Edinburgh-based Standard Life Investments (SLI) has opened a Singapore office and staffed it with three real estate investment specialists and a business development person, as part of its plan to build out direct real estate investment capabilities in Asia.

The firm appointed Choon Wah Wong as chief executive officer of the Singapore office and head of Asia Pacific real estate, reporting to Mike Hannigan, head of international real estate, based in Edinburgh. 

The three other team members in Singapore are: Ted Roy, deputy fund manager; Tervinder Chal, head of Asia pacific real estate finance and operations; and Jason Lam, associate investment director for Asia wholesale sales. The appointments became effective this month.

Speaking to AsianInvestor from Edinburgh, Hannigan said the move to expand its direct real estate capability in Asia was not decided overnight. The firm has been investing in direct real estate in Asia for many years and it has assets in Australia and Japan as part of the global real estate portfolio. 

The Singapore team at Standard Life Investments will begin manufacturing direct real estate investment funds to cater to international investors' demand, but will not do so during the remainder of 2016, Hannigan said. The company’s initial focus is to cater to institutional investor clients. 

He added that the rollout of the new office was in response to the desire of investors across the world to access more globally diversified real estate products, as well as its recognition that it needs people on the ground to manufacture direct real estate funds in the region. It's not the only one. Schroders said in mid-September that it was considering building a real estate team in Asia, which could have team members based in major regional cities. 

The Asian operation adds to SLI’s substantial presence in global real estate markets. The company has a 160-strong global real estate team with 16 years of track record and regional expertise in Asia Pacific direct real estate investment management. Despite this international experience, the company felt it was time to introduce a team that could focus on Asia-specific direct real estate investments.  

SLI manages $20.7 billion of assets in direct real estate, public listed real estate and real estate debt globally – including over 650 direct real estate assets in 15 countries worldwide.

Staff reshuffle

Wong and Chal are the only new joiners in the Singapore office. Wong was hired from Partners Group, where he was a senior vice president for Singapore. Partners Group is a global private markets investment manager.

Chal was hired from fund and corporate services provider Alter Domus, where he was country executive – Singapore. He reports to Paolo Alonzi, global head of real estate finance and operations based in Edinburgh.

Deputy fund manager Roy is relocating from Edinburgh to expand the company’s Asia Pacific direct real estate investment capability. He will advise on property acquisitions and outlooks in the region and manage Asia Pacific assets, reporting to Wong.

Wholesale sales associate director Lam will relocate to Singapore from Hong Kong, to continue developing client relationships in Singapore and wholesale distribution opportunities across Asia. He reports to Virginia Devereux Wong, head of Asia wholesale business based in Hong Kong.

The Singapore CEO will lead the team to build a real estate fund management and manufacturing platform in Asia Pacific. His job is to oversee the management of global real estate portfolios in the region and develop new business opportunities, according to Hannigan.

Hannigan said it was too early to say which markets or types of real estate Standard Life would invest into, as the local team will assess opportunities in the next few months. But he noted that as a firm SLI has capabilities in multi-faceted real estate investment such as in logistics, retail and other commercial assets, as well as residential projects. 

Additionally, SLI has no immediate plans to add more personnel to the investment team in Singapore, but will consider doing so as the business grows, Hannigan said.