Sail and Squadron are the two nautical-monikered funds of funds businesses that were established by Search Group, the private investment firm of Robert Miller, who co-owns Duty Free Shoppers with LVMH.

Miller spoke to AsianInvestor about what he sees through his telescope on the bridge.

What's going on at Search?

ThereÆs a lot going on. WeÆve developed a good platform over the years and have good teams in place. WeÆre looking forward to the future with optimism and we are confident we can double our assets under management in the next few years. In Sail, our fund of hedge funds arm, we have $2.5 billion and in Squadron, our fund of private equity funds arm, we have a little over $1 billion. So if you add those two together and double them, you can see what our goal is for the next two to three years.

How are you going to tackle the doubling of assets under management? Is it easier said than done?

Yes thatÆs correct, but we have the platforms in place and we have the teams there already that can accomplish that goal. We have a good selection of institutional investors. So IÆm confident that assets will grow.

Has there been much turnover of staff?

We do set very high standards here, and sometimes people just donÆt make the grade. Also we have had a few leaving for other reasons such as family and health.

WeÆre on the lookout to strengthen our teams where we can, in order to deal with the growth that lies ahead. ItÆs a competitive market, weÆve been around a long time, and in a sense weÆre one of the pioneers of Asian funds of funds, so weÆre a natural target for competitors who want to get hold of some of our top people. We invest heavily in our people.

What top level operational changes will take place internally to help during the building phase?

WeÆve established an executive committee to focus on strategic planning. I will chair that and I will be joined by both John Williamson, the chief financial officer of Search Group, and Eliza Lau of Sail.

I want Eliza to spend more time on the long-range planning and business development of the organisation. She is very good at that and sheÆll bring a lot to the table. IÆm happy about this new arrangement, so is she, all the staff know about it. WeÆre totally transparent.

Will Eliza Lau continue in her day-to-day role as CEO and CIO of Sail?

Yes. But with the executive committee work as well. ThatÆs a lot to do so we are looking for more senior management and investment talent. The business is growing and we need to add resources at all levels.

Any new products in your pursuit of assets?

The Asian area is going to be the area to which we devote our time and attention. ThereÆs still huge growth potential there. Institutions in Europe and North America still have a high degree of interest in Asia, and thatÆs where we see a lot of growth stemming from.

IÆve been around in Asia for 47 years, and the Search Group was founded in 1973. I think our first Asian hedge fund investment was about 10 years ago, so we go back a long way. WeÆve seen a lot of action out here in Asia, and I think institutions appreciate that, so thatÆs a good growth opportunity.

How did your private equity business evolve?

The family, in the early days of Search, has been in private equity since the early-80s. We were sourcing managers ourselves and then when we found a good deal, we did a direct investment. Those direct investments take quite a bit of time, so we preferred to go to a private equity manager, who can do the drilling down.

Do you get to meet many hedge fund managers?

Yes, I do the occasional trip. Sometimes to Japan and Southeast Asia and when IÆm in New York I see them, but IÆm not really involved day-to-day.

What messages are you hearing from investors about our region?

High interest. They want to be with the right managers, so theyÆre looking for sound portfolio construction from us, as the alternative is for them to come here and go through the whole process of setting up their own Asian platform. A lot donÆt want to do that.

Our investors get additional comfort from knowing that our family money is in our funds as well. We can say: ôLook youÆre here with us. We treat you the same as we do the familyö, and that gives them a lot of reassurance.