Dan Watkins, who took the helm of J.P. Morgan Asset Management's Asia-Pacific business in January, concedes there's much about the firm's strategic plans to tap into China's fast-growing asset management market that defies precise forecasts.
"I'm not sure this will be a linear story," said Mr. Watkins in a May 6 interview.
Instead, for a CEO overseeing a China strategy, "you have to be fairly comfortable you're making decisions that (your) successors are going to benefit from," all the while tracking changes in markets, regulations and rules and being ready to react when circumstances change, he said.
One big change could be dawning now.
On May 7, Shanghai International Trust Co. — JPMAM's partner in China International Fund Management Co. Ltd., the joint venture they launched in 2004 — announced it was putting 2% of its 51% stake in CIFM out for bid over the coming month. It is a prelude, analysts say, to JPMAM becoming the first foreign manager to win a majority stake in a fund management com- pany on the mainland. CIFM had 127 billion yuan ($18.9 billion) in assets under management as of March 31, excluding segregated accounts, a spokeswoman said.
Shanghai International Trust's move, at a moment of heightened U.S.-China trade tensions, marks the start of the "whole process of foreign majority ownership" for Chinese fund management firms, said a Shanghai-based research analyst, who requested anonymity. A Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for JPMAM declined comment.