Nuveen LLC, the asset management arm of New York-based insurer TIAA-CREF, has garnered $30 billion in institutional mandates from Asia-Pacific clients since it launched its business in the region five years ago. Next on the firm's to-do list: wealth management.
Private wealth, working in tandem with financial groups that serve as high-net-worth aggregators, is a channel "we're working on now as a new extended part" of Nuveen's Asia-Pacific strategy, said Simon England-Brammer, the firm's senior managing director, head of Asia-Pacific and Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Mr. England-Brammer said in an interview that Nuveen is poised to launch that business in private wealth centers such as Hong Kong and Singapore after two years spent getting its product, marketing and client servicing foundations ready.
Nuveen, which manages well over 90% of its $1.2 trillion in global assets under management on behalf of U.S.-based clients, already has a well-established wealth management business in its home market, amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars.
Potential opportunities to serve Asia-Pacific wealth management clients now are significant and growing, said Mr. England-Brammer. "If one looks at private wealth, then certainly Asia is the engine room" for future growth of Nuveen's international platform," reflecting the volume of wealth being created in the region and the amount that's going into that channel, he said.
If private wealth can succeed in accounting for a quarter to a third of Nuveen's assets under management in the region five years from now, it will count as a good outcome, Mr. England-Brammer said.
But it won't necessarily be easy, he conceded. "It's a very attractive proposition but it's very expensive to get to it, very time consuming and there's a lot of effort that needs to go into that," he said.
Part of that effort, Mr. England-Brammer said, will involve working to raise awareness of Nuveen's brand in the region, which will mark a departure from the decidedly low-key approach the firm has taken in building up its institutional business in recent years.
On the institutional side, "we never go into meetings with a fact sheet and say 'look at our one, three, five (year returns) since inception, aren't we great,'" said Mr. England-Brammer.
Instead, with TIAA proprietary money accounting for roughly half of Nuveen's $1.2 trillion in AUM, when the firm meets insurance groups or corporate pensions in the region, "we're actually going to talk to them as an asset owner, as opposed to an asset manager, which is very different," he said.
That approach is more "peer-to-peer" consultation than hard sell, with discussions revolving around "where are we deploying capital … what's attractive at this stage, what's not," Mr. England-Brammer said. He called that level of alignment, in an environment where asset owners are on the lookout for strategic partners, a large part of the reason Nuveen has enjoyed the success it's had planting its flag in the region.
For 2021, Mr. England-Brammer said Nuveen garnered net institutional inflows of $6.2 billion from Asia Pacific-based clients, with a roughly 50-50 public-private market split.
On the public market side, Nuveen has seen demand — particularly from institutional investors in Japan — for the U.S. municipal bond strategies TIAA pioneered over the past century, as well as for traditional fixed-income offerings, he said.
Likewise, Nuveen is seeing growing interest — especially from insurers in the region — for the firm's private market offerings, including private equity, private credit, real estate, farmland and timberland, senior loans, collateralized loan obligations and infrastructure, he said.
As of the end of 2021, clients in Japan accounted for roughly $18 billion of the firm's $33 billion in regional assets. When Nuveen launched its Asia-Pacific strategy in 2017, the company identified Japan as a strategic market that would get the "entire backing of the organization."
That decision came as a number of other global money managers were looking to the fast pace of regulatory reforms in China to make that huge, fast-growing market their top growth prospect in coming decades.
But Mr. England-Brammer said his team saw no reason to rush. "China is clearly a market we can't ignore but I strongly believe there isn't a need or demand to be making a very significant commitment" there at present.
"It's not that we won't go there … it's more a timing perspective," he said. As a fairly conservative organization, Nuveen doesn't feel compelled to venture out on the frontier, where one is liable to "get scalped," he said.