The Asia-Pacific head of Schroders is set to return to London as global head of distribution following a 14-year stint in Hong Kong and nearly two decades after he joined the British fund house.

Lieven Debruyne will remain Asia-Pacific chief executive until a successor is named, Schroders said in a release late in the Hong Kong day on Wednesday. In the new post he will oversee both institutional and intermediary business and replace John Troiano, who will retire at the end of 2019 after 38 years with the firm.

So who will replace Debruyne?

The obvious choice would seem to be Amy Cho, who joined Schroders in December as Hong Kong CEO and Asia head of intermediary business. She had been Asia-Pacific ex-Japan head at Pictet Asset Management and has since been replaced there by Junjie Watkins, formerly of US rival TCW. 

Lieven Debruyne

“I always suspected that [Cho] leaving an Asia-Pacific head role at Pictet for a Hong Kong role at Schroders was a succession plan,” one Hong Kong-based recruiter told AsianInvestor. “It would not make sense otherwise.”

A senior Hong Kong-based banker agreed that Cho would make a natural choice as the new regional head.

The process to succeed Debruyne is already under way, and Schroders is considering both internal and external options for the post, a spokesman told AsianInvestor.

Debruyne's promotion made sense to one senior insurance executive in Hong Kong. "Clearly Lieven is highly thought of at Schroders. He was seen as successful in building the business in Asia and a safe pair of hands."

Debruyne has been Asia-Pacific CEO since May 2016. He had started at Schroders in London in 2000 as head of Asian investment product, before becoming Hong Kong head in 2005. 

Before joining Schroders, he worked for Mees Pierson Capital Management as chief investment officer and for Fortis Investments too.

SENIOR SHUFFLE

The promotion of Debruyne to a global role forms part of a wider reshuffle, with three other senior management positions also announced after Schroders posted negative first-half numbers on August 1.

Amy Cho

Compared with the first half of 2018, net income was down 5% at £1.033 billion ($1.26 billion) while pre-tax profit slipped 14% to £340.4 million. Schroders also saw a net outflow of £1.2 billion in the first half, despite a 2% rise in assets under management to £444.4 billion.

Johanna Kyrklund has been appointed group chief investment officer in addition to her existing role as global head of multi-asset investments. The CIO post had been vacant since Alan Brown retired in October 2014.

Charles Prideaux becomes global head of investment, a newly created role that gives him oversight of the Schroders investment platform, the company's environmental, social and governance (ESG) team as well as its data insights unit. He was previously global head of product and solutions.

Carolina Minio-Paluello is joining from Lombard Odier Investment Managers to replace Prideaux in an expanded role as head of product, solutions and quant. As such, she will also oversee Schroders’s quantitative investment teams.

Peter Harrison, group chief executive of Schroders, said the changes bring together the central oversight of investment management and performance, as well as product development, which will help the firm meet client demands.

Separately, Schroders announced on Tuesday that it was entering into a long-term strategic agreement with China’s Bank of Communications, with which it has a fund management joint venture. The deal covers distribution, management and development of products in asset and wealth management, amongst other areas.