Asia continues to lag other regions for integrating ESG principles with investing; better data and stronger regulatory requirements will help institutional investors, market observers say.
But this is not the first such acquisition that Aberdeen has made in recent years. If history is a guide, then it suggests that the global fund house is more interested in benefits such as bulkier assets and distribution synergies rather than the skills of Credit SuisseÆs investment professionals.
For Credit Suisse, meanwhile, the deal is an opportunity to shed a costly, not very profitable business in order to concentrate on what itÆs really good at: multi-asset class solutions for high-net-worth clients, and manufacturing and distributing alternative investment strategies, including private equity, real estate and hedge funds.
In July 2005, Aberdeen acquired the UK-based asset management business of Deutsche Bank, including global equities managed in London and fixed income managed in Philadelphia. At a stroke it tripled its assets under management, but not a single fund manager from Deutsche is with the firm today.
Although executives at both firms are not commenting on personnel issues, people familiar with the deal say Aberdeen is committed to its investment process and is not interested in running Credit Suisse-acquired portfolios in any other manner.
The timing of the deal was apparently driven by Credit Suisse, which was keen to finalise by the end of 2008; media reports following the announcement say Schroder Investment Managers was also bidding for the business. CS officials would not comment on the timing.
But Aberdeen can take advantage of cheap markets. When it acquired funds run by Deutsche, these were in some cases cashed out and re-invested by AberdeenÆs managers. Depending on the asset class and the structure of the fund, Aberdeen can do the same thing û in global equities, for example.
The deal brings several benefits to Aberdeen. It has paid a low price, in the form of 240 million new shares in Aberdeen, or 24.97% of the company, valued at ú250 million ($364 million) based on its share price on 30 December, and the promise of one non-executive seat on AberdeenÆs board of directors.
In return it is getting CHF75 billion ($69 billion) of assets from traditional equity, fixed-income and money-market funds and segregated accounts; and with annual run-rate revenues of CHF200 million ($204 million). There is also a clawback provision, so if those revenues decline (because of client redemptions during the transition), so does the number of new shares issued to CS.
Aberdeen is, however, keen to retain Credit Suisse as a strategic shareholder. CS already distributes some Aberdeen products to its private-banking clients, and Aberdeen hopes to upgrade this relationship. Given CSÆs ongoing financial interests in these assets, via its ownership of Aberdeen stock, it will also have an incentive to sell more of the firmÆs products.
The independent fund house will also benefit from enhanced scale in certain markets including Japan and in Australian fixed income. Credit Suisse never achieved scale with its traditional funds business, and Aberdeen can manage these assets within its own portfolios at a reduced cost û so in theory this should also benefit clients whose assets are moving.
Lastly, Aberdeen executives say the deal is a boost in morale for the team at a time when the industry is struggling. The firm now manages ú103 billion ($157 billion) but has seen AUM fall in line with global markets.
This should also be a boost for the remaining asset management business at Credit Suisse, which in Asia has gone through several reorganisations over the past year. Tony Illya, the former investment banker who had run asset management in Asia-Pacific, had retired, with the baton passed to former COO Salman Shoaib; it had shuttered its ôPrismö fund solutions business (which had been run in Asia by ex-Watson Wyatt consultant Peter Ryan-Kane); and it had restructured its third-party distribution strategy, including the hire in November 2007 of Rami Hayek as head of Asia distribution (heÆs still with the firm).
Credit SuisseÆs traditional funds business in Asia is not well regarded by rivals or other industry players, and is not believed to be held in particularly high esteem by Aberdeen. On the other hand, CS is considered top-notch in alternative investments, and can now focus on things like primary and secondary private equity, credit hedge, and funds of private-equity funds.
In addition, CS is holding onto a few of its more valuable Asian asset management businesses that might be considered ætraditionalÆ, notably its fund JVs with Woori Group in Korea and ICBC in China.
CS executives say this is less about the funds and more about maintaining a strategic relationship with these partners. It is also retaining its traditional funds business in Switzerland, where it does have the scale (and the brand name) to justify it, as well as businesses such as property and leveraged investments in Australia that happen to be structured as mutual funds.
It is, on the other hand, parting ways with one æalternativeÆ business, its Singapore real-estate portfolio, which is also being sold to Aberdeen (which also has a Southeast Asia property portfolio).
So the deal looks good for Aberdeen, and good for CS û but perhaps not so good for the CS personnel that will be transferred to Aberdeen. The firms havenÆt worked out yet who this will include, although in Asia it could represent over 50% of CS asset management. Those involved in areas where Aberdeen has well-established teams, like Asian equities, may not receive a warm welcome û but there are products in Japan and Australia where the acquirer may want to bolster its teams.
All that execs at either firm will say is they hope to have the details worked out by the end of March with regard to Asia, and by June worldwide. The deal remains subject to approval by AberdeenÆs shareholders and by regulators. The variety of CS funds involved in the transaction will mean a long, complicated slog, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, and a technically difficult transition. So there will be another set of beneficiaries to this deal: lawyers and accountants. AberdeenÆs operations team, meanwhile, can expect a very busy first quarter.
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