuous one for the firm. In February 2011 activist investor Edward Bramson succeeded in his bid to take over the asset manager on a cost-cutting agenda, removing previous chairman Nick MacAndrew and two non-executive directors.
By October Bramson had taken over executive responsibilities after chief executive Alain Grisay announced he would step down by May this year, although Bramson has already been appointed executive chairman.
In the first phase of Bramson's strategic review into corporate strategy and institutional business last Autumn, he announced plans to cut over £30 million in costs by January 2013.
But evidently Asia remains a geography that F&C hopes to penetrate further.
Between his first stint at F&C and now, Chua worked as senior managing director at Cantor Fitzgerald, where he was responsible for fixed income sales and trading in Asia.
His career started with Merrill Lynch in New York in 1987, trading US government bonds and related futures and options. Four years later he joined Lehman Brothers in New York, working in various positions in fixed income sales, product management and emerging markets.
He relocated to Hong Kong in 1997 with Lehman to head Asia ex-Japan credit products and emerging markets, before joining JP Morgan Chase to head North Asia distribution in 1999.
He subsequently spent eight years with Bank of America based in Hong Kong, initially to head fixed income sales for Asia ex-Japan and later head of fixed income sales and trading for Asia ex-Japan. In 2004 he assumed overall sales responsibility in Asia (FICC, equities, derivatives and local markets) and global co-head of central banks and sovereign wealth fund coverage.