Weekly roundup of people news, Jan 11

BlackRock cuts to hurt Asia less; Malaysia's PNB names new CIO; Merian appoints HK sales head, global CEO; Sanne opens Tokyo branch; AllianzGI replaces Asia general counsel; and more.
Weekly roundup of people news, Jan 11


The world's largest asset manager is cutting its 14,900 global staff headcount by 3%, or about 500 people. However, BlackRock's Asia Pacific staff will be less affected than this average.  

AsianInvestor understands that regional personnel could be cut by a percentage point or two lower than the 3% global average, with these reductions distributed across multiple departments. BlackRock said it had 2,900 personnel in Asia Pacific in an Investor Day presentation in June 2018.  

The decision to make cuts was announced by president Rob Kapito on January 10. He stressed in a memo that BlackRock's headcount would still be 4% higher than a year ago following the cuts.

A spokeswoman for BlackRock declined to comment on the number of regional staff it dismissing, or whether Asia Pacific will also have enjoyed a year-on-year net gain of 4% staff following these departures.

However, she noted that "in Asia Pacific, there will be no impact on our portfolio management team", and added in emailed comments that "the firm continues to perceive Apac as a dynamic region for growth, and we are continuing to invest in the business”.

The spokeswoman noted that BlackRock has no immediate plans for further rounds of personnel reductions. 

BlackRock, which has $6.4 trillion in assets under management, is making the cuts as part of an effort to slim staff in less profitable areas and focus more on products and markets that it sees as offering more potential.

In his internal memo, Kapito said the group was focusing on retirement, illiquid alternatives, exchange-traded funds and factors, as well as technology, portfolio construction and building distribution in high-growth markets. Chief executive Larry Fink said in his 2017 letter to shareholders that he sees China as being a key growth market for BlackRock. 

Mark Wiedman, BlackRock

The personnel reduction appears to be down to a mixture of BlackRock's desire to target new business areas, while also reflecting the increased market volatility of the past year, which has impacted the company. 

It reported revenues of $3.576 billion for the third quarter of 2018 and earnings per share of $7.52. Analysts had predicted the fund house's revenues would be higher, at $3.648 billion, but they underestimated its EPS, forecasting $6.84.

The personnel reduction followed an announcement from Fink about a management reshuffle, in which Mark Wiedman, global head of iShares and index investments, was placed in charge of international operations and corporate strategy.

Back in November, BlackRock appointed Geraldine Buckingham as its new head of Asia Pacific. She starts in February and will now report jointly to Fink and Wiedman. 


Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), a government-linked investment company in Malaysia, has appointed Hanizan Hood as its chief investment officer.

Hanizan Hood

Hanizan was previously a senior vice president in the fund management department, according to her LinkedIn page. She has been with PNB for her entire career, having joined in 1996 as a management trainee.

In her new role, Hanizan assumes leadership of the day-to-day oversight of all the operating units within the asset management division, including fund management and strategic asset allocation.

According to a press release, Hanizan took on the new role on January 1 after the retirement of Idris Kechot, deputy president and group chief operating officer for asset management.

PNB declined to comment on the former job title of Hanizan and whether it will find someone to fill the position of group COO in the future.


Angus Wai

Hong Kong-based alternative investment firm PAG has appointed Angus Wai as the chief executive of Polymer Capital Management, a new Asian equity-focused, market-neutral hedge fund platform.


He joined Polymer on January 7. AsianInvestor understands that it is planning to hire five to seven portfolio managers in the initial stage.

Wai was previously the Asia-Pacific chief executive at Folger Hill Asset Management, which did not reply to AsianInvestor’s query about his departure.


Merian Global Investors has appointed Edward Ho as Hong Kong head of sales and Mark Gregory as its new global chief executive, following a period of upheaval in its Asia team last year.

Ho joined the UK fund house, which was rebranded from Old Mutual Global Investors last year, on December 12. He oversees the sales team, which comprises Kylie Chan, head of sales for North Asia, and sales manager Anna Yau.

Edward Ho

Reporting to Warren Tonkinson, the London-based managing director of distribution, Ho is responsible for expanding Merian’s presence in Hong Kong. He will also support Chan’s effort across North Asia beyond China, Taiwan and Japan. 

The fund house doesn't currently have an overall Asia head of sales. Gerard Clancy continues to cover Southeast Asia out of Singapore, while Richard Mo runs China sales.

Merian’s former head of Asia, Carol Wong, oversaw sales for the region but left in July 2018 after the firm shut down its Asia equities desk earlier in the year. She joined China’s Ping An Asset Management in September.

Ho joined from Wells Fargo Asset Management, where he had been as Asia Pacific head of client relations since October 2015, based in Hong Kong. His last day at the firm was November 30 and he is in the process of being replaced, said a spokesman for Wells Fargo.

Before moving to Wells Fargo, Ho spent two decades on the trading floor of various investment banks working in management, sales and product structuring. He was global head of equity derivatives and intermediary sales at Standard Chartered from 2008 to 2015 and has also worked for Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Bankers Trust and Lehman Brothers, where he started his career.

