UBS outlines Asia hedge-fund admin ambitions

Christof Kutscher, Asia CEO at UBS Global Asset Management, explains the business strategy behind entering fund admin and says hiring Colin Lunn is just the start.

UBS plans to hire teams for both operations and business development of its fund-administration platform in Singapore and Hong Kong, following the hiring of former HSBC fund-admin executive Colin Lunn. broke the news that Lunn was moving to UBS in a newly created role to spearhead UBS’s entry into the Asian arena for fund administration.

Now Christof Kutscher, CEO for Asia-Pacific at UBS Global Asset Management, says Lunn is just the beginning of a move to bring the firm’s existing level of services from Cayman Islands and other centres to the region.

UBS’s asset-management arm is already a large provider of fund admin to Asia-based hedge funds and funds of hedge funds. But these services are primarily run out of Cayman, with some support from Toronto and Europe.

The 12-hour time difference has become a hindrance. Asian clients require more complex services, or additional services that would require boots on the ground to provide.

In addition to hedge funds, UBS says it also needs to upgrade the service it can provide to sovereign wealth funds and other major clients in Asia that are mandating increasing levels of assets to alternative-investment managers.

Lunn was hired to drive business development, and Kutscher says the biggest focus of this is existing clients.

UBS has an operations platform already in Singapore, run by Michael Moore (see AsianInvestor magazine, September 2010, for a profile of Moore). This will begin taking on the actual operations of the fund-admin service.

The next step will be to market fund admin to new clients.

Kutscher says more than 90% of this business will be third party, adding that no decision has been made on how much of UBS Global Asset Management’s own business should be ‘in-sourced’.

“We have a fiduciary responsibility to provide transparency over how we select our service providers,” he says.

However, he does add, “There is a role for a high-quality provider of fund-administration services in Asia.”

As the firm beefs up its operations team in Singapore, it will look to add capabilities in hedge funds, funds of hedge funds, private equity, funds of private-equity funds, and possibly Ucit fund structures.

It may take up to 18 months before the firm is ready to provide Asia-based services for all of these products, but UBS will begin to hire the teams now.

In terms of funds under administration, UBS boasts a total of SFr390 billion ($445 billion) in assets from 1,796 funds. It is the fourth largest fund of funds administrator globally, servicing 10 of the top 25 fund of funds managers.

The bank notes it has the number one market ranking in Switzerland and is number six in Luxembourg, where it manages $119 billion via 540 funds, the majority of which are Ucits.

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