Following his June departure from recently restructured Aviva Investors, Tahnoon Pasha is busy developing two new businesses out of Singapore: a multi-family office (MFO) called Inner Sanctum, and Cynopsis Solutions, a financial data management firm.
Inner Sanctum initially focused on establishing operational risk and member services teams. It is now hiring investment staff. Pasha joined in June and aims to have a team of about five asset allocators on board through 2015. The firm is also looking for a Mandarin-speaking client service executive.
Inner Sanctum was founded last year by Giles Heyring, until last year head of Asia ex-Japan equities at Macquarie Securities. Asset management veteran Pasha used to be a client of Heyring during his 17 years at Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia), a sovereign wealth fund with an estimated $750 billion under management.
Pasha’s decision to join the MFO was driven by the view, shared with Heyring, that private bankers were failing their clients in important ways. They felt this had resulted in a non-differentiated, mass-retail customer experience that was more expensive than it needed to be. In his view, their needs are much more similar to institutional investors.
“Most of our friends who were ultra-high-net-worth individuals would tell us they were dissatisfied with their experiences with their private banks,” Pasha told AsianInvestor, “and it struck us that there was an opportunity here.”
The primary thesis, he added, is to “rip out extraneous fees; not charge for alpha where what’s needed is beta, and make sure portfolios are very specifically targeted to the needs of the individual member”.
Moreover, many private banks tend to offer a relatively small, “naive” set of asset classes, noted Pasha, with a focus on standard equity and fixed income or a few hedge fund managers. That doesn’t provide the kind of diversification that these investors need, he said.
Inner Sanctum includes both private equity and property assets in the core portfolio, with the aim of significantly reducing volatility – the kind of approach a large pension or insurer might take.
The firm would ask to see the whole portfolio even if it wasn’t going to manage it all, added Pasha. “We’ll sign non-disclosure agreements if required. There’s not a lot of point doing this with only a partial pool of assets.”
His other new venture, Cynopsis Solutions, is a business intelligence and data warehousing provider to the financial services sector. It grew out of the fact that he felt financial services companies are generally “woefully inept” at data reporting, monitoring and management.
The company is in hiring mode – it is looking to build a sales team and seeking a full-time CEO, so that Pasha can dedicate more time to Inner Sanctum.
Cynopsis’s board is chaired by Simon Machell, who was regional head of Asia Pacific for Aviva and part of its global executive until he left in 2013. He has been involved in strategy from the inception of the company and is a shareholder.
The data management firm’s technology and business strategy will be led by an advisory council comprising industry leaders and academics. Pasha is finalising negotiations with a number of individuals and expects to make at least two announcements in October.
“When you look at carmakers or telecoms companies, they take control of their data for granted,” he noted. But gathering and analysing relatively basic corporate intelligence – such as information on competitor or sales data – is far more of an issue for the likes of asset managers and insurers in Asia, said Pasha, and people are only just beginning to understand the potential benefits.
Pasha is now speaking to banks and insurers in Asia about “how we can put all their information in one place and put a front-end on it. It’s possible to do this quickly, cheaply and easily if someone is in the middle doing it.”
Pasha spent almost four years in Singapore at Aviva Investors, the investment arm of UK insurer Aviva. He was previously head of Asian equities at Manulife Asset Management in Hong Kong. Prior to that, he was deputy chief investment officer for emerging Asia at Adia, the world’s second biggest sovereign wealth fund, managing an estimated $750 billion.