Grace Ho joins Manulife in Singapore

Following the launch of five new funds and with plans for 15 more next year, the Canadian insurer's Singapore asset management unit has poached a portfolio manager from SociTtT GTnTrale.

Grace Ho joined Manulife Asset Management in Singapore as senior portfolio manager on December 1, following the October launch of the company's first five funds in the Lion City and in line with its plans to offer 15 more products there next year.

She will help run the company's Singapore equities portfolios, reporting to and working closely with Singapore head of equities Amy Low, and supporting MFC Global Investment Management's Asia-Pacific strategies.

As part of the firm's Asia expansion plans, Ho's appointment brings the Singapore headcount to 16, which includes seven investment professionals, four of whom are portfolio managers.

She was previously at Société Générale Asset Management in Singapore, where she was lead portfolio manager for the company's retail and institutional Singapore equity funds. As such, she oversaw equity research, stock selection, portfolio construction and risk management and managed the SGAM Singapore Dividend Growth Fund. Ho has also worked as a financial analyst at Chase Manhattan Bank in Singapore.

She also has real estate investment expertise, which will be useful, given the popularity of property assets in Singapore, Low tells AsianInvestor. This is an area where Manulife AM plans to expand its offering, both in Singapore and regionally, she adds.

The schedule of the Singapore fund launches next year will depend on investor appetite, says Low. Some will be manufactured in Singapore, but the firm will also be offering new funds in Singapore that are managed elsewhere in the region and also from head office in Canada.

One planned product is an Asean fund that combines expertise from each of the key Southeast Asian countries, says Low. Manulife AM already offers individual country funds based on each of the 'key' markets -- Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam -- and has offices in each country.

Manulife AM launched its first five funds in Singapore in October. The Singapore dollar-denominated fund range includes local money-market, bond, balanced and equity funds and a Greater China equity fund. The funds are open to institutional investors and can also be accessed by retail investors via appointed distributors.

"The funds have been performing well since inception a couple of months ago," says a Manulife spokeswoman, "and we have been particularly pleased with the early performance of the Manulife Singapore Equity Fund, which Grace will be working with Amy on managing."

The two will also manage the equity portion of the Manulife Singapore Balanced Funds, with Akira Okada managing the fixed-income portion.

Okada also runs the Manulife Singapore Bond Fund and the Manulife Singapore Money Market Fund, while Matthew Lee and Terrace Chum manage the Manulife Greater China Opportunities Fund out of Hong Kong.

Also on the China front, Manulife boosted its regional presence last month with the purchase of a 49% stake in the ABN Amro Teda Fund Management joint venture from BNP Paribas.

Manulife AM is part of MFC Global Investment Management, the asset management division of Canadian insurer Manulife Financial. Granted a licence to operate in Singapore last year, Manulife AM manages S$2.6billion ($1.87 billion) in assets.

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