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FINANCIAL SERVICES | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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JPMAM’s new CEO says clients should “re-risk” their portfolios

Find out why this is urged.

Being a relatively new entrant to the Singapore market in 2010, Steven Billiet, J.P. Morgan Asset Management Singapore’s newly-appointed CEO, has set his eyes on the firm’s growth in Southeast Asia. Billiet will have overall responsibility and oversight for the investment management business in Singapore and day-to-day management responsibility for the Funds business. Billiet shared his insights and future plans with Singapore Business Review in this exclusive interview:

SBR: What makes you excited about your new position?

I am pleased to join one of the world’s largest and most respected financial institutions in the world. With close to US$1.6 trillion in assets under management* and offices in 35 countries around the world, J.P. Morgan Asset Management (JPMAM) offers global coverage with a strong local market presence, and leadership positions in most asset classes. J.P. Morgan Asset Management is widely regarded as leaders in the Asia Pacific region, managing about US$132 billion of Asia Pacific client assets and specialises in providing investors with access to the region’s diverse markets. Being a relatively new entrant to the Singapore market in 2010, I am excited by the potential and opportunities for the JPMAM franchise to grow further locally and in South East Asia.

SBR: What three goals are you focused on? What changes are you planning for?

The first goal is business development. Singapore is strategically placed to take advantage of the demographics and long term wealth management opportunities that South East Asia offers. Our key focus for 2014 continues to be building out our business in Singapore and establishing it as a hub for Southeast Asia. We plan to deepen our existing distributor relationships across retail, private banks, insurers and IFAs locally.

In South East Asia, we see markets gradually liberalising and opening up. We continue to evaluate very closely and see where new opportunities lie. We are already working in partnership with many of the key sovereign wealth funds and institutions in South East Asia. I am keen to explore more strategic partnership opportunities with asset managers and distribution partners in South East Asia.

To do this effectively, we plan to increase resources from 51 (out of which 15 are investment professionals) to 55 by end 2014.

Second goal is to focus on investor education. Investor education is key to our mission of helping clients secure a stronger financial future. Our Guide to the Markets (Asian edition), part of our US’ multi-million dollar, award-winning Market Insights program, was launched in Singapore at the end of 2012 and paved the way for heightened investor education efforts in 2013. The free Guide is an unbiased set of tools to equip investors to make more informed investment decisions. Data on the economy, financial markets and asset classes are updated quarterly and organized in a manner to explain trends and performance clearly and concisely. Retail investors and journalists can access the quarterly Guide from our website. It has also been extremely well received by our distributors whose product specialists especially appreciate our effort in customizing the Guide for Asian advisors.

Over 1,400 clients now receive copies of the guide electronically (www.jpmorganam.com.sg/mi) and in hard copies. In 2013, we partnered key clients to organize quarterly seminars attended by over 1,300 participants. We will continue to embed the Market Insights program further with clients by offering customized Market Insights Training sessions with selected clients who will be able to choose training modules specific to their needs.

The third goal is to focus on investment themes like equities and multi-asset funds. We are positive on equities in 2014, supported by the global economic recovery led by developed markets, a rise in investor risk appetite and an investment landscape that favors risk assets such as equities. Even though there is a growing consensus over the improving world economy, there will undoubtedly be some unexpected events during the year. We believe equities are the key engine for growth over the longer term and the need for clients to consider “re-risking” their portfolios.

At the same time, I believe that investors should also maintain a more diversified exposure through multi-asset income funds. There is probably a long-ish period of flat or rising rates ahead of us. In that context, people looking for yield or a stable income monthly will need to move into multi-asset products to get a similar return or risk return perspective. Multi-asset funds should remain as a core holding in a balanced, buy-and-hold portfolio. Multi-asset portfolios were an effective tool from 2012 to gain exposure to the equity markets, and in the current “risk-on” environment, they are an effective tool to maintain a portion of fixed income exposure, with active and flexible asset allocations, and lower overall volatility. Last year, the Singapore office saw strong inflows into these funds, such as the JPMorgan Asia Pacific Income Fund and Global Income Fund. The firm captured a 40% market share of net multi-asset flows September ytd 2013.

SBR: What will you do differently in this position?

There is a strong foundation that has been established in the past few years and my focus for the next phase of the business will be deepening relationships with distributors over the next two years. This means establishing more of a partnership model with distributors, frequent interaction, understanding their market views, identifying the right gaps and needs in their product offerings and localizing these offerings with more Singapore dollar or Singapore dollar hedged share classes.

SBR: What are your key business philosophies?

J.P. Morgan’s philosophy of helping our clients to do first-class business and providing a long-term approach to client solutions is a business philosophy that I firmly believe in. This means delivering top-tier client service across all touch points and functions. Teamwork is crucial to achieving successful coordination across all functions. It is essential that employees are equipped with the highest quality and training to grow to their full potential and contribute to the business.

SBR: What previous positions prepared you for this one and how?

My previous positions have put me in good stead for my current position as CEO, JPMorgan Asset Management Singapore (Limited). I have had extensive industry experience managing clients and business in Europe and Asia. I joined from ING, where during my 19-year tenure, I have held a number of senior roles, including CEO of Investment Management Asia Pacific (Singapore), CEO of Investment Management Australia, CEO of Investment Management Taiwan, India Country Head of Private Banking and Wealth Management, and Head of Product and Sales for Investment Management Belgium. During my last 12 years in Asia, I have not only been responsible for managing large local Asset Management businesses but also led acquisitions and divestments in various Asian markets. I believe that this regional experience in a broader South East Asian market can contribute towards JPMAM’s further growth strategies around South East Asia.  

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