AsianInvestor unveiled the winners of its final two marquee awards at our Asset Management Awards dinner in Hong Kong on Wednesday night (May 22), and explained why they won. Here we present our Asia Fund House of the Year and our Asset Manager of the Year. 

ASIA FUND HOUSE

UOB Asset Management

The Singapore-based fund manager has a presence across eight regional markets, and they collectively constitute more than half its assets under management (AUM) and profits. Last year UOB Asset Management continued to build its assets with Singapore institutional clients, as well as alternative investment management unit, plus increasing its net assets in Malaysia and Taiwan. It had S$30.5 billion ($22.09 billion) in total AUM at the end of 2018.

All-told, UOB AM launched 10 new products last year. this included Singapore’s first daily liquid alternatives fund, which gives retail investors a chance to diversify into alternative asset classes. It also introduced a Singapore dollar money market fund that is invested according to socially responsible investing standards, avoiding areas like gambling and tobacco.

Meanwhile in Thailand it launched an innovation fund, to target companies at the forefront of product development and change.

UOB Asset Management can point to several internationally recognised funds. This includes its United Singapore dollar bond fund, which last year beat its benchmark, passing the S$1 billion mark.

A particular area of focus for the firm last year was rolling out a new digital sales channel, anticipating the shift of fund sales from traditional bank distribution into new areas. This channel included a new digital sales team and the creation of a digital advisory service for corporate investors.

The service offers automated investment advice and customised investment portfolios to customers, based on their investment goals and risk acceptance. At the same time, its Thailand office launched a retail investor version of the service. It also onboarded five new distributors in the market, which promises to grow its presence in the country.   

Other areas of note include environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles, where UOB Asset Management began screening Asia and Singapore bond funds with ESG criteria. A Japanese fund house was sufficiently impressed to pick the Singaporean firm to advise on its Asia ex-Japan ESG criteria.

ASSET MANAGER OF THE YEAR

Invesco

2018 was not an easy year in which to outperform. Markets rapidly soured near the end of the year, to leave many fund houses with fewer assets under management (AUM) than when they began.

Invesco was one of the exceptions. Over the course of the year, its Asia-Pacific AUM increased 17.3% to hit $102.6 billion. Notably, the figure rose even during the horrendous fourth quarter, from $101.4 billion at the end of September.

This was largely thanks to the popularity of the US firm's money market funds, with inflows largely offsetting around $3.5 billion in overall market losses for the fourth quarter. Indeed, the fund house’s money market strategies recorded close to $9 billion of inflows during the year.

A key part of this success was down to Invesco's Chinese operations. It fully consolidated its joint-venture into its accounts for the first time last year, which helped boost its AUM. Plus it started to distribute funds digitally in China, including via Ant Financial’s Yu’E Bao money market platform. That netted it a major inflow in sales, and meant its China business grew by $1.2 billion last year.

Another area of success was fixed maturity products; these netted more than $1 billion of inflows in Taiwan and over $300 million in Singapore, despite only being launched in the fourth quarter of 2018.

All-told, Invesco's funds have demonstrated their longer-term performance, with 75% outperforming their benchmarks over three years and 76% doing so over five years. It has continued to do well in Hong Kong too, where it is the second largest MPF provider and was recognised as having the best MPF by Morningstar.

Add to this some major institutional wins, which swelled Invesco's Asia institutional business by $4.5 billion on the back of gross sales approaching $20 billion. Again, money market fund inflows were a key recipient. But it also won a mandate from a major Korean asset owner to invest in Chinese equities, a promising sign for the future.

All in all, Invesco was one of the few asset managers to exit 2018 in better shape than it had entered the year. That’s a noteworthy achievement.

This story was updated to clarify UOB Asset Management's assets under management at the end of 2018.