UBP Asset Management has named a new chief investment officer for Asia ex-Japan equities to replace Andrew Tong, who left the Zurich-based firm last year, AsianInvestor can reveal.

Michiel Van Voorst joined in the role last month after 12 years at Dutch fund house Robeco, where he was senior portfolio manager of Asia-Pacific equities and ran the $328 million Robeco Asian Stars fund.

At UBP AM, he will head the equity franchise, managing funds and client mandates, as well as overseeing the five-strong Asian equity team based in Hong Kong.

Van Voorst reports to Michaël Lok, co-chief executive of UBP AM and head of investment management, and Ted Holland, Asia CEO.

As of the end of June 2017, UBP AM had Sfr7 billion ($7.3 billion) under management in Asia and globally the group had Sfr119 billion across its asset management and private banking divisions.

Re-allocation of responsibilities

Van Voorst's responsibilities at Robeco have been assumed by Arnout van Rijn, Robeco's CIO for Asia Pacific and lead PM for Asia-Pacific equities, who built the team and has been leading it since its inception in 2007, a spokesman for Robeco told AsianInvestor by email. In addition, Vicki Chi became the backup PM of Asian Stars and Harfun Ven became the backup PM of Asia-Pacific quities. 

"As part of his role as CIO, Arnout has had oversight of the investment process and decisions for all the strategies the team manages since inception," added the spokesman. "As the second PM on Asian Stars since inception of the fund in March 2011, Arnout has always been actively involved in managing Robeco Asian Stars.

"Although we regretted to see Michiel van Voorst leave," he said, "we feel well staffed and in a good position to continue to build out our strong track records."

Over one, three and five years to end-November, Robeco Asian Stars returned (in euro terms) 19.8%, 44.7% and 72.5%, according to Citywire. This compares to average fund manager returns for Asia-Pacific ex-Japan equities of 21.7%, 45.3% and 68.5% over the same periods.

Fund consultancy Morningstar was relatively sanguine about the departure of van Voorst.

"The September 2017 departure of senior portfolio manager Michiel van Voorst was somewhat unexpected and disappointing," said the firm in a note published in November. "Mitigating the loss to an extent, van Voorst’s main coverage areas of Korea and financials have been taken on by van Rijn, and Harfun Ven, the two most senior members of the team. Ven also takes on responsibility as the backup manager for the strategy and has been a member of the team since June 2008."

Team approach

Morningstar also praised the team approach and investment process at Robeco.  

"The track record here is impressive and one of the more consistent in the Asia Pacific inc Japan equity category," said the note. "From 2009 onwards, it has beaten both the index and peer average each year, although this is under threat in 2017.

"Whilst the loss of a senior staffer is not ideal," concluded Morningstar, "it’s a team effort at Robeco, and with van Rijn at the helm guiding a process that continues to prove its worth, Robeco Asia Pacific keeps its Morningstar Analyst Rating of Silver."

Meanwhile, just before van Voorst announced his departure, Robeco had added Kelvin Leung, a Japanese equities specialist, to bolster its developed Asian equities book of business, said the spokesman. He noted that this hire allowed van Rijn the room needed to take on the leadership of Asian Stars, in addition to Asia-Pacific equities.

Leung joined in September and had previously managed Japanese equities at China's Safe Investment Company, part of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, according to his LinkedIn profile.