The incoming head of UBS Global Asset Management in Asia Pacific, Rene Buehlmann, says he plans to put into action insights he has gleaned from more than two decades at the Swiss bank to take the business to the next level.
UBS sent out a memo yesterday to announce the appointment of Buehlmann as the new Asia-Pacific head of its asset management business, effective July 1. He succeeds Kai Sotorp, who is poised to depart, as reported exclusively by AsianInvestor.
Continuing to be based in Hong Kong, Buehlmann will join the global asset management executive committee, where he will report to Ulrich Koerner, as well as the Asia Pacific executive committee, reporting to Yoon Chi-Won.
The majority of Buehlmann’s tenure with UBS has been with its wealth management business, starting in 2000 as a credit officer in New York and working his way up from there. He first moved out to Hong Kong in 2005.
Most recently he was global head of the fund distribution business within wealth management, including alternative investments, and head of investment products and services in Hong Kong.
Asked if he saw leading the regional asset management business as a natural progression, he tells AsianInvestor: “If you look at my previous roles, I have gained a lot of insight into how successful asset managers operate.
“Through that I have gained insights about what works and what doesn’t work. I would say it is a natural progression in the sense that you apply what you have learned over the years.”
He points out that not only does he have strong ties with the firm’s wealth management business, but that in his previous role as global head of investment funds for UBS Wealth Management he worked closely with the investment bank.
“I know wealth management very well, and I think as an asset management company you naturally use the strength of the whole firm. For me it is a natural progression.”
Asked whether he needed to familiarise himself with the institutional side of the business, Buehlmann pointed out he started his career in corporate advisory, selling pension solutions to large corporations.
“In every role you take on you have a lot to learn,” he said. “This is an exciting role because it is an opportunity to learn new things and maybe to apply a few things that I have learned from my old job and bring those into this new role.”
While he noted it was too early to talk about strategy, he indicated there would be a continuation in Asia. “Nothing brand new, but you can expect that we want to grow further,” he explained. “It demonstrates how serious we are about business in this region.”
Asked how he weighed opportunities to raise assets from retail and individual investors versus institutional in Asia, Buehlmann said he viewed both favourably. “Institutional is more customised than the retail space, you need good capabilities in both but you need to differentiate the way you deliver them.”
He said it was too early to talk about hiring plans, although he did stress that he intended to make UBS Global Asset Management a place where talented people want to work. “This is a people business, and we will foster an environment that attracts, develops and retains talent. That is clearly a goal of mine.”
A successor for Buehlmann as global head of the fund distribution business will be announced in due course, the memo read, without indicating whether that would be similarly based in Asia.
“[Buehlmann’s] appointment highlights our commitment to drive the business in the region forward,” the memo stated. “Kai Sotorp will continue to lead the region until the end of June. [Sotorp and Buehlmann] work together to ensure a very smooth transition.”
Buehlmann began at Union Bank of Switzerland in 1990, working for seven years as a corporate adviser. From 1997-2000 he worked as a recovery portfolio manager, a period that encompassed the financial services firm’s merger with Swiss Bank Corporation in 1998 to form UBS.
He moved to New York in 2000 to start his career with UBS Wealth Management, initially for a year as a credit officer and then three years as head of lending products for the Americas. He relocated to Switzerland to become global head of lending products in 2004.
The following year he moved to Hong Kong as head of banking products for Asia Pacific, before being promoted to managing director and head of product and services consulting for three years.
In 2010 he was appointed head of investment products for Asia Pacific, and in 2012 global head of investment funds.