Kai Sotorp returns to run UBS Global AM

ETFs and third-party wholesale to be the focus for UBS Global Asset Management in Asia as Kai Sotorp takes charge.
Kai Sotorp returns to run UBS Global AM

UBS Global Asset Management is transferring Kai Sotorp from the United States to Hong Kong to run the business across Asia-Pacific.

Effective September 3, Sotorp will serve as regional head, replacing Christof Kutscher, who returned to Europe earlier this year, as reported.

Scott Keller, who has served as the region’s acting head since April, continues his job as head of pan-Asia, and will now report to Sotorp. He leads institutional distribution and fund distribution to non-UBS related businesses, as well as fund distribution into UBS Wealth Management, the asset manager’s single biggest client.

According to Sotorp’s new boss, John Fraser, one of the firm’s initiatives in Asia will be to list or cross-list more exchange-traded funds, in Australia and in Asia proper.

Fraser, London-based chairman and CEO of UBS Global Asset Management, oversaw the firm’s move into passive investments about five years ago. Passive products, including index funds and ETFs, now account for around 20% of the firm’s total AUM of $599 billion (as at end-June).

All of UBS’s ETFs are listed in London, with plenty of Swiss and European investors. Fraser wants to see this expanded through Asia-Pacific, and marketed to both individual clients and small and mid-sized institutional investors. According to ETF Global Insight, UBS Global AM has 82 ETFs listed there with total AUM of $11.4 billion, giving it 4% market share in Europe.

Globally, the firm’s biggest priority is to advance sales to third-party wholesale distributors. That is already the centrepiece of its business in key Asian markets, including Japan, its local China business and its joint venture in Korea with Hana Bank. “This initiative already has traction in Asia,” Fraser says.

Fraser has known Sotorp since 1999, and the firm has done well in securing a familiar, experienced asset management executive. Sotorp is an old Asia hand. Although he has been located in Chicago since 2004, he served with the firm in Tokyo from 2000 to 2004, first as president of the Japan business, and then as regional CEO.

He served as Japan president at AIG Global Investment Group (now Pinebridge) and, on behalf of Kemper Financial Services, co-founded Masterlink Securities in Taiwan. He has also served as board chairman for a UBS joint venture in Japan, Mitsubishi-UBS Realty.

Sotorp left the region to move to the US in 2004. He served as co-head of the Americas for UBS Global AM and sat on its executive committee. Fraser praises Sotorp’s handling of the business throughout a difficult period for UBS, which had to face scandals and legal problems regarding its investment banking and wealth management businesses, as well as the global financial crisis.

Sotorp retired in 2010 but remained in Chicago to consult in the private-equity space. UBS Group had offered him some senior positions in wealth management, but Sotorp needed to recharge his batteries. Fraser says Sotorp jumped at the chance to run UBS Global AM in Asia.

When asked why, Fraser says, “He loves Asia, it’s as simple as that,” noting that Sotorp is also a fluent Japanese speaker. “I pulled him out of Asia at very short notice when I needed someone in the US, and I’m grateful to him for that.”

This story has been corrected. The original version said UBS has four ETFs listed in Asia. This is untrue. AsianInvestor misread data showing there are four ETFs in Asia that track UBS indices.

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