Goldman Sachs Asset Management has long had a focus on institutional clients above all in Asia Pacific, but the US firm is expanding its presence in the region’s private banking segment.

Having spent two years building that business in Australia, Jessica Jones transferred to Hong Kong in March as GSAM’s first Asia-Pacific ex-Japan head of third-party distribution. Several staff have been added or internally transferred to the Hong Kong and Singapore teams since her relocation.

The latest addition is Emily Lee, who arrived as an executive director in late July from Standard Chartered Private Bank. There she was senior associate director in the funds and portfolio solutions group in Hong Kong. Before joining the UK bank in 2011, Lee (pictured below) had also worked at Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. Standard Chartered declined to say whether she has been replaced.

Another new, but more junior member of the team is Stephon Ho, who joined in April from BlackRock, where he was a channel marketer for iShares, the exchange-traded funds business.

Emily Lee
GSAM is also relocating product specialists to Asia Pacific, noted Jones, citing the importance of having constant contact with the private banks to provide servicing and support. This also helps boost products' speed to market, she said.

Jones has covered Hong Kong and Singapore out of Sydney since January last year, and has tripled headcount in these two markets in the past year, admittedly from a low base. This reflects moves by other asset managers in the region to sharpen their focus on private banks, including the likes of BlackRock and JP Morgan Asset Management.

Other senior members of the team include executive directors David Chang in Hong Kong and Tan Suyin in Singapore. Chang relocated in June last year from GSAM in the US, while Tan came on board from UK fund house Henderson Global Investors in January last year.

GSAM is relatively late to the game in terms of third-party distribution in Asia, an increasingly competitive space. The firm now needs more boots on the ground, noted Jones. “We are expanding our local teams and bringing differentiated products to the market,” she told AsianInvestor.

Jones has been on the third-party team at GSAM for 10 years, mostly in London. There she was part of the team the firm put in place to build up the distribution business in Europe starting in earnest in 2010.

The firm is now working on customising products that will suit the needs of Asian clients, she said. One example of a GSAM strategy that proved successful in the region – developed in partnership with private banks – was one providing exposure to the US's housing recovery.

She declined to provide more detail, but the strategy is understood to have raised $1 billion in the year since inception, with most of that believed to have come from Asian clients.

Products such as the US housing fund have helped boost GSAM’s reputation in the wealth management segment in Asia, noted Jones. “It has given us a foot in the door [in the region]."

“Private bank clients in Asia are open to new and innovative solutions that help diversify portfolio risk and they are willing to support you at the important seeding phase,” she added.

Another example of a product of interest to Asian clients is one that provides exposure to the North American energy independence story, said Jones. “We’ve been able to offer this to offshore investors because of demand from Asia.”