Martin Currie advances its European campaign from Zurich

Martin Currie opened its first continental European officce in Zurich in January 2010 and has made steady progress establishing its presence.

The firm is based in Edinburgh, Scotland but characterizes itself as an international active equity manager for an international client base. “We are not biased towards our home market,” notes Andy Sowerby, managing director of sales and marketing. “About 70% of our clients are based outside the UK. Of some $17.6bn assets under management, we manage $2.1bn for European based clients. We are specialists for an international audience.”

Assets from the firm’s Swiss clients amount to between 3% and 4% of the Edinburgh-based firm’s £11bn (US$17.6bn) in assets under management, and a quarter of its total European assets. Officials at the firm hope it can double it assets under management from Swiss clients within the next three years.

Zurich addresses a sophisticated local market but is a good base from which to reach other European investors. Martin Currie’s other international offices are in China, Singapore, Australia and the US. The firm took its time picking its European campaign headquarters, seeking a country manager with the right credentials.

They found him in Dominik Issler, who joined from Fortis Investments/ABN Amro Asset Management, Switzerland where he was CEO. Issler’s previous roles include head of institutional business for Schroder Investment Management in Zurich, and key relationship manager in Zurich for State Street Global Advisors.

The client base is mainly wealth managers and Swiss private banks, with a lot of sub advisory work with other asset managers and distributors. Issler has been charged with client service and business development and reports to Andy Sowerby and Allan MacLeod the firm’s global coheads of distribution. Issler said the Swiss market is a huge part of Martin Currie’s expansion in Europe, with fund selectors appreciating the active management approach and the range of high alpha specialist strategies offered.

“My experience in the past year reflects how asset management is becoming a far more developed industry and a much more competitive market,” says Issler. “You have to see what you are bringing to the client. No one is waiting for you; it is a tough environment.”

“Although Martin Currie has centralised fund management in Edinburgh, it is important to have a base close to clients, spanning time zones and cultural differences. Some investors are more risk-loving and want quick execution. Others are more focused on structure and process. The important thing is how you service the client and maintain contact.”

That is especially relevant through any crisis. “In 2008 clients lost assets in the fat tail of distribution,” said Issler.

“The system didn’t hold up. In times of uncertainty it is critical to be communicating closely.”

He says fund selectors are wary, having been disappointed by poor products in the past, but they remain ready to explore new relationships if they feel there is real value and knowledge available. “There is also widespread discontent at the bigger players. Investors don’t believe one provider can offer everything to everyone any longer. They like to see asset class specialists.”


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