Aberdeen Asset Management will look to build its presence in the U.S. and North Asia, said CEO Martin Gilbert.
In a keynote question-and-answer session in Singapore on Thursday at the annual conference of the Investment Management Association of Singapore, Mr. Gilbert called moving the firm’s emerging markets business to the city-state 23 years ago “the best decision we’ve ever made.”
Over that span, Aberdeen’s emerging markets assets under management grew to $125 billion from $100 million.
Even so, he said one disadvantage of being a first mover in establishing a big investment operation in Singapore is that Aberdeen’s presence in key North Asian markets remains a work in progress. He cited adding more people capable of doing bottom-up research in markets such as China, Taiwan and Korea as a priority.
Likewise, bolstering the firm’s distribution in the U.S. market is a key to Aberdeen’s next leg of growth, Mr. Gilbert said. With U.S. investors still accounting for half of the world’s wealth, “we have to get bigger in the U.S.,” he said.
U.S. investors are moving to put more and more money in overseas equities and bonds, and “we’ve got the products that they want,” Mr. Gilbert said. Building distribution in the U.S. is on the firm’s to-do list, he said.
With assets under management of more than $500 billion at the end of 2014, Aberdeen is the 10th largest independent money management firm, following nine U.S. firms which count on their domestic market for the bulk of their assets, he said.
Mr. Gilbert said Aberdeen’s scale is a key to maintaining its global infrastructure spanning 33 offices in 25 countries.
Asked about the fallout from an expected decision this year by the U.S. Federal Reserve to begin hiking interest rates, Mr. Gilbert said resulting dislocations could focus on developed markets’ credit, rather than on sovereign bonds being held for liability matching purposes.
Meanwhile, at a conference where growing disparities in wealth were a frequent topic, Mr. Gilbert noted that the rich — the “world’s top 1% — own no bonds.”
“Bonds are all owned by the vulnerable of the world, and that is the really sad part of this,” he said. “When the cycle does change, it’s the people who can least afford it who will be the hardest hit,” he said.