Harcourt expands Asian alternatives distribution team

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Harcourt Investment Consulting has boosted its alternative product distribution strategy in Asia by hiring Claire Liou, as the region’s own hedge fund industry continues its climb back from losses and outflows in the 2008 global crisis.

Liou will be based in Hong Kong and report to Ulrich Behm, CEO of Vontobel Asia Pacific. Harcourt is part of Switzerland’s Vontobel group.

She worked previous in business development roles at Vision Investment Management and Haitong International Asset Management.

She has also worked as a portfolio manager at Proxima Alfa Investments and as a commodities trader at Barclays.

All these experiences will be useful at Harcourt, as it sees “a significant potential in the areas of hedge fund advisory, funds of funds and commodities business”.

Behm said: This step reflects our identification with the Asian market and our working to strengthen and expand our alternative asset distribution activities in the region.”

While the popularity of hedge funds from Asians has grown, their local hedge fund industry has largely failed to do so since early 2009. When markets finally turned positive in April 2009, Asian hedge funds held $104.8bn. Now they hold $109bn.

The thirst for emerging Asia in the good times was shown by the region’s hedge funds growing assets by nearly 800% to $176bn between 2000 and 2007.

The following year, the Eurekahedge Asian Hedge Fund Index fell 20.5%, and by April 2009 – when global markets turned positive again – assets stood at just $104.8bn.

Eurekahedge said the industry had “bounced back” after April 2009 “but despite this, growth post-financial crisis has been slow and yet to match what was seen in the industry in the years before 2008.”

Investment performance so far this year has been mediocre. Asia ex-Japan hedge funds have made just over 2%, about 1% below the industry’s average. Japanese hedge funds are the only geographical remit to have lost money on their investments, down about 1% by August.

If 2012 data is any guide, then strategy selection in Asia ex-Japan seems to play an important role in finding returns.

So far this year, for example, arbitrageurs in the region made about 4%, whereas relative-value could only manage half that. Long/short equities, historically the backbone of Asia’s hedge fund industry, made just below 2%.

It is event-driven that is making the returns so far this year, up nearly 10%, while computer-driven funds have found better returns in Asia ex-Japan than any other region, up about 7% this year.

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