Lindsay Mann, Singapore-based CEO at First State Investments Asia, will move his family to Australia this summer and is in discussions about his position with the firm.
His departure date is unknown, and he will continue to run the business for an undetermined length of time. The move to Australia is for family reasons. Mann says he is grooming a successor, whom he declined to identify.
"There's nothing to be said about [the move] at the moment. I'm just working -- it's business as usual. I haven't got any definite plans," he says.
In a separate move, Colonial First State Global Asset Management -- the Asian unit's parent -- has announced that deputy CEO Neil Cochrane will retire later this year. This combined with Mann's decision to return to his native Australia is likely to prompt a review of the firm's regional structure.
Sources report the Asian and Japan operations are likely to be folded into a single unit, under Colonial First State's EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Asia) group. Michael Stapleton, current head of business development for the UK and Europe, has been named a managing director for Asia and Japan, as well as interim managing director for EMEA.
Mann has been working in Asia for 12 years, eight of which at First State. He led the firm's successful move to create a brand in asset management. Today the firm runs A$11 billion ($7.1 billion) in the region. According to AsianInvestor magazine, as of September 2008 it sourced about $10 billion of its assets from Asia and Japan (ex Australia). About two-thirds of this is retail.
Mann first moved to Asia in 1997 as a managing director at Axa Investment Managers in Hong Kong. Between 2001 and 2005, he was CEO of First State Investments' Singapore office. He was named regional CEO at First State Asia in November 2005. That was a difficult period which saw then-Hong Kong head Stephen Kenneally resign and move to Cohen & Steers, as Mann's remit was extended to cover all of Asia ex-Japan.
Since then the firm has been relatively stable. The only high-level departure came late last year when portfolio manager Ken Hu left the firm over performance-related issues in Asian and emerging-market fixed income. The poor performance created a problem with Sun Life Insurance, a major client in First State's regional bond portfolios. This relationship stems from 2004 when First State's parent, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, sold its CMG Insurance business to Sun Life. Mann says the account was pre-set to expire.
Murray Collis, who had relocated from London to Hong Kong in 2006, was then given responsibility to oversee the fixed-income team. Alastair Thompson continues to run the Asian and emerging-market equity team in Singapore.
The firm has recently named Wang Chongkun as CEO of First State Cinda Fund Management, the firm's funds joint venture in China with Cinda Asset Management Corp. Wang was previously chief marketing officer, and replaces Li Kenan, who left to join a new funds JV between Ping An and Singapore's UOB Asset Management. Li had been poached by former Colonial First State CIO John Pearce during his tenure at Ping An. Pearce was ousted from Ping An at the end of 2008 and is now working for Commonwealth Bank as a consultant in Hong Kong.