UK fund house Hermes is stepping up its Asia expansion drive, transferring Jakob Nilsson to Singapore as its first dedicated business development head for the region, AsianInvestor can confirm.

An investment banker by background, Nilsson started in the newly created role in mid-January, having relocated his family at the start of the year. He joined the firm in September 2012 as director of business development for the Nordic region.

AsianInvestor reported last year that Hermes was seeking to install a regional head of sales and business development based in Singapore. Its search led it to transfer a staff member internally, rather than bring in an external hire.

Hermes acts as principal money manager for parent the $39 billion BT Pension Scheme – the UK’s largest final-salary plan. It was transformed from an internal manager to an external one in 2007, when it first began to target third-party assets.

It manages $42.3 billion in assets for more than 170 clients globally via a 12-company boutique structure, of which $1.03 billion is sourced from Asia Pacific. It offers a range of fixed income, equity and alternative strategies.

The latter forms a key plank of its strategy to target Asian asset owners, with its Singapore office housing 10 investment professionals covering commodities, private equity and hedge funds.

That represents its manufacturing capability in Asia, while Nilsson is supported by two staff from the firm’s hedge fund group. It also has Ian Manton-Hall covering superannuation funds based in Australia.

Harriet Steel

Harriet Steel, global head of business development for Hermes out of London, notes the firm is also exploring distribution agreements in Taiwan and will eventually look at Japan.

“Asia is an area we are strategically investing in,” she tells AsianInvetsor. “[Nilsson’s] appointment is the first time we have had a business development head on the ground in Asia.

“Our first target is to consolidate strategies that we run from Singapore to make sure we can deliver what our clients need. Then we will see a buildout of our business development footprint.”

Asked whether Hermes planned to build manufacturing capabilities in the region, she says it is something it will look to do eventually, although it isn’t a priority as of now.

“The strategic importance of Asia cannot be overstated, and it’s quite likely that is something we will think about in the future,” she adds.

She notes it is still early days for Hermes in Asia, with the firm having set up in Singapore in July 2012 and receiving its capital markets services licence for fund management from the Monetary Authority of Singapore in August last year.

Fixed income and real estate investments account for nearly half of its assets under management. For Hermes’ most popular strategies in the wholesale arena in Asia, Steel has previously pointed to US small- and mid-cap equities, followed by European equities and Asian equities.

LG Super and Australian Super are two recently won mandates in this region. A spokeswoman says Hermes has won new mandates from 39 institutions in Asia Pacific over the past two years and established relationships with 29 distributors globally.

Prior to joining Hermes in 2012, Nilsson spent 15 years in investment banking working for Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

His role as director of business development for the Nordic region at Hermes is taken up by Johan Stromberg, who previously worked for hedge fund Prosperity Capital.