Personnel biggest challenge, says JFAM CEO

Ken Tam, the new chief executive at JF Asset Management, lays out his priorities for 2007.
JF Asset Management, which manages $97 billion in Asia and Japan as part of the $935 billion JPMorgan Asset Management, went through turmoil this summer with the departure of two key executives, CEO Douglas Eu (to Allianz Global Investors) and Desmong Ng (to Invesco). Ken Tam, who has served at the firm for 13 years, was tapped to succeed Eu as CEO.

He has spent the past four months focusing on the firmÆs human capital. Now, with his key lieutenants in place, Tam says he is concentrating on JFÆs strategy for 2007.

Tam says the change of executives didnÆt affect performance. ôAccession planning is done carefully,ö he says, citing the firmÆs pool of talent available for promotion. ôAnd this has created positive energy. My way of looking at things is a little different, and the team is energetic about delivering results.ö

Terry Pan was promoted from running retail distribution to handle the entire retail business for Asia ex-Japan, which includes running the investment centre, marketing and pooled pensions business.

Clifford Chiu was appointed to run the institutional business. He is formerly managing director at Banc One Asset Management, and was brought into the fold when JPMorgan acquired Banc One in the United States. Chiu then ran JPMorgan bankÆs cash business.

ôThe Hong Kong market did so well in 2006 and now there is huge competition for talent,ö says Tam. In addition to paying decent salaries, the firm also needs to continuously offer training and opportunities for employees to develop their career. It also needs to offer an enjoyable corporate culture.

Tam cites personnel issues as his biggest challenge. ôIf people leave then my time gets spent on the front lines, rather than thinking about strategy.ö

The next priority is to work on branding. The firm intends to co-market the JF name for Asian investment products, and JPMorgan for global ones.

Thirdly is products. Tam cites two popular new products introduced this year, for China A shares and for Vietnam opportunities, both the first of their kind to target Hong Kong retail investors. ôI want to do more of this kind of thing,ö he says.

The final big project is to continue developing new businesses in Korea, India and China.

Tam played an important role last year in helping JFAM decide to build an onshore fund business in Korea. It is still working with regulators in Seoul on the documentation, but hopes to receive a business license in the first half of 2007. Toby Cha, who ran cash equities in Korea for JPMorgan, will run the new business.

ôKoreans are now investing $10 billion in offshore funds and thereÆs only a handful of competitors,ö Tam adds. Plus the onshore market and the growing size of Korean institutional investors makes the market appealing, but a local presence seems necessary.

Similarly the firm is working on a license to do fund management in India, which it hopes to win in the first quarter.

JF has a joint venture in China with the Shanghai municipal investment arm called China International Fund Management. It now has five funds managing $2.5 billion. Tam played a role putting the deal together in 2003 and 2004, and says the business now has about 100 staff, including rep offices in Beijing and Shenzhen. With QDII, a big priority will be on Clifford ChiuÆs side, developing institutional business.

He says he was not disappointed by JFÆs failure to win one of the inaugural international fund mandates from ChinaÆs Social Security Fund. ôThis is a long-term business. My reaction was, what can we do more of, better, to be considered for the next mandate?ö

In addition to its regional headquarters in Hong Kong, JFAM also has a big office in Taiwan (over 300 people), where it enjoys a leading role in the onshore funds industry under managing director Eddie Chang; a research office in Singapore, and a JV in Melbourne.

Tam reports to David Hsu, who is CEO of Asia ex-Japan. TamÆs focus is on Hong Kong and the institutional business in China, but will play a role in developing the Korea business due to his experience with that project.
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