John Ford, the top man at Schroder Investments in Hong Kong and number two in Asia ex-Japan, has resigned and taken gardening leave. When he next dons a suit, instead of returning to work at Exchange Square he will be down the walkway over Connaught Road at IFC One instead - serving as MD at rival Fidelity Investments.
He is replacing Douglas Naismith, the outgoing regional managing director at Fidelity, who moves to Surrey, England this summer to run the personal investment (direct client) business in the UK and Europe.
Ford has been in Hong Kong since 2003, when he arrived to take the helm at Schroders after a three-year stint in New York. He has run both Hong Kong as a country head as well as institutional and retail distribution around the region. He had reported to Lester Gray, regional CEO, who transferred to Singapore last year.
Elisabeth Scott, executive director and head of institutional business in Hong Kong at Schroders, has been tapped to run Ford's job as Hong Kong country head, and she now reports to Gray. She says, however, that the firm will engage in an external search to find a regional distribution/sales chief, who will report to Massimo Tosato, global head of distribution in London.
Given Ford's heavy travel schedule, Scott had already been handling many day-to-day responsibilities in Hong Kong, and she says clients should not notice a change. Schroders' investment performance has been strong over the past year or so and Scott's mandate will be to add assets on the back of that, she says.
As for Ford, he will join Fidelity in September, just after Naismith's departure. "He's a good guy and he'll fit in well," Naismith says of him.
Ford will report to Brett Goodin, managing director for Asia Pacific in Tokyo. He inherits a business in the region and Goodin and Naismith built from a newcomer to an established powerhouse in asset management. Naismith joined the firm in 1998 from UBS Asset Management to run the regional institutional retirement business. He and Goodin led Fidelity to become the leading funds company in the new Hong Kong Mandatory Provident Fund scheme, and the firm continues to focus on new opportunities in defined contribution as they evolve in other markets, such as Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea.
Naismith says his successor's key challenges will include continuing to grow the Hong Kong retirement space, sharpening a China strategy and advancing customer services regionally, including the firm's brokerage distribution platforms in markets such as Taiwan.