Trade association Asifma is to announce the launch of an asset management group to provide a regional voice for fund firms at a regional and global level, AsianInvestor can confirm.

Eugenie Shen has been appointed to head the new group, entitled Asifma’s Asset Management Group (AAMG), which has signed up 15 members including some of the region’s leading asset managers. She started in her new role last month and has been meeting existing and prospective members.

Shen is a US-trained lawyer with more than 30 years of private practice and in-house legal experience across a range of organisations spanning Asia, the US, Europe and Latin America.

Previously she was chief legal officer at Pinebridge Investments (formerly AIG Investments) for Asia ex-Japan, where she interacted with regulators in China, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan.

Shen’s role at Asifma will be to liaise with members to better understand their needs and concerns and undertake projects to advance their common interests. She will liaise with regulators and local associations throughout the region.

Asked what she had heard from fund managers so far, she says: “My sense is that a lot of asset managers are interested in fund passporting, although there is scepticism that this will be a long process."

She points to the harmonisation of regulations across the region as the biggest challenge. Issues high on the group’s agenda will be developing uniformity in disclosure standards, improving speed to market for new products, and supporting the provision of initiatives that promote cross-border business expansion while reducing cost, including fund passporting.

“Regulators in Asia are increasingly looking at cross-border collaboration and expansion, so this is the perfect time to provide a collective voice,” Shen suggests. “Regulators in the region have been welcoming of this development [Asifma's asset management group].

“If they can come to one place to get a buy-side and sell-side view on regional matters, it’s very useful for them. Effectively we are helping them to do their jobs.”

Mark Austen, chief executive of Asifma based in Hong Kong, says the addition of AAMG adds a key piece to the association’s development over the past 18 months.

“The addition of our asset management group represents a big evolution for our organisation,” he tells AsianInvestor, noting it now represents both the sell-side and the buy-side.

He says the group has been a year in the making and was born by Asifma being approached by fund houses seeking coordinated representation in Asia.

Asifma as a whole now has 20 staff in the region, with a physical presence just in Hong Kong. That is up from around five staff in HK little over a year ago.

Asked whether regulators would see Asifma as an independent body, given that it is representing the interests of paying members, he replies: “Our credibility is tied to our output.

“If the information we put out is factual, constructive and designed to further develop the markets, then over time the regulators will listen to us. If we take a narrow, self-interested view, they will discount what we say.”

He says that as Asifma adds more asset management firms to its membership, it will increase headcount.

In terms of future projects, he notes that the association now has coverage of foreign exchange, fixed income and equity. While it is now focused on deepening existing relationships, he says it has not so far looked at commodities, and may do so in future.

The Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (Asifma) is an independent trade association with 60 member firms including banks, asset managers, law firms and service providers.