JP Morgan Asset Management's new Singapore chief executive, Steven Billiet, has taken over from a predecessor who has largely completed a retail distribution buildout the firm began back in 2010.
Billiet, formerly Asia-Pacific chief executive of ING Investment Management, started in the role this month with a remit to continuing the rapid growth of JP Morgan AM's business in the Lion City.
He replaces Singapore business head Andrew Creber, who will relocate to Sydney as chief operating officer for JP Morgan AM Australia in the next few weeks.
Billiet left his previous role in Singapore as Asia-Pacific CEO at ING Investment Management in August, with the Dutch group having since replaced him with Shek Chee-Seng. The Singapore unit is being restructured with a view to it being combined with ING’s European insurance business and sold through an IPO later this year.
Billiet’s remit is slightly different from that of his precedessor. While Creber focused on developing relationships with product distributors, Billiet is tasked with maintaining them.
“The work in terms of getting into the Singaporean market has more or less been completed,” he says, adding that his remit is now to build on the firm’s partnerships. “Quite naturally, if you’ve only initiated a relationship one or two years ago, there is more you can do to get closer to those distributors to see if there are more products or strategies that you can bring to them.”
JP Morgan AM’s entry into the Singapore retail market is relatively new. It gained approval to sell to retail investors in September 2010 – before that, it could only distribute via private banks.
It now has 42 funds authorised for mass retail sale, up from 34 in mid-2012, and offers 120 funds for accredited investors such as private bank clients.
Some of the most popular products are multi-asset strategies, says Billiet. Indeed, JP Morgan AM accounted for 40% of the total S$1.96 billion ($1.55 billion) in net multi-asset fund flows in the nine months to September 30, the latest figures available from the Investment Management Association of Singapore.
Such flows helped double its assets sourced from Singapore clients year-on-year as of December 31, but Billiet declined to reveal its current assets under management.
This growth comes amid rationalisation of distribution platforms. Some private and retail banks have been leaning towards a preferred partnership model – selecting products from around 10 to 15 fund houses – as opposed to an open architecture hosting products from, say, 60 firms, says Billiet.
But while this is a trend, he adds, not all distributors are following this route. Some distributors for example is completely open and do not want to go through the partnership route.
As for the two fund passporting proposals that Singapore is involved with, Billiet says JP Morgan is still evaluating how they will work and what benefits may be on offer for the firm.
He points out that to qualify for such schemes, not only do products need to be domiciled in Singapore, but they will probably also have to be managed there. “From a global perspective, that is quite difficult to do,” says Billiet. Managing a US equity fund out of the Lion City, for instance, would be “very difficult to organise”, he notes.
Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, JP Morgan AM is also looking at building its business in markets including Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. It does not yet have a local presence in those markets, although it does have either advisory or feeder fund agreements with onshore fund houses.
There are no specific expansion plans at present, adds Billiet, but the company does not rule out putting a local presence at some point.