Principal GI plays down disruption after EM exits

Asia CEO Andrea Muller stresses the firm’s globally integrated approach after 11 quit its emerging markets team. More hires are planned, notably in Hong Kong and China.
Principal GI plays down disruption after EM exits

The Asia CEO of Principal Global Investors, Andrea Muller, has sought to downplay disruption to the firm’s global emerging markets and Asia coverage following a string of departures.

Principal had operated with three senior portfolio managers covering global emerging market equities: Michael Reynal and Mihail Dobrinov based in Des Moines, Iowa, and Michael Ade in Singapore.

The firm also has a support team of EM analysts based in Des Moines, Hong Kong, Singapore and London, and 63 equities professionals globally.

Reynal had led its EM equity coverage, which amounts to $9.3 billion and includes $1.62 billion in Principal International Emerging Markets fund and $1.8 billion in Asian regional mandates.

However, last week Reynal resigned, and it has emerged that Ade and nine other members of the emerging markets equities team at Principal Global Investors have also departed.

Media report they have joined $24 billion San Francisco-based manager RS Investments. The joiners are listed as Antonio Alvarez, Rex Chen, Zoe Chow, Tony Chu, Daniel Do Vale, Maria Freund, Roy Law, and Peter Luo, with Tammy Belshaw to join in December 2012.

Business Wire states they will assume management of the RS Emerging Markets Fund and the RS greater China Fund in early 2013, subject to approvals. They will be based across Des Moines, London, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The chief executive of RS Investments, Matthew Scanlan, is also quoted as saying the firm is “intensely focused” on expanding its capabilities.

Principal Global Investors has subsequently moved to promote Dobrinov to head of EM equities, having been at the firm for 17 years. He and Reynal had been co-portfolio managers on most of the assets managed by the EM equities team, says Principal.

And speaking to AsianInvestor, Muller sought to stress that Principal has always run a globally integrated business with a team approach. “What we would emphasise is what has not changed, and that is our philosophy and process,” she says.

“We have a proprietary global research platform, which is the cornerstone of our stock selection process, that enables us to continue even with these departures. We have more than 60 equities professionals around the world, and we are fully capable of providing the necessary coverage of emerging markets.”

On the question of hires, she says Principal has no plans to replace Reynal but will replace Ade in Asia. Whether this will be an internal transfer or external appointment is yet to be determined.

Muller adds that Principal had set out its stall to expand its team in both Hong Kong and China in 2013 and that remains the case, although she does not go into specifics on roles.

Principal’s recently appointed chief operating officer for Asia, Frederick Laydon, previously told AsianInvestor that the firm would seek to become a leader in China-linked investment products.

This August it received $150 million in Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (QFII) quota. It has set up a qualifying investor fund (QIF) structure on its Dublin-domiciled platform and will be targeting institutional and high-net-worth investors. It also has a China joint venture, CCB Principal Asset Management.

“Principal is committed to serving some of the new institutional clients and new opportunities emerging out of China, such as insurance companies, which are now able to invest offshore,” says Muller. “This is another exciting area for us in 2013.”

Principal Global Investors managed $276 billion in assets as at September 30. Of this, $5.6 billion was sourced from Asia, $5.6 billion from Australia/New Zealand and $4.4 billion from Japan.

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