Credit Suisse Group AG is looking to grow its global asset management business, again.
Both Tidjane Thiam, the Swiss bank's CEO, and Eric Varvel, the nascent CEO of Credit Suisse's global asset management division, have begun work to shift the bank's focus to asset management from investment banking.
Over the past year, Messrs. Thiam and Varvel have transferred investment banking staff to the asset management business, overseen the launch of two hedge funds focused on quantitative strategies and now plan to expand Credit Suisse Asset Management LLC's distribution capabilities and lineup of investment offerings.
But some industry observers wonder if all of this isn't too little, too late for an asset management business that lacks a coherent global platform in the institutional space.
CSAM, which had $317 billion in assets under management globally as of March 31, used to be a larger player in the institutional money management game. But the bank-owned firm faded into the background after selling off parts of its business to bolster capital.
Now, its leaders are looking to bring it back into the limelight — albeit slowly.
“We're trying to run a global asset management business that will drive strong regional strategies,” said Mr. Varvel in a phone interview. “We're doing different things in Asia and different things in Switzerland.”
Credit Suisse Asset Management has “nice portfolios of alternative investment vehicles” in the U.S. and is looking to increase its U.S. assets under management by “expanding distribution” and adding “a few additional products over the next year,” Mr. Varvel said. He declined to provide specifics, but mentioned that a Mexico-based real estate investment trust was in the works, as well as some other possible real estate investment vehicles. Credit Suisse does not disclose AUM by region.
Prior to Mr. Varvel taking the role on June 1 — replacing Robert Jain, who joined multistrategy hedge fund manager Millennium Management as a partner and co-chief investment officer — Credit Suisse already was growing the asset management business. Roughly 150 investment bank staffers have been transferred over to the asset management business as part of a broader focus on money management.
In September, CSAM announced two new positions. Bill Johnson, deputy global head of asset management, also was appointed head of asset management Americas, overseeing the commodities group, credit investments groups, the Securitized Products fund and private funds group. Michel Degen was named head of asset management Switzerland and Europe, Middle East and Africa, covering all existing core businesses, alternative funds solutions and Credit Suisse Energy Infrastructure Partners.
In addition, CSAM recently launched two quantitatively driven hedge funds.
The two funds, Qube and QT, are being run in London and New York by teams from the firm's systematic market-making group. The group was moved to CSAM from the investment bank.