Western rebuilds Asia investment team

The US bond manager has almost finished replacing and expanding its Singapore-based unit of portfolio managers and analysts.
Western rebuilds Asia investment team

Fixed-income firm Western Asset has replaced the bulk of its Asian investment team in Singapore and added to it, following the departures of several analysts and portfolio managers over the past year or so.

Lian Chia-Liang, Asia head of fixed income, said in March that the firm was expanding its investment team to nine from six, and it has now almost completed the process.

Desmond Soon started on June 29 as a senior portfolio manager, having moved from ST Asset Management in Singapore. He will manage single-country portfolios and contribute to the macro decision-making process around local sovereigns and rates for Western’s pan-Asian strategies.

Meanwhile, three analysts/researchers have joined since December.

Lim Swee-Ching arrived in April as a credit researcher from Barclays in London, where he was director of loan portfolio management. He has also worked for Morgan Stanley Witter and UBS.

In February, Kim Won-Tae was appointed as a portfolio analyst, having recently graduated with a dual master of business administration from the National University of Singapore and the HEC Paris.

Portfolio analyst Desmond Fu started in December. He was previously at Singapore-based APS Asset Management, before which he had worked for UOB Life Assurance and at the city-state's Central Provident Fund.

Western has also identified candidates to fill another credit analyst post, notes Henry Hamrock, head of the Singapore office and Hong Kong client service and marketing executive.

The new hires come following several departures over the past year or so. Most recently, Adrian Chee left his post in July as Asia head of investment-grade credit and has joined Credit Suisse Asset Management. AsianInvestor could not confirm his new title by press time.

Henrietta Gourlay left her role in June as high-yield research analyst after nine years with the firm. She has returned to her native UK after recently giving birth. Both Gourlay and Chee’s LinkedIn pages have them down as still with Western.

Before joining Western, Chee worked for Standard & Poor’s in Singapore as director of corporate infrastructure and financial services ratings from 2001-2007. He has also served with Standard Chartered Bank, Tat Lee Bank and Malaysia’s Development & Commercial Bank Group.

Gourlay joined Western in 2003 and has 11 years’ experience in the credit markets. She was previously a credit analyst at Merrill Lynch Investment Management starting in 1999.

The departures of Gourlay and Chee follow those of Julia Ho, who covered sovereign debt and left earlier this year, and Rajeev de Mello, who left as head of fixed income in June 2011. De Mello now runs the Asia fixed-income team at Schroder Investment Management in Singapore, while Ho joined the same firm’s global macro team in London.

Lian arrived in August last year to replace De Mello, having previously been head of emerging Asia portfolio management at rival bond house Pimco.

The newly expanded Asia investment group will be supported by a team of seven client service and marketing staff across Singapore and Hong Kong, says Hamrock. Expansion of the investment team reflects the strong global and regional demand the firm is seeing for Asian fixed-income strategies, he adds.

"The new team is happy and very productive, and year-to-date performance is strong," notes Hamrock.

Western’s Asia (ex-Japan) assets managed in Asia stands at $3.8 billion as of the end of June, a rise of 16% since December. The team sources $11.2 billion of its global AUM from Asia (ex-Japan and Australia).

Meanwhile, in December, Western opened an office in Dubai to service clients in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. Imad Abukhlal heads the office along with Ramzi El Tajoury.

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