S.E.A. Asset Management was founded in 2007 as a branch of Switzerland-based asset management company Copar Finance Asset Management. The name changed to S.E.A. Asset Management in 2014.
Q. When was your firm founded?
The company was originally founded to offer local investment expertise regarding Asian bonds and Asian equities to its Swiss and European clients. Today, most of S.E.A’s clients are Europeans in Asia or based in Europe.
Q. What’s the team size?
We have four staff members, of which two are in the investment team, including myself. I am also a relationship manager.
Q. What is your business model?
Besides fund management, we offer investment advisory services and portfolio management. Currently, 95% of our assets are discretionary.
Q. How do you differentiate yourself from a boutique asset manager?
Probably, the key differentiating factor is that we are a truly open platform. For example, we invest in other wealth managers’ products wherever their products are complementary to our product offering and suit our clients’ investment strategies and risk profiles. We do not only sell our own products and services. It is not unusual for me to refer clients or prospects to friendly competitors if we can’t service particular interests.
Q. What funds are you offering to your clients?
We manage two Luxembourg Ucits Sicav funds investing in equities and short duration high yield bonds in the wider Asia Pacific region.
Our equity fund is set up to invest in the wider Asia Pacific region, including onshore China shares, India and Vietnam.
Q. How are you charging clients?
We charge management fees and sometimes performance fees. Some of the segregated accounts only pay a management fee, while others only pay performance fees and no management fees. The fee models vary depending on the client’s preference. We also accept retrocessions, but not always.
Q. How are you advising clients who are keen in investing in cryptocurrencies and blockchain?
We believe cryptocurrencies are not mature yet and too speculative in nature to be considered for clients to invest in. Most cryptocurrencies are still too volatile and have almost no practical use cases.
Q. What is your growth strategy? Are you looking at M&A?
We are open to cooperation with other independent asset managers (IAMs) and always looking for opportunities. We invest into other companies’ funds and are open to cooperation on such a level. Closer cooperation to reduce costs and enlarge scale are always of interest.
Q. Are you outsourcing any functions?
We are outsourcing IT, internal auditing, compliance, bookkeeping, taxation and corporate secretary services. It is more cost efficient, and good expertise is available externally. We prefer to focus on our strengths internally and outsource non-core functions.
Q. In this digital age, what precautions are you taking to ensure security of client data?
All data is hosted on-site at our offices including our own e-mail server. We take client confidentiality and cybersecurity very seriously.
Q. How has the industry changed in the past five years?
The industry has been burdened with new regulations that require additional administration. Unfortunately, many banks we deal with have weak compliance teams, which makes our lives more difficult, as we have to accommodate their internal policies. More regulation is also causing higher costs.
Q. Do you see big tech players being a potential competitor in the wealth management space?
It is a question of time – these players will discover the wealth management space and enter as competitors, but this is probably still a few years out from now.
Q. Do you think the industry is too saturated at this point?
There is still plenty of room to grow, largely caused by the increasing bureaucracy at private banks, which is driving relationship managers into the wealth management sector to serve their clients better.
Another reason why clients are looking at wealth managers is their specialised expertise – private banks often offer the same products, but they are not as customised as wealth managers’.
Q. What are some new regulations you’re watching?
We look forward to changes to the representative notification requirements, which should make things easier for fund managers serving only accredited and institutional investors.
Q. What was the turning point in your career when you decided to go it alone?
Most of my career moves have been rather accidental, as was my move to Singapore. Initially, the plan was to move to Shanghai, but, somehow, I ended up in Singapore 11 years ago. Joining S.E.A. to launch the Luxembourg funds was an opportunity that seemed like a good fit with my background. Life is like a box full of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get!