This year Nomura Asset Management plans to expand its wholesale distribution network into new markets in Asia-Pacific, says Yoshinori Mizunuma, managing director and head of international business development in Tokyo.

Most Japanese fund houses have been looking to expand their businesses overseas, particularly in Asia (see AsianInvestor magazineÆs cover story, October 2007). Nomura has a lead on most of its competitors, having maintained offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, New York and London for over 20 years.

Lately it has established relationships in South Korea and Taiwan to sell its Japanese equities products. In Korea, it distributes products through Samsung Securities, and in Taiwan, via Taishin Bank. Mizunuma says these deals are successful, although in 2007 the slump in the Japanese equity market made such products hard to sell.

Mizunuma says the firmÆs goal is to replicate such relationships in other markets in Asia, to offer both Japanese and Asian equity funds. It is looking at places such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia, and exploring what is allowed by regulators in markets such as Malaysia, where it already has a license to manage institutional money.

ôWe want to be more aggressive about building the Nomura brand,ö Mizunuma explains. The firm has a long history of sub-advising other fund houses in America and Europe, but now sees a need to market its own line of funds registered in Dublin and Luxembourg.

This push reflects a bigger strategy of building NomuraÆs retail business. Despite a negative year for Japanese equities, many retirees continue to shift money out of bank and postal savings deposits into investment funds, a trend that is expected to last. Nomura Asset Management is already one of the biggest managers of retail mutual funds, but it sees growth coming from newish products such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

ETFs have enjoyed a renaissance of late in Japan, and Nomura has recently listed three new ETFs on the Osaka Stock Exchange, tracking gold, Japanese small-cap and Chinese A-share indices. For an in-depth look at ETFs in Japan, see the February 2008 edition of AsianInvestor magazine.