The Dutch pension asset manager's Asia Pacific head of real estate says his team has just had one of its busiest years ever and that 2021 is looking similarly promising.
Singapore-based Scott Keller was appointed head of third-party wholesale distribution for pan-Asia last year, founding the new division. He previously headed investment consulting at UBS Wealth Management, having arrived in Asia in 2005 after overseeing funds distribution and client management for UBS Global AM in Switzerland.
Now he has just hired Alex Lee to handle third-party wholesale in Hong Kong, luring him from Allianz Global Investors, where he had reported to Hong Kong CEO Eleanor Wan. Lee slots in alongside Johnny Wong in Taipei, responsible for that market, and Vincent Lam in Singapore, who oversees Southeast Asia.
Theoretically this area also includes India, but UBS suffered a reversal there in late December, with Indian regulators vetoing the firmÆs planned acquisition of Standard Chartered BankÆs asset management business, a transaction that would have included a strategic distribution relationship with Standard Chartered in India and regionally.
The wholesale channel is expected to serve as a full third pillar for the firm, alongside areas it is better known for: Michael WinterÆs unit selling to institutional investors, and Kerry ChingÆs unit servicing UBS Wealth Management. UBS Global AM already has existing third-party wholesale sales in Japan, Korea, Australia and China, each of which is run autonomously. All three business executives report to Andreas Mondovits, head of pan-Asia distribution.
ôThis is a new business for us in Asia,ö Keller says. ôBefore, outside of Europe, we dabbled in it but we werenÆt wholly committed. We saw ourselves as more of an institutional shop. We realised that a third-party wholesale business requires a lot of resources and is a difficult business to support.ö
The decision to enter this competitive area was sealed on the success of last year, notably in Taiwan, where UBS acquired a local securities investment trust enterprise (Site) a few years ago that turned profitable under WongÆs direction. ôOur Site business is growing and profitable, and contributed to a generally profitable year for UBS Gam in Asia,ö Keller says. ôThis convinced us to go ahead on a regional level.ö
He adds, in some jurisdictions in Europe, the third-party wholesale business has become bigger than the institutional channel.
KellerÆs unit handles funds, not discretionary accounts. So far it has forged one relationship with DBS in Singapore, where it is launching an Asia consumption fund that will be sold by DBS as well as by other leading banks, including ABN Amro, OCBC and Standard Chartered.
Keller will also be looking at master/feeder structures for fund houses in Malaysia and Thailand in need of a global sub-advisor. In Europe, the firm has also undergone some white-labelling agreements, and Keller says he would consider similar deals in Asia.
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