Asia's top fund houses by market, explained part 2

AsianInvestor explains how the judging panel selected the winners for Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Asia's top fund houses by market, explained part 2

AsianInvestor’s industry-leading Asset Management Awards are widely tracked by asset managers and asset service providers with a presence in Asia Pacific.

While the awards process has evolved through the years, the awards remain laser-focused on picking the brightest and best stars in the region's asset management industry.

Our judging panel, comprising independent industry veterans and top executives from asset owners across the region, assessed all qualified entries and took the lead in providing valuable insights and guidance on shortlisting the best candidates.

The final entries were assessed by the editorial team to eventually decide on the ultimate winners.

Today, we explain the rationale behind the selection of some of the winners of the market awards. We showcase the winners for Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Click here to see the winners for Australia/New Zealand, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, India and Indonesia.

Japan: Nikko Asset Management

In a year when Japan’s markets were suddenly regarded as ‘investable’ again, Nikko Asset Management hit the ground running with key mandates and partnerships.

Throughout the awards period, Nikko AM experienced significant expansion, facilitated by strategic partnerships, such as the collaboration with Osmosis and the proposed alliance with Tikehau Capital.

These initiatives not only expanded Nikko AM's product offerings but strengthened its position as a leading asset manager in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.

The fact that Nikko has also been tireless in promoting the Japanese market to international and domestic institutional investors was not lost on judges.

Ahead of the Japanese government’s new Nippon Individual Savings Account (NISA) savings scheme for retail investors, which took effect in January 2024, Nikko AM ensured it had products that were compatible with the challenging requirements of new clients.

Chief among these was its innovative series of exchange traded funds (ETF) called “Listed Tracers” which trace or follow rules-based investing for a low-cost, non-active approach.

Other new funds included investment trust ASEAN Gigatrend Equity Fund and Index Fund SOX Index (US Listed Semiconductor Equity) and Japan Semiconductor Equity Fund.

In terms of thought leadership, Nikko AM took a strong stand in 2023, with President Stefanie Drews speaking to approximately 200 investors and financial industry members at the Japan Securities Summit 2023 in New York, where she explained the opportunities arising from the Japanese government’s NISA expansion as well as global institutional investor trends in terms of Japanese equities.

Overall judges were impressed by Nikko AM’s agility in meeting the growing demand for fixed income products and sustainable investment solutions.

Malaysia: RHB Asset Management

Despite economic headwinds, RHB Asset Management posted  astrong financial performance in 2023 as it navigated a challenging operating environment.

Innovative products, such as the RHB i-Sustainable Future Technology Fund and the RHB Global Artificial Intelligence Fund, were a hallmark of 2023, targeting sustainable technology and the artificial intelligence (AI) megatrends, respectively.

It also launched the RHB i-Global Sustainable Disruptors Fund, which was the first global Shariah and ESG compliant thematic fund in Malaysia.

This fund prioritises investments with a focus on environmental and social change such as climate change, resource constraints, population growth, poverty and inequality and ageing population, within the Shariah-compliant framework.

With key funds outperforming, RHB was the natural choice for our judges.

“Our tried and trusted investment strategy and the expertise of our dedicated portfolio managers has been the key to our success since our inception,” the fund said in its submission. “And despite a rocky, and often times, volatile 2023, this has proven to be no different.”

As with many asset managers in the region, one of its key focuses has been on improving its brand as a socially and environmentally responsible investor.

“As the year concluded, we have made tremendous strides in that area, strengthening our existing ESG philosophy and ESG framework,” RHB said in its submission.

This has involved a bespoke approach to winnowing through its buy-list, handpicking only those very best funds.

“We are proud to say that, over the course of 2023, our investment team has successfully computed individual ESG scores for all the names in our buy-list,” RHB says. 

"This means we have completed the environmental risk coverage for all names in the high and high-risk sectors in our buy-list.”

Philippines: ATRAM

A strategic partnership with Pru Life UK in 2023 clinched the market award for this Filipino asset manager whose assets under management (AUM) surged a remarkable 97% to PHP310.2 billion ($5.47 billion) on the back of the tie-up.

“Very impressive growth brought about by this strategic tie-up which propelled ATRAM to another level. Growth during the year was also compelling. Overall, a very impressive performance,” judges said of this submission.

Besides a net inflow of approximately PHP130.6 billion in 2023 - a substantial portion of this attributed to the Pru Life UK partnership - ATRAM experienced robust client base growth, securing an impressive 84 new mandates during the year resulting in a yearend AUM of PHP 147.7 billion.

These mandates, catering to both institutional and high-net-worth clients, demonstrated ATRAM's effectiveness in winning new business in a growing yet competitive market.

In terms of innovation, the launch of the ATRAM Unitised Corporate Debt Fund in May has pioneered the firm's entrance into the private debt mutual fund space.

This groundbreaking product - yielding an impressive 7% - positioned ATRAM as an industry leader, offering investors access to a meticulously curated selection of moderately aggressive private debt instruments.

In other moves, its partnerships with leading ewallets, such as GCash and Maya, further expanded ATRAM's reach and attracted a significant number of new investors.

Taiwan: Cathay SITE

Cathay Securities Investment Trust's dominant position has allowed it to expertly navigate a year of geopolitical shocks, from war in the Middle East to interest rate hikes, while launching four new products in 2023.

Among these firsts was the announcement that it had obtained regulatory approval to launch Taiwan’s first Security Token Offering (STO) business.

The pioneering move allowed the brokerage to issue digital assets that represent investments, marking a significant milestone in the evolution of traditional finance and investment mechanisms in Taiwan.

This inaugural STO will finance the parent company of Green Point Energy Creation, known for pioneering the renewable energy sector in Taiwan under the brand “Sunshine Volt Family.”

The offering, dubbed “Sunshine Green Benefit Debt STO,” is structured as a six-year debt STO with a 3.5% annual interest rate, with an annual interest distribution and principal repayment upon maturity.

With a 16.71% market share, Cathay SITE has been consistently ranked No. 1 in Taiwan for total assets under management (AUM).

Revenues, meanwhile, grew by 7% and profits by 12% compared to the previous year.

Cathay SITE expanded into new markets, including partnerships with companies like Nippon Life in Japan and Easy Wallet in Taiwan.

Key factors contributing to business growth included a comprehensive range of ETFs, strong commitment to educating investors, and a large and enthusiastic investment team.

ETF AUM reached $22.91 billion, up 58% from the previous year.

In terms of client acquisition and retention, Cathay SITE saw a significant increase in its client base, with mutual fund beneficiaries reaching more than 2.2 million individuals, an increase of some 440,000 individuals.

Thailand: Krungsri Asset Management

In a volatile and challenging market, Thailand’s mutual fund industry focused on fixed-income funds: term funds that delivered fixed rates of return.

Fortunately for Krungsri Asset Management, fixed income is just one of the segments in which it excels.

Despite the tougher operating environment, the firm was still able to deliver satisfactory growth and launch new products across all asset types to suit the outlook of all investor segments.

“Client acquisition was impressive,” judges said of this award-winning entry. “Their work with universities on AI in investing was equally impressive.”

In 2023, the total net asset value under management of the mutual fund industry in Thailand increased by 5.46%, while Krungsri AM was able to close the year with 416,735 million baht ($11.3 billion) in net asset value under management.

This represented a remarkable 5.87% growth over 2022, surpassing the industry average.

The asset manager introduced eight new funds in 2023 that tapped interest in Thailand’s best funds, China equities, the Nasdaq, high-yield fixed income, global equities and tax-saving funds and more.

“Our active management strategy has proven to be successful judging by the past performance of our flagship funds which are consistently ranked in quartile 1 and 2, and have gained solid recognitions from domestic and international institutions,” Krungsri AM said in its submission.

“Using various investment strategies, we offer a comprehensive range of equity funds to best suit different market conditions and investor appetites, ranging from dividend-focused, dynamic, total return, corporate governance, and small-mid-cap strategies.”

Vietnam: SSI Asset Management

The 2023 awards period was challenging enough for those in developed markets, but in emerging markets the difficulties were increased exponentially through volatility, global risk and interest rate differentials.

SSI Asset Management, however, managed to pull through an extremely tough period battered but unbowed.

“Business growth was flat under tough market conditions,” judges said of this submission. “But acquisition and innovation remained impressive.”

Its assets under management reached a peak of more than $719 million at the end of July 2023 (a 23% increase from the beginning of 2023) before taking a hit from major outflows to end the year at $564 million at year-end, a slight decrease of 0.4% year-on-year.

This was no mean feat given an operating environment in which foreign investors, despite the healthy growth of the Vn-Index, pulled out of Vietnam due to geopolitical risks and an interest rate differential caused by Vietnam managing to keep low interest rates amid global rate hikes.

Highlights for the asset manager included its SSI Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SSI-SCA) open-ended fund (with an AUM of more than $18 million) which was up 28.4% in 2023, compared with the 12% growth of the market VN-Index.

The Vietnam Long Term Growth Fund (VLGF) was the second largest domestic open-ended fund in the market with a fund size of more than $128 million at yearend. This outperformed the VN-Index with a year-on-year increase of 14.4%.

The fund is still attracting high volumes of foreign investor interest despite the capital flight of 2023.

“We believe our performance this year is a testament to our strong foundations as well as the enduring ability of SSIAM to remain a top player in the asset management sector,” SSI said in its submission.



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