Top fund houses for Singapore and Japan, explained
The Fund House of the Year (for different markets) is one of AsianInvestor’s hotly-contested categories in our industry-leading Asset Management Awards.
Today we present the rationale behind the judges’ choices for Fund House of the Year for Singapore and Japan.
As we did with other categories, we will announce the winners for Fund House of the Year - Hong Kong and Fund House of the Year - Southeast Asia on May 18, when we host a gala dinner for all the Asset Management Award winners at the Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong.
Fierce competition in some categories also prompted our judging panel and editorial/awards team to pick a winner and a finalist, as deciding on the ultimate winner came down to a neck-and-neck race.
To see the explanation of the choices of Fund House of the Year for China, Taiwan and Korea, click here.
Fund House of the Year – Singapore
As a global asset manager, Fidelity International certainly knows how to stand above the competition through relentless innovation to match evolving client needs.
Whether it was for developing new products, engaging investors or embracing new technology to to improve its investing and trading objectives, the fund house won praise from the judges for its all-round performance.
With assets under management of a little over $650 billion at the end of December 2022, the fund house has more than 400 global professionals, of which more than 170 are based in Asia (and of which a sizeable number are in Singapore), creating an extensive research network and setting it apart as an investment powerhouse.
Amid tough financial market conditions, Fidelity continued to expand its product offerings to serve its growing institutional clients, which include sovereign wealth funds, insurers, private banks and digital wealth platforms among others.
Judges were especially impressed by Fidelity’s committment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles: coupled with increased demand for sustainable funds by clients, the asset manager strengthened its sustainable/ESG-specific funds by tripling its offerings from six in 2021 to 22 at the end of December.
Notable funds launched include the FF Sustainable Climate Solutions Fund, which actively tackles climate change by investing in decarbonisation solutions and the FF Sustainable Biodiversity Fund, which aims to maintain vital ecosystems and support natural capital.
Overall, Fidelity’s total funds registered for sale in Singapore increased to 94.
Asia continues to be Fidelity’s key growth market with Singapore serving as the hub for its Southeast Asia expansion, and the firm made inroads into Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines —introducing new products and clients in these markets.
The firm has also been building its private assets business and has added more than 100 employees globally to cement its presence in the alternative asset space to complement its public markets expertise, another indication that the firm is constantly listening to clients and attempting to keep up with changing market demands.
Fund House of the Year – Singapore
New Forests [Finalist]
New Forests was a close runner up in this category, due to its strong business growth and commitment to excellence in sustainability and product innovation, according to the judges.
Globally, New Forests experienced a 25% increase in assets under management to $7.1 billion (A$10.6 billion) at the end of December 2022.
New Forests Asia — the regional presence of New Forests located in Singapore — doubled its AUM to $264 million in 2022 in addition to also doubling its client base.
The Singapore office also saw a 20% headcount increase over the year, with the hiring of a dedicated resource to evaluate and assess carbon projects and additional resources for the acquisition of forestry assets.
The firm launched its second Southeast Asian Tropical Asia Forest Fund (TAFF2) in 2022, which received $130 million in investment from heavyweights including Temasek/ GenZero; Asian Development Bank; Department of Forest Affairs and Trade (Australian Government); Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank and TotalEnergies.
TAFF2 has a unique blended finance structure and is committed to having a predetermined budget beyond business-as-usual to invest in activities that result in positive impact outcomes around climate, biodiversity, local communities and livelihoods.
New Forest is targeting $300 million in its TAFF2 for 2023 - a sign of growing confidence about growing demand from its investors for natural capital opportutnities.
In addition, the funds provide an opportunity for sustainability-minded investors seeking additional positive impact in addition to receiving an investment return.
Another strategy which sits under New Forests’ Singapore team, is New Forests newly established African strategy (African Forestry Impact Platform, AFIP) - offering yet another opportunity for instituttional investors to generate returns while making a positive impact.
Fund House of the Year – Japan
Asset Management One
Japan is not an easy market to crack and 2022 was not an easy year for financial markets.
Yet Asset Management One (AMO) has consistently managed to grow its already extensive pension business, managing the discretionary accounts of several public and private pension funds in Japan.
AMO funds in 2022 continued to rank among the defautl product choices for several defined contribution pension funds, partly because of consistent investor education and seminars for plan sponsors.
Judges noted that the fund house has also enhanced its gatekeeper function for alternative assets, helping Japanese institutional investors navigate the many challenges they face as they increase allocation to such assets.
Keeping with its strong position among pension funds, AMO was also awarded some large-scale mandates in global real estate – a common model adopted by Japanese entities looking to make alternative investments overseas.
In a turbulent 2022, AMO’s ability to maintain its strong business position in active Japanese equity and fixed income funds was also seen as a strong point.
AMO also took several new and commendable strides on the ESG front last year, which earned a thumbs up from the judges: in April, the fund house established a sustainable investment strategy team and appointed a sustainable investment officer (SIO) to accelerate sustainable investment activities across in-house investments.
This team, led by the SIO, is a cross-asset class team that includes 12 analysts and fund managers from all asset classes.
In November, AMO also launched its sustainable investment category, which considers Japanese regulatory trends, client needs, the business environment, and other global initiatives while recommending sustainable investments to clients.
That the fund house was also awarded an impact strategy mandate in 2022 from a Nordic institutional investor with a strict ESG investment policy further burnished AMO’s sustainability credentials.