Having won a couple of investment mandates in Asia in recent months, Zurich-based group Vontobel is looking to further raise its brand profile and fund sales in the region, on both the institutional and wholesale sides.
The firm, which has asset-management and private-banking presences in the region, hired Edward Wu last month as head of Greater China to cover institutional and wholesale business development. He replaces David Yuan, who has left Vontobel after some two years with the firm, having joined when it opened its Asia office in Hong Kong.
Wu was previously regional manager for North Asia at ING Investment Management in Hong Kong, responsible for institutional sales. Before that, he worked in portfolio management and product development from 1999 to 2006 at UBS Global Asset Management.
ING IM hired Monita Chon in May to replace Wu; she has previously worked in institutional client-facing roles for asset managers, most recently at Barclays Global Investors (now BlackRock), where she was a director of Greater China institutional sales until she left that firm in November. She has also worked at Fidelity with similar responsibilities.
Wu covered Greater China, Korea and Japan at ING; he no longer has responsibility for the latter two countries, but has added wholesale business development to his remit.
Vontobel's presence is significant in Taiwan, where it has had a master agent distribution agreement with Galaxy securities investment consulting enterprise since August 2008. Galaxy is also the Sice for firms such as Skandia Asset Management and Italy's Eurizon Capital.
Vontobel has five products registered in Taiwan now and will have and another three -- Absolute Return Bond, Central and Eastern European Equity, and Far East Equity -- by the end of August. These are for wholesale distribution by retail banks in Taiwan.
Vontobel has Sfr76 billion ($73.5 billion) in AUM globally (as of June 30) and is already fairly strong on the institutional side, being well recognised by investment consultants, says Wu. With a particular focus on long-only emerging-market equities, the manager has won several mandates in Asia, including one recently for a large pension fund in Japan and one in Taiwan. That adds to the FTSE All World Emerging Markets ex-China and ex-Taiwan portfolio that Vontobel has run since October 2007 for Taiwan's Labour Insurance Fund.
The Swiss manager is also working with funds of funds in China and expects shortly to sign an agreement to provide an offshore feeder fund for a QDII product. It is also looking to work with large government institutions and plans to gain even more recognition among investment consultants.
In addition, Vontobel manages several funds in Zurich with a 'global change' theme, such as new power, future resources and global technology. The new power fund is registered in Taiwan, but Vontobel does not currently plan to register it in Hong Kong and Singapore. However, the firm does hope to get it on the shelves of private banks in the latter two locations.
"Brand recognition is very important for retail [in Asia]," says Wu, "and we're not at the right level for that yet." For similar reasons, Vontobel plans to remain "pretty lean" and not make many hires in the region until it has made more headway in terms of gathering assets, says Wu.
In addition to its fund-management capability, Vontobel has an investment-banking presence in Switzerland, but not Asia, while its private-banking presence in the region is relatively minimal compared to that of some of its rivals.
The manager also runs assets out of New York such as global and US equity portfolios, and owns a Zurich-based fund of hedge funds, Harcourt Investments, which has an office in Hong Kong.