Meanwhile, Gregory is set to become Merian's new CEO, subject to regulatory approval, after the firm announced that Richard Buxton would step down. Buxton will remain head of UK equities and manager of the Merian UK Alpha Fund.

Gregory joined Merian’s board in October 2018 as an independent non-executive director. He has extensive experience in financial services, including 19 years (1998-2017) at the UK’s Legal & General Group, most recently as chief financial officer.


Mark Bennett

Sanne, a provider of alternative asset and corporate services, has opened an office in Tokyo and hired Mark Bennett from State Street as head of the Japanese business, effective January 1.


The new branch will initially focus on servicing real estate clients in the region while offering core services for alternative asset managers, said Sanne in the statement. It adds to the Asian offices that the St Helier, Jersey-based company already has in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.

Bennett was previously Tokyo-based head of offshore funds for Asia Pacific at State Street. His responsibilities have been taken on by Cheryl Chong, chief administrative officer of global services for Asia Pacific, said a spokeswoman.

Before that, Bennett was responsible for fund services in Asia Pacific at Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

Delia Lang

Germany’s Allianz Global Investors hired Delia Lang as general counsel for Asia Pacific in September last year to replace long-standing employee Paula Jon.

Lang was previously chief legal and compliance officer for Asia at BMO Financial Group in Hong Kong. She has also worked in similar roles for BlackRock and Credit Suisse. BMO did not respond to queries over plans to replace Lang. 

Jon left in July after some 11 years with AllianzGI, having joined in 2007 from reinsurer Swiss Re. She told AsianInvestor she had moved back to Toronto and was taking a break.


HSBC Private Banking has appointed Cynthia Lee as head of private wealth solutions for North Asia and James Cheo as chief market strategist for Southeast Asia.

Cynthia Lee


Lee will join HSBC on January 14 and will report to Alan Beattie, global head of private wealth solutions. Both of them are based in Hong Kong.

Lee will take over from Brent York, who is appointed to the newly created role of global chief operating officer for private wealth solutions.

She joins HSBC from JP Morgan Private Bank, where she held the role of head of wealth advisory for Asia. There is no direct replacement for her, said a company spokeswoman.

James Cheo

Cheo officially joined HSBC on January 7. He is based in Singapore and reports locally to Kenneth Yeo, head of Southeast Asia for the investment services and product solutions team and functionally to Fan Cheuk-wan, Hong Kong-based chief market strategist for Asia.

It is a newly created role. Cheo is responsible for thought leadership on investment strategy and asset allocation for private banking clients in Southeast Asia. The duty was previously conducted by colleagues in Hong Kong and Singapore, said a company spokeswoman.

Cheo was formerly senior investment strategist at Bank of Singapore. His last day there was January 4 and his duties have been covered by an internal transfer, said a company spokesman who declined to elaborate. 


J. Safra Sarasin has appointed Angie Ma as managing director and vice chair for client advisory.

She started the role on January 7 and reports to Enid Yip, chief executive for Asia. Both are based in Hong Kong. This is a new headcount as the bank seeks to expand its business in Asia, said a company spokeswoman.

Ma joined the bank from Credit Suisse's private bank division in Hong Kong, where she had been a managing director and market leader for China. Credit Suisse declined to comment on her departure.


Credit Suisse has poached Natt Thanomsat from Citi as its head of wealth management for Thailand.

The appointment will be effective on March 20. Thanomsat is based in Bangkok, where he will lead a team of investment planners.

He will report to Marcus Slöör, Singapore-based market group head of Thailand and Vietnam for private banking South Asia, and locally to Chris Prasertsintanah, Thailand country manager.

Thanomsat is taking over from Thippa Praneeprachachon, who will retire on March 31. She will continue to support Credit Suisse as a senior adviser for its wealth management franchise in Thailand.

Thanomsat was previously the head of equities and managing director of Citicorp Securities in Thailand. He is now on gardening leave, and his last employment date will be March 19, said a company spokesman.

Narumon Chivangkur, head of global markets and securities services and director of Citicorp Securities in Thailand, is overseeing Thanomsat's duties on an interim basis, the spokesman added.


Hong Kong’s securities watchdog has reprimanded and fined FWD Life Insurance Company (Bermuda) HK$2.4 million ($306,200) for failures in complying with personnel requirements for managing funds under the territory’s MPF Code and the Fund Manager Code of Conduct.

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) said FWD Life failed to ensure there were at least two key personnel who met the minimum five-year investment experience requirement in managing retirement funds or public funds under the MPF Code at all times.

Specifically, from December 2012 to November 2016, the insurer had only one key staff member in place with the required investment experience. FWD Life only discovered it had insufficient key personnel when the Mandatory Provident Fund Authority made enquiries in January 2017.

The SFC also found that FWD Life failed to implement policies and procedures for the designation and monitoring of key personnel. The insurer had no previous disciplinary record with the regulator.

The frequency of SFC enforcement actions is likely to increase this year, Philippa Allen, chief executive of consultancy ComplianceAsia, told AsianInvestor earlier this month. 

Story updated to clarify the titles of BlackRock's Mark Wiedman and of PNB's Hanizan Hood. In addition, order of articles changed to reflect relative importance of news.

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