The newly anointed Asia-Pacific CEO of HSBC Global Asset Management, Joanna Munro, outlined emerging markets and wealth management as her top priorities after her appointment was announced yesterday.
The UK-based industry veteran, who only this July was named global head of product, will not take up her new role in Hong Kong until May next year. She succeeds Rudolf Apenbrink, who this month moved to become CEO for HSBC Global Asset Management in Europe.
Edmund Stokes, the bank’s Asia-Pacific chief operating officer, takes over the regional CEO responsibilities in the interim, the bank confirmed.
Munro’s elevation to regional CEO after five years at HSBC will surprise some in the market, given that it will be the first time in her 24-year career that she will be based in Asia.
She points out that she has spent a lot of time travelling to the region, having been CEO of Multimanager since 2007 – with responsibility for teams managing money in Hong Kong and Taiwan – and global chief investment officer responsible for all investments outside specialist businesses for the previous two years.
She tells AsianInvestor: “One of the things I will be doing in Asia, as well as manufacturing with our investment teams, is taking our emerging market capabilities to the developed world, so offering those capabilities in Europe. I think that I am well-placed to understand where the opportunities are.”
Prior to joining HSBC in 2005, Munro was responsible for the UK institutional business and the global consultant relations team at Axa Investment Managers. She has also held senior positions at Salomon Brothers Asset Management and ABN Amro Asset Management.
Asked what she had achieved in Europe that had so impressed her bosses at HSBC to elevate her, she says: “I do think this naturally builds on what I have done before. When I was at Axa I had sales responsibility and before that I had varied investment responsibilities. I have also had CEO experience with Multimanager.
“So I think I have the pieces that you need to be a regional CEO, but this is a great opportunity for me to step into that role. I do think that HSBC as a group does look hard at the talent we have in-house. It is one of the things that attracted me to it as an asset management firm.”
Asked what her priorities will be when she takes up the regional role, she highlights expanding the franchise in emerging markets and wealth management.
“We have this great franchise in emerging markets but we can do more, we can be better known globally as a world class emerging markets player,” she says. “So one of my objectives is to build on what we have in emerging markets and build our reputation there globally."
“The second area is wealth management. We need to provide solutions for HSBC customers. We already do that to a very great extent, but again we can do more in terms of solutions that match [clients’] risk appetite.”
HSBC Global Asset Management manages $411 billion in assets globally. As of June 30, $93 billion of that was invested in emerging markets.
In terms of AUM sourced from Asia-Pacific, the business ranked 25th at the end of last year with $60 billion, according to AsianInvestor rankings, behind the likes of Samsung Investments, AllianceBernstein, UBS Global Asset Management and Prudential Financial.
Asked how she plans to change that, Munro stresses the importance of focusing “on areas you believe it is right to focus on”, which means emerging markets and wealth management.
“Where that takes us in the rankings is not the thing that is going to drive us,” she adds. “The thing that will drive us is being successful in those two areas. I would expect success would lead us to rise up the rankings, but the rise in the rankings will not be the end in itself.”
HSBC Global Asset Management is recognised for the strength of its businesses in Hong Kong as well as India, although Munro felt it would be premature to comment on whether the firm was punching below its weight in other Asian markets.
But asked whether she felt the asset management business relied too strongly on the strength of HSBC’s consumer bank, she replies: “It would be foolish of us not to want to work as closely as possible with the HSBC Group and their customers, so that is an absolute priority for us. But in the area of emerging markets, we believe that building on what we already have, we have the opportunity to provide solutions for customers beyond the bank’s client base.”
Munro was also unmoved by suggestions that HSBC’s multimanager offering, which seeks to blend investment strategies from ‘best-in-class’ managers, was not catching on in Asia. “We are providing wealth solutions for customers and we want to do it in a way that makes most sense for them,” she says. “Multimanager is one of the ways that we can do that, but we also have in-house capabilities. What we do is decide on a case-by-case basis which way is the right way to deliver the client solution.”