Franklin Templeton Investments, which is acquiring rival US fund house Legg Mason, has chosen long-serving executive Vivek Kudva to lead the combined group’s Asia operation, with the merger expected to complete by early August.

Mark Browning, Franklin Templeton’s current head of Asia (excluding India), will leave the company on December 31 after working in an advisory capacity through the transition period starting when the transaction closes, AsianInvestor can also reveal. He will have worked at the firm for 22 years. 

Kudva has been with Franklin Templeton for 14 years, most recently as head of India and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Emea), making him an obvious choice for the top role in Asia.

Vivek Kudva

In his new role, Kudva will report to Jed Plafker, executive vice president of global advisory services at Franklin Templeton, and will be responsible for leading retail and institutional distribution across the region.

He will continue to be based in Mumbai for the time being and will travel extensively in the region once that is possible in light of Covid-19, said a Franklin Templeton spokeswoman.

“[Kudva] comes highly recommended from the people who have worked with him in Europe,” said a senior executive at the group on condition of anonymity.

Yet some, both internally and externally, had seen Browning as a more likely candidate to take the top Asia job post-merger. He joined Franklin Templeton in 1998 and has overseen its growth into a regional business with $70 billion in largely institutional client assets. (An interview with Browning appears in the 20th anniversary issue of AsianInvestor magazine, published this week.)

NEXT STEPS

The spokeswoman declined to comment on who would head the Emea region once Kudva had taken up his new post, or on how the changes would affect Andy Sowerby, Legg Mason's Asia chief. Sowerby was promoted from Australia head in October last year. 

"There are many other important positions within the combined organisation under consideration," said the spokeswoman. "We are looking to identify the best talent to fill certain key positions and will be patient in our decision-making process. We expect to announce most appointments by transaction close."

Andy Sowerby

The group, which will have a combined $1.5 trillion in assets under management, expects to cut 8% of its global headcount and make around $300 million in annual cost savings as a result of the deal, the spokeswoman said.

She declined to comment on how much of the Asian workforce would be cut or on a time frame for the headcount reduction.

Most of the layoffs in Asia and globally are likely to come from the corporate functions and distribution teams, while the investment divisions will not be affected, she said.

The group is understood to be planning an announcement in the coming weeks about changes to personnel and the business structure.

POTENTIAL OVERLAP

Franklin Templeton and Legg Mason each has a substantial presence in Asia, incorporating investment and sales staff, so the deal has implications for their regional businesses, headcounts and client bases.

It is likely that there will be excess capacity in some areas in both Hong Kong and Singapore, the main regional bases for the two firms.  

Franklin Templeton's regional head office and distribution base is in Singapore, for instance, and it has institutional sales staff there and in Hong Kong. But Western Asset Management, a Legg Mason affiliate, has the bigger fixed income team in Singapore, so is seen as likely to take prominence there in terms of the group's Asia bond investment capabilities. The affiliate is certainly viewed as central to Templeton's ambitions in the region.

Franklin Templeton is understood to have already seen a few departures in recent weeks, including that of Denise Ying, director of institutional business for Greater China.

Article updated to reflect that Mark Browning is leaving Franklin Templeton, not retiring.