First State Investments (FSI) has hired a multi-asset team from Europe and relocated them to Singapore in a targeted build-out of its regional solutions business.

It means the international arm of Colonial First State GAM – the asset management business of Commonwealth Bank of Australia – is basing multi-asset specialists outside of its home market of Australia for the first time.

In this latest expansion it has appointed Epco van der Lende in a newly created position as global head of its multi-asset solutions team based in Singapore. It has hired Jan Baars and Petr Kocourek to work with him as senior portfolio managers.

The trio started on May 9, having previously spent 11 years working together in the design and management of multi-asset investment solutions at Morgan Stanley IM in the Netherlands. However, they had already left the US firm when First State hired them, a spokesman confirms.

Their primary focus will be on the institutional market, particularly pension funds and insurance companies, although the firm also expects to stir interest through banks and retail distributors looking to develop product and to add structured solutions to funds.

Michael Stapleton, FSI’s regional managing director for Asia and Japan, notes that the team has a broad range of skills across asset classes and will play an advisory role as well as take on fiduciary responsibility for portfolios. He sees an immediate need for this capability in Asia.

“What we are looking to do is develop a team with a range of skills that can have a fairly broad application in the role they play in the institutional market,” states Stapleton. “On the one hand they can help advise pension funds on investment strategies, including strategic and tactical asset allocation and asset liability matching.

“They will have an advisory capability, but that is not all they will do. There will be instances where they have discretionary responsibilities for portfolios.” 

He adds that FSI launched a global search to find the best multi-asset team it could. “There are not many individuals and teams around the world with this type of experience.”

Van der Lende and his team will report to Joe Fernandes, head of FSI’s global investment solutions group, who also sees growing demand for tailored investment solutions across multiple asset classes, including multi-asset, objective-based and liability-aware solutions.

“The global financial crisis and demographic changes in developed nations have reinforced the need for solutions that deliver real long-term outcomes, whilst more adequately managing risk,” he notes.

Further, Stapleton notes that FSI plans to broaden its investment solutions business by entering the European and UK markets within the next few years. “At the moment our team is based in Sydney and Singapore and is focused on the Asia-Pacific region. But as time progresses and the team grows, we can see ourselves expanding the team into a London office.”

FSI has a five-strong team based in its Sydney head office under Fernandes, some of whom migrated from ASB Group Investments, a New Zealand-based subsidiary of Commonwealth Bank Group.

The combined international multi-asset and multi-manager businesses form part of FSI’s global investment solutions group, which has assets exceeding $12 billion across Asia, Australia and New Zealand.