Market volatility is a challenge to asset managers, and many are scrambling to find winning investments. UOB Asset Management (Thailand) – UOBAM (Thailand) – has managed to differentiate its services by looking at foreign investment markets. With this, the aