Wells Fargo AM aims to expand distribution in Asia

The firm's asset management business, still relatively new to Asia, will selectively add to its distribution staff in Hong Kong to pitch its funds to institutions and private banks.
Wells Fargo AM aims to expand distribution in Asia

US bank Wells Fargo Asset Management is in the early stages of expanding its distribution footprint in Asia Pacific.

While the bank has had a presence in Hong Kong for over 40 years, it has only recently started to bulk out its asset management arm as it seeks to add more Asian investors to its client base, its president Karla Rabusch tells AsianInvestor.

Expanding in Asia falls into the firm’s overall growth plans, which include doubling assets from to $920 billion by 2020 from $460 billion today.

Priscilla Phoon, the firm’s most recent hire in Hong Kong, joins as sales director and has been meeting sovereign wealth funds, pensions, central banks, foundations, endowments and private banks in Singapore, Hong Kong and India. She joined from asset manager Value Partners, where she held a similar institutional sales role.

While the majority of Wells Fargo AM’s existing investors are institutions, Phoon notes that she will be aiming to add more Asian private banking clients to its platform over the next year.

“We are in the infancy stage now with private banks in Asia, but you will see more of our funds on private banks’ platforms soon,” Phoon tells AsianInvestor.

Other sales representatives in Hong Kong include Kathryn Yung, who focuses on institutional investors in China and Taiwan, and Ignatius Choong, who reaches out to clients in Southeast Asia. All report to Ludger Peters, managing director in San Francisco.  

The majority of the firm's funds are US-equity or fixed income, although it does offer a range of Luxembourg domiciled strategies and emerging markets funds.

Although there are no immediate plans to hire more staff in Hong Kong, the firm “continues to grow and evaluate which markets it’s best to have staff in”, and Asia is very much on Wells Fargo AM’s radar, Rabusch says.

“Some companies will put 20 people on the ground and say, ‘We’re here!’,” Rabusch says. Wells Fargo is more methodical, she adds. “We want to understand, learn and evaluate the markets we enter. We don’t want to come in hard and retreat – we’re more slow and steady.”

She notes an increased interest from Asian investors seeking exposure to the US, as a number of sectors continue to growth, albeit at a modest rate.

“People realize the US is growing a little bit, and there’s a recovery in housing as well as opportunities in shale gas,” Rabusch says.

There are no plans as of now to add investment staff in Hong Kong. At present, Wells Fargo AM has one senior portfolio manager, Anthony Cragg, overseeing a fund focused on Asian emerging markets out of Singapore.

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