Investec Asset Management, the $85 billion firm based in South Africa, has made a strategic commitment to managing assets for the world’s 300 biggest institutions, including 30 in Asia ex-Japan.
It has transferred Tobie van Heerden from Capetown to Hong Kong for a new role as head of Asia institutional business.
Although no plans for new offices in the region have been made, it is considering putting resources into Singapore over the next few years. In part, this is because the firm wants to build more relationships with central banks, pension funds and sovereign groups in Southeast Asia.
“Everyone is looking at China, but Southeast Asia is the sleeping giant,” says van Heerden.
The firm has institutional clients in Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand, and says it has won mandates in China that are awaiting funding. Investec also has a retail funds business in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Capetown and London remain its hubs for investment management. Asked whether the firm will add portfolio managers or analysts to its Asia offices, van Heerden says no such decision has been made nor is imminent.
But he does note that Singapore requires global houses to have investment management professionals onshore if they open an office there.
While there would be disruption to the tight linkages between Capetown and London (which are in the same timezone), the entire investment team could benefit from having people close to the ground, particularly for strategies such as emerging-market credit.
“We’re not massive in size like a Pimco or a Wellington, but we come from an emerging market, and that gives us a different vantage point when we look at both developed and emerging-market countries,” he says. “That’s reflected in our portfolios.”