ESG is no passing fad, as more investors are convinced that alpha can be found in ESG and regulators continue to introduce rules to lift ESG standards.
If successful the shift could see Mercer marketing its multi-manager investment platform to the Hong Kong market, either directly or under a white label for other service providers, says David Anderson, outsourcing business leader for Asia Pacific in Sydney.
Mercer offers a soup-to-nuts outsourcing business on a regional level for North America and for Europe, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. Its business in Asia, on the other hand, has been fragmented and piecemeal, dictated by immediate client needs.
The firm has decided to incorporate Asian markets into the existing Australia/New Zealand operation, bringing it under AndersonÆs remit; he previously ran just Australia/New Zealand. Gary Tok transferred from Sydney to Hong Kong about six months ago to handle the outsourcing business for Greater China, and will report to Anderson as well as coordinate with other Mercer executives in Hong Kong, such as investment consulting MD Alan Flynn or the HR team.
Mercer already has a retirement outsourcing business in Hong Kong, and parts of outsourcing business in Taiwan, Korea and China. The full service runs the gamut of administration and wealth management, and includes funds management, product development, platform establishment and member services û itself a broad term that includes reporting, seminars, online transactions, modelling retirement savings and insurance, call centre service and financial advice.
Although best known for servicing corporations and helping them manage their workforces, over the past few years Mercer has also moved to directly service individuals, including high-net-worth people, particularly in the fields of advice, education and online services. Thirdly it is targeting institutions that white-label its services, a business it has already in Australia and is exploring now in Hong Kong. Anderson is also reviewing India and China to provide actuarial services and third-party fund administration for retirement schemes.
In its second annual sustainable investment report, the sovereign wealth fund says it invested $1.79bn in ESG bonds. Experts say asset owners next need to consolidate their standards.
Senior executives at the Taiwan financial group and Canadian pension fund believe that companies have to make an ESG transition, and may not have a choice in a few years.
Record low borrowing costs in Australia are feeding demand for the country's real estate, with domestic and global investors raising their allocations into the sector.
Experts have a diversified view on the appeal of private assets across the region, but one thing's for certain - inflows are rising, particularly into China and the US.