BPI Asset Management names group head

Theresa Marcial Javier expects the Philippine fund house's AUM to grow by 10-15% annually in the next two years.

Theresa Marcial Javier has been named group head of Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Asset Management and Trust Group, the largest fund management firm in the country by assets.

Javier was previously deputy group head of BPI Asset Management, a position she held since February 2008. She assumed her new role last month, replacing Adelbert Legasto, who has retired from the bank but now serves as a consultant and senior adviser. Legasto also remains a member of the BPI Trust Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the entire asset management and trust business of BPI.

With 14 years of investment experience, Javier also continues in her role as chief investment officer (CIO) of BPI Asset Management. As such, she oversees various investment mandates, including domestic and foreign-currency fixed income and equities for institutional and individual portfolios, mutual funds and unit investment trust funds. Javier has been with the bank since 1995.

There is no rush to find a replacement CIO, but Javier expects to appoint one within the next two years.

BPI Asset Management has a team of 20 investment professionals, which Javier says is the largest such team in the Philippines. The firm has four investment heads, namely: Iris Gripaldo, who heads the fixed-income team; Ricardo Barrerra, who heads the equities team; Eliza May Taco, who heads the portfolio management team; and Cecilia Tanchoco, who heads the credit and investment research team.

As of the end of July, BPI Asset Management had around Ps416 billion ($8.6 billion) in assets under management (AUM), a 29% increase from Ps322 billion ($6.6 billion) in end-2008. The firm has a market share of around 22% in an industry with around 40 players.

Javier expects AUM to grow by 10-15% annually in the next two years, largely through its retail and wealth management business.

The firm has a solid mix of institutional, as well as retail and wealth management businesses -- "more or less 50-50", says Javier. With the implementation of a three-year business plan that will increase the firms' focus on retail and wealth management clients, this segment is expected to grow to 60-65% of the overall business.

"We expect tremendous opportunity in the retail and wealth management space, and we shall capitalise on the strength of BPI's over-800-strong distribution network of branches all over the country," says Javier, who is also the president of the Fund Managers Association of the Philippines.

The plan to increase the firm's focus on retail and wealth management clients is a reflection of the trend that Javier sees in Asia, where the number of mass-affluent individuals is on the rise. It also builds on BPI Asset Management's strong distribution, via its parent's bank branches nationwide. "Our natural strength is our distribution network. We are very close to the ground and we have very good synergies with our bank group," Javier says.

Javier also hopes to build on another strength of its parent -- BPI's captive market of remittances from overseas Filipino workers. Numbering in the millions, these workers remit billions in dollars and other foreign currencies to the Philippines annually. This amount -- which some analysts have estimated at more than $1 billion a month, or more than 10% of the country's GDP -- has helped the Philippines stave off external threats, such as the recent global financial crisis.

"Right now, the number of overseas Filipino workers investing in funds in still very small, but the potential is there," Javier says. "I believe this will happen in stages. They are addressing their needs first and are buying houses, cars, paying for their children's education. But as they become more affluent, they will most likely be looking at the next stage, which will be investments."

BPI Asset Management's funds and investments are primarily in the domestic market and the majority is in fixed income. "As an investment firm, our focus is, and has always been, the domestic market, and that has always been our strength," Javier says.

BPI Asset Management has a small portion of its AUM -- "not significant", says Javier -- invested in emerging-market equities.

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