Thomson Reuters moves investment and advisory head to Hong Kong

The US information and technology group boosts its focus on local Asian markets and sees China as offering the most potential, says newly relocated Eric Frank.
Thomson Reuters moves investment and advisory head to Hong Kong

Thomson Reuters signalled its increased focus on local Asian markets -- and particularly China -- by moving its president of investment and advisory, Eric Frank, to Hong Kong from New York last month.

While the New York-based technology and information group has been operating in Asia for over a decade, it has typically been offering English-language products. It now wants to build more local-language products.

Frank's division comprises four segments -- investment management and research, investment banking, wealth management and corporate services -- and he highlights the particular potential of Chinese asset managers and wealth managers.

"They are focused on Chinese markets and opportunities, so they want a product that focuses on local markets," he tells AsianInvestor. "And to do that really well you need local and autonomous teams, and I'm here to help build those up."

Frank has never worked in Asia, so he wanted to familiarise himself with the markets in the region by being on the ground.

With his move, the vendor joins the growing ranks of firms relocating senior management to tap the region's growth potential. Reporting to Devin Wenig, chief executive of Thomson Reuters Markets, Frank is the first head of one of the firm's markets divisions to move to the region.

He has been president of investment and advisory since July 2008. Before that, he had been global managing director of the investment management segment of the Thomson Financial Corporate group from January 2004.

Frank's move follows the appointment of several regional and country heads in the past six months. Henry Li joined in September as head of China from ABN Amro, where he was Beijing branch manager. Kotaro Okamura arrived in October as head of Japan from JP Morgan, where has was Tokyo branch manager.

Several internal appointments were made around the same time, including Tarun Anand as head of South Asia, Daphne Huang as head of Taiwan and Samir Shah as Singapore-based head of business operations for Asia.

"We want to get very close to our customers and to develop our own talent in region," says Frank, "and we have started by putting in place people who have established networks and experience of markets that other people don't have."

Thomson Reuters will make further hires in the region, which will probably be a mix of talent from both within and outside Asia, depending on the expertise required, says Frank, but he would not give any planned headcount.

Of course, the company will face the challenge that Asian investment managers are traditionally not prepared to spend as much on portfolio-management and other types of software as their peers in Europe or the US.

Frank concedes that some markets are difficult to penetrate and don't offer a worthwhile level of potential revenue. "There are markets that are more embryonic and don't generate the same level of fees, which means you have to price your offering accordingly," he says. "There may be some places where the price point is not right for us and we'll wait before we push into marketing there."

But given the broad range of services and products that Thomson Reuters can offer -- from content feeds to system infrastructure to trading software -- he is confident it will have something to offer most customers.

And there are certain markets, such as China, where there has been sufficient growth in assets and revenues to a level that can support the company's services, Frank says. In the country's asset-management industry, for example, many institutions -- on both the buy and sell sides -- are seeking tools for distributing or obtaining research.

Moreover, given the amount of wealth being generated in China and India, a big retail client base is forming, and the intermediaries that work with those customers require services and software. Certainly, other software vendors -- such as Charles River Development, Sophis and SunGard -- seem to be making inroads in the region.

Investment and advisory is Thomson Reuters' second largest financial services-facing business, with more than 3,500 employees globally, and it aims to have one-third of its global employees based in the Asia-Pacific region, says a company spokeswoman.

The division recorded $2.2 billion in revenue in 2009 -- that figure is not broken down by region. It provides analytics, content and workflow tools for financial decision-making. Revenue fell by 2% year-on-year from 2008. The 2009 annual report says this reflected continued pressure across customers of the investment-management and wealth-management segments to contain costs on data feeds and headcount due to fee pressures. This in turn resulted in lower desktop revenues.

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