The Dutch pension asset manager's Asia Pacific head of real estate says his team has just had one of its busiest years ever and that 2021 is looking similarly promising.
In his view, this proves the firm is on the right track after a radical restructuring that began last year.
ôI donÆt know of another fund manager that has raised as much assets in the region,ö he says. The firm now manages around Ç23 billion ($29 billion) for Asian clients.
Peter joined DeAM in April 2005 under the auspices of Kevin Parker, global head of asset management in New York, after spending four years running Deutsche BankÆs regional cash equities business. This allowed him to introduce an investment banking mindset to the organisation. At the time DeAM was a sprawling mess with 1,700 product lines but no overarching plan or strategy. It had a range of brands and provided an incoherent offering in different countries.
But it did, thanks to its relationship with Deutsche Bank, have a formidable regional network. DeutscheÆs global markets desk provides $7.5 trillion of liquidity to Asia ex-Japan, because of the banksÆ myriad relationships with virtually every government and large corporation. This network also meant that Deutsche has infrastructure û IT, operations, HR û entrenched in every market, making it relatively easier for DeAM to go in.
The firmÆs other advantage is its breadth of products, which includes traditional equity and fixed income, as well as hedge funds and funds of funds, real estate, infrastructure and structured products, among others. This sets it apart from many of its competitors, particularly from the traditional side of asset management.
Under ParkerÆs vision, Peter oversaw a radical restructuring of DeAMÆs Asia-Pacific business, in which brands were consolidated and - where regulations allowed - product lines were harmonised across geographies. The firm also opened a Middle East business out of a hub in Dubai in January this year.
The current emphasis in Asia is building the retail business under the DWS brand (Korea and Australia are next) and expanding the entire franchise into markets such as Indonesia and Taiwan where it doesnÆt yet have a footprint. Peter says Malaysia and Thailand will follow at some point.
The other part of the strategy is innovative products. Peter mentioned some ideas that AsianInvestor isnÆt yet at liberty to disclose, but one we can mention is a pilot project in Korea with Visa, in which credit card users can rebate a percentage of their sales into savings and investment products. Just as the introduction of air miles programs helped make individual credit cards a big sell (as opposed to scattering purchases across multiple cards), this has the potential to give both credit cards and investment managers a boost, with stickier assets. Peter promises that other innovative programs are in the works for Asia.
The firm is also working on more prosaic goals such as reviewing its huge line of products, shedding the poor ones and ensuring that hot performers, such as a global thematic fund managed out of the United States, are consistently marketed across the region.
Peter's challenge now is hiring. New markets such as Indonesia require entire new teams of investment managers and marketers. The real estate and hedge fund groups especially need to staff up. But the mandate is broad. ôWhere are we not hiring?ö Peter says.
He has four deputies û ômini-meÆsö as he calls them: Michelle Bang in Singapore for Asia ex-Japan, Andy Fay for Australia, Tsukasa Sekizaki for Japan and Dan Smaller in Dubai for the Middle East.
Ayaz Ebrahim has recently joined from HSBC Halbis Partners in Hong Kong as CIO for Asia-Pacific and is looking to hire a fixed-income deputy. Steve Harris, also based in Hong Kong, is COO and another ômini-Edö. Bang and Sekizaki also oversee a number of country heads (such as Shin Yong-il in Seoul or Sandeep Dasgupta in Mumbai) and product heads (for traditional assets, insurance, hedge funds, etc).
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