A growing focus on wealth management and a capital markets shake-up in Thailand is leading to more opportunities for experienced staff at asset management and funds distribution firms, according to senior industry figures.

Jumpon Saimala, chief executive of ING Funds Thailand in Bangkok, sees rising staff turnover among asset managers, banks and securities companies in Thailand as a growing trend. “Three or four years ago people stuck to the same firm or part of the business,” he says, “but going forward we will see [workers move] between these three areas.”

Saimala himself rejoined ING Funds in January in his current role after spending 18 months at Bangkok-based TMB Bank, where he built up and ran the wealth management business. TMB has made an internal promotion to replace him.

Saimala had previously spent nine years with ING Funds as head of mutual funds and investment consulting. Prior to his rejoining, the firm had not had a chief since late 2009, when former president Maris Tarab left.

ING Funds struck a funds-distribution partnership with TMB in 2008 and the two firms have been working increasingly closely since then, says Saimala. The asset manager, which has Bt125 billion ($4.1 billion) in AUM, sells Bt3.5 billion in funds through the bank, and Saimala says that figure will continue to rise as TMB hires more wealth management staff and continues training existing personnel.

Wealth management is an increasing focus in the country, he adds, and since it covers all three businesses (asset management, banking and securities), those with expertise in all three areas will be able to move around more easily. 

Other fund managers also point to the growing number of opportunities likely to emerge for firms – and therefore executives – in the funds industry as the investor base becomes more sophisticated.

Recent moves by other senior market veterans have underlined this trend. 

Sopana Janeborvorn left Kasikorn Asset Management – where she had worked for 19 years, most recently as head of equities – in January to join SCB Asset Management in a newly created role as chief investment officer. Kasikorn AM is the biggest Thai asset manager, with $21.79 billion in AUM, while SCB AM is the second largest, with $17.23 billion.   

Janeborvorn left because she wanted a change of scenery and wanted new challenges, says Patchara Samalapa, managing director of Kasikorn AM in Bangkok. 

The firm had decided to integrate its fund-management team to bring greater collaboration among teams that were previously specialised in their respective asset classes, currencies, equities and fixed income, both internationally and domestically.   

She will not be directly replaced, says Samalapa, because the current team has the experience to take over her duties without having to rely on outside hirings.

Fund managers suggest Janeborvorn’s move came as a surprise, particularly after such a long time with the same firm, although one noted that it's a step-up in seniority.

Her decision follows the departure of Hassawara Sangruji in September from Kasikorn AM to join BBL Asset Management as head of provident sales.

In another significant switch, MFC Asset Management last month appointed Prapa Puranachote as president to replace Pichit Akrathit, who retired by rotation. Puranachote was previously head of the provident funds business at rival Bangkok firm Krung Thai Asset Management (KTAM).

She had worked there for close to a decade, since April 2002, as head of the provident funds division. Before joining KTAM, Puranachote had been at MFC AM. KTAM has decided on a replacement already and will ask for board approval on March 17.

Somchai Boonnamsiri, CEO of KTAM, says he cannot disclose the name before board approval has been given, but did say that the new appointment has comparable experience in the provident funds business and has been working for "top-tier asset companies".

The brokerage industry is also likely to see personnel changes, if consolidation takes place among securities firms, as predicted by Pattera Dilokrungthirapop, chief executive of DBS Vickers Securities in Bangkok.

Brokerages will have to invest in IT to keep pace with changes to the market structure, which will be easier for those with critical mass and economies of scale, she explains, and that may lead to consolidation.