Investment consultancy Mercer has continued the build-out of its investment-management business in the Asia-Pacific region with a reshuffle of senior executives.

After seven years as Australia-based senior portfolio manager, Andrew Howard has been named Asia-Pacific chief investment officer. He replaces Russell Clarke, who becomes London-based global CIO for mainstream assets, a newly created role.

Phil Graham, Mercer Australia’s senior portfolio strategist since 2007, becomes deputy CIO for Asia-Pacific, another new role. The company plans to make hires over the coming months to fill the resulting vacancies.

Mercer says it created Clarke’s post in response to the rapid evolution of its investment-management business, which now manages more than $44 billion globally, of which $18 billion is in Asia-Pacific (all in Australia and New Zealand at present).

Clarke is now responsible for worldwide investment-management decisions concerning all traditional asset classes including equities, property, fixed-interest and multi-asset portfolios. Regional CIOs across the globe, including Howard, will now report to him, meaning he retains high-level oversight of the local portfolios.

Having already built an investment-management business in Australia and New Zealand – mainly driven by defined-contribution outsourcing of corporate plans – Mercer this year started building its platform across Asia, led by Stephen Roberts, Asia-Pacific head of investment management.

The firm’s Australian and New Zealand investment-management clients will benefit from Clarke’s move to the new global role, says Roberts, as it will enable even stronger advocacy of local issues at the highest levels within Mercer internationally. 

Clarke says he is “transitioning to a most capable successor” in Howard, who has worked closely with him over the past seven years and “has a deep insight into and appreciation of the needs and challenges of local investment-management clients”.

Clarke reports to London-based global CIO, Andrew Kirton, who assumed that role in August last year, after Tim Gardener joined Axa Investment Managers.

Kirton says the firm is putting its portfolio-management activities on an increasingly global footing and integrating them more closely with the underlying strategic and manager research. As a result, he notes, the need for a leadership role to help manage the challenges of this growing scale and complexity.

The new role is a logical extension of Mercer’s reorganisation earlier this year of alternatives research and portfolio-management activities along global lines, adds Kirton. 

That reorganisation saw the formation of an Alternatives Investment Committee, chaired by Bill Muysken, CIO of alternative assets, and an expansion of Muysken’s role to cover both beta and alpha strategies.

Some of these changes will also be applicable to mainstream assets, and part of Clarke's role will be to work closely with Muysken to explore areas of potential crossover.

Further evidence of Mercer’s growing focus on Asia is its move early last year to start building a wealth-management services team in Singapore, led by Hansi Mehrotra. The business is effectively an extension of the investment-consulting business for institutional investors.