Old Mutual Global Investors’ managing director for Asia, Carol Wong, will leave the UK asset manager following other departures in Hong Kong and changes to its international business.  

The firm had been building headcount in the region since 2014 but has made cuts in recent months, most notably with its three-strong Asian equities investment team leaving in April.

OMGI joins the list of international asset and wealth managers making similar moves in recent years amid a tough environment.

The number of individuals licensed with OMGI in Hong Kong peaked at 17 in late 2015 but has since fallen to eight, with six of those licences ceasing this year, according to Securities and Futures Commission records.

Assistant market manager Daisy Wong also left this year. A replacement has already started for her, but the firm declined to provide details of the appointment.

In addition, product specialist Oliver Lee will be moving from Hong Kong to London later this year as an investment director working with the global emerging markets team. He will not be replaced in Asia.

Carol Wong

Carol Wong had joined OMGI as managing director and head of distribution for Asia in November 2013 to help develop the regional strategy. She had previously worked with BNP Paribas Asset Management.

Warren Tonkinson, managing director of OMGI, confirmed that she has decided to leave the firm in July 2018, in agreement with OMGI management, to explore external opportunities.

He added that Asia remains a core market for the firm’s business, which announced this month it had moved into a new office in Hong Kong.

Carol Wong said in a statement that after more than four years with the business, she felt it was time to move on to the next challenge.

Asked whether Wong would be replaced, a spokeswoman said OMGI was looking to hire additional distribution presence in the region, although these roles have not yet been defined.

Kylie Chan is staying with the business in Hong Kong as North Asia head of sales.

In a July 2016 interview with AsianInvestor, Wong said the UK fund house was investing resources in branding and marketing in the region and that its distribution efforts were focused on private banks and family offices.

Wong’s departure follows the dismantling of its Hong-Kong based Asian equities unit led by Joshua Crabb in April. Crabb, who joined as head of Asian equities in 2014 from BlackRock, left the firm in May.

The shuttering of the Asian equities team means OMGI has no investment team based in Hong Kong.

The changes in Asia follow an overhaul of OMGI's fund management business at a head office level.

In September 2017 Old Mutual Wealth, which manages the funds business, rebranded its multi-asset unit as Quilter and sold off its single-strategy business to private equity firm TA Associates for around $793 billion.

ADJUSTING TO CHANGE

OMGI’s reorganisation is reflective of how different asset managers around the world are using various strategies to cope with an increasingly tough operating environment created by the surge in passive investing, declining fees for traditional active strategies and rising compliance costs.

To try to stay competitive some fund houses are opting to merge in the hope that the larger, combined scale of assets will usher in cost efficiencies. Others are seeking to bulk up expertise in non-traditional asset classes (either in-house or through acquisitions) such as real estate, private credit and infrastructure. Others still – like OMGI – are streamlining sub-scale operations in certain markets, including Asia.

Europe’s biggest fund house, Amundi, for example, laid off the bulk of its investment and operations staff in Hong Kong and Singapore in a bout of restructuring after merging with Pioneer Investments.

Also in Hong Kong, France’s Axa Investment Managers closed its multi-asset desk early this year. And in late 2016 UK-based BlueBay Asset Management shut its office and transferred staff to the Hong Kong office of parent RBC and both Switzerland’s Banque Syz and Edmond de Rothschild closed asset management operations in the city.

Meanwhile, US-based real estate investment firm Ell Capital Management shut three overseas offices – in Singapore, London and Munich – in June 2017 after heavy client outflows.