Demand is steadily growing in Thailand for overseas exposure, boosting the importance for foreign asset managers of knowing the key local gatekeepers. AsianInvestor has identified those selectors considered to be the most influential.
We have already profiled Benjarong Techamuanvivit of Kasikorn Asset Management, Smith Banomyong of SCB Asset Management, Vana Bulbon of UOB Asset Management, Maethee Chandavimol of Phatra Securities and Don Charnsupharindr of Citi.
Here are the next two choices; we will publish the final duo later this week.
First vice-president and mutual fund product team leader
Thai Military Bank
In 2014 Thai Military Bank (TMB) moved to make its fund platform 100% open architecture to give customers more choice. It assesses managers based on performance, strategy and methodology, as well as stability. It remains the only local Thai bank that’s completely open in this way.
TMB's platform provides solutions to both mass-retail and affluent investors with at least Bt5 million ($142,000) in investible assets. The mutual fund team is run by Kidakarn Chudsuwan, who is quick to distance its platform from accusations of being a fund supermarket.
“What we have on our shelf are funds selected by my team and ranked in the upper quartile,” Chudsuwan explained, noting that its shelf supports 30 to 40 products, of which half are foreign investment funds.
“If the fund is domestic fixed income or passive management we will choose our subsidiary as the provider," she said. "For other choices, we will choose the best-performing funds."
Chudsuwan and her team discuss fund ideas directly with external managers and 70% of the time they carry out the selection on that basis. For more sophisticated funds, she asks the sales team about investor appetite.
She is open to new investment ideas and is seeking global property funds. “Yield from fixed income is low, so investors are looking for new investment products that are not subject to much market volatility,” she said.
By the end of 2015 TMB had Bt180 trillion in assets under management. Outside of domestic fixed income, Chudsuwan reckons 60% of local equity and foreign investment funds are managed by its subsidiary and 40% by external partners.
She joined TMB in 2014 from Muang Thai Life Assurance and earlier worked for Siam Commercial Bank.
Head of private banking
Another distributor to be moving towards more open architecture is Kasikorn Bank. It provides products from both subsidiary Kasikorn Asset Management – the largest fund house in Thailand – and external partners.
Right now the bank provides access to international managers via locally wrapped funds. Its offering covers all major asset classes except domestic money-market funds. “However, with the recent loosening of local regulations we will soon be able to provide direct access via our own platform, which will significantly widen investment choices,” said Jirawat Supornpaibul, head of private banking at Kasikorn Bank since 2013.
Fund selection is split into two parts. Initially, the financial advisory team shortlists candidates, which are asked to present their company’s profile to a selection committee. It then explores their risk management, auditing, financial status, working structure, information support and record with selling agents. Those selected sign an agreement with the bank.
Then, at the fund level, the financial advisory team starts from its current asset allocation strategy and scopes out the asset class it is interested in before narrowing it down by preferred strategy (active or passive). “Subsequently we look at the liquidity of the funds to ensure our customers are able to subscribe or redeem without any liquidity issues,” says Supornpaibul. It then compares one- to three-year risk-adjusted returns and conducts a monthly performance review.
Before joining Kasikorn, Supornpaibul was vice-president of the Thai private wealth unit at Morgan Stanley Hong Kong. He previously worked at Phatra Securities in Bangkok as managing director and executive vice-president for business development and manager for the private client group.