Old Mutual Global Investors has joined the ranks of asset managers eyeing Singapore’s retail fund market and is looking to expand its regional client base in Southeast Asia. It is also working on establishing partnerships in Malaysia and Thailand.

The UK-based firm has hired Gerard Clancy from Columbia Threadneedle Investments as its first dedicated sales head for Southeast Asia. He started in the role on July 4 and reports to Carol Wong, Hong Kong-based managing director for Asia Pacific.

At Columbia Threadneedle, Clancy was executive director of wholesale distribution for five years, based in Singapore and focused on Southeast Asia. He has also worked in sales at BlackRock covering Hong Kong, Korea and Southeast Asia.

OMGI already has relationships with private banks and independent financial advisers in Singapore, but is now also looking at partnering with retail banks there.

“We will invest resources in branding and marketing in the region, but not massively, as our key channels are private banks and family offices,” Wong (pictured) told AsianInvestor. “But strategically we may line up with a few retail banks in the region who have a private bank presence with us already.”

The firm only has products registered under the restricted scheme, meaning they can only be sold to accredited or professional investors. It has yet to have and funds approved for retail sale in Singapore, noted Wong, and that won’t happen until next year.

This comes on the back of growth for OMGI in Singapore, where its sales of funds through private banks has more than doubled year-on-year, though admittedly from a relatively low base, she said. She declined to provide specific numbers.

Asked which products OMGI would register in the Lion City, Wong said the likely candidates were income-paying funds, such as equity and fixed income dividend products. The firm is also open to registering multi-asset funds.

In addition, she pointed to growing interest in liquid alternative investments, such as hedge funds and absolute-return strategies, suggesting the firm may bring more of these to Asia.

Various other firms have registered their first retail products in Singapore in the past few years, including Axa Investment Managers, Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Neuberger Berman.

Beyond Singapore, OMGI is keeping an eye on the various product passports, including the Asean collective investment scheme, Asia Region Funds Passport and Hong Kong-China mutual recognition of funds scheme.

“We are relatively new to the region, so there are lots of things we need to prioritise first [before participating in fund passporting],” said Wong, “but if it’s the right timing and the right fit, we may go for it.” But nothing is likely to happen on this front until next year at the earliest, she noted.

Would OMGI consider channels other than passporting for accessing Malaysian and Thai clients, such as providing feeder funds or sub-advisory services? Wong said the firm did not have partnerships in either market, but was in talks with potential distributors.

Meanwhile, OMGI would need to domicile funds in Hong Kong before it could participate in MRF, and that will not happen this year, she noted. Still, the firm does have fund managers based in Hong Kong and retail funds registered for sale in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Most of the products its sells in Asia are Ucits vehicles.

Asked whether OMGI would consider other routes to tapping the Chinese market, such as setting up a wholly foreign-owned enterprise, Wong said there were not yet any plans on that front.