Hugh Young, the longtime head of Aberdeen Standard Investments' money management business in Asia, will pass the baton he's run with for the past 29 years to a successor at the start of March — a handover he's confident won't trip up the firm's recent recovery from a tough stretch of underperformance.
An uneventful transition would be welcome for the Edinburgh-based money management firm — just now emerging from a period of painful outflows in the wake of Aberdeen Asset Management PLC's August 2017 merger with Standard Life PLC.
Late last month, Aberdeen Standard Investments announced that effective March 1, Rene Buehlmann, former head of UBS Asset Management's Asia-Pacific business, will become only the second CEO of Asia the firm's roughly 600 employees in the region have known since Mr. Young established its Asian beachhead in Singapore in 1992.
"I've enjoyed management over the years," Mr. Young said in a Feb. 2 interview, but "I think it's time to pass on to fresher blood."
And the timing for Mr. Buehlmann to take the helm could be "fairly impeccable," he said, with a number of the firm's offerings in the region — including Asian equities, fixed income, multiasset and real estate — sporting healthy three-year numbers again.
Company officials said the firm's global emerging markets strategy is among those bouncing back now. The strategy saw more than $9 billion in outflows between 2018 and 2020 after weak performance between 2017 and 2018 dragged down three-year returns, sending assets tumbling to a low of $16 billion in early 2020 from $44 billion at the time of the merger. But for the 12 months ended Dec. 31, the strategy outperformed its benchmark by 6.44 percentage points, bringing its three-year returns back into positive territory with an annualized gain of 95 basis points. As of Sept. 30, strategy assets were back up to $19.2 billion, according to eVestment LLC.
Elsewhere, ASI's Asia-Pacific ex-Japan and China A-shares strategies strongly outperformed their benchmark by 5.88 and 12.71 percentage points for the year, respectively.
In line with that improvement, "we've had quite a nice amount of money in the door" this year, Mr. Young said. He declined to provide details.
A Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for the firm said Mr. Young's Asia-Pacific team oversaw a combined $36 billion across all asset classes as of June 2020, roughly 6.4% of the U.K.-centered firm's total assets under management at that time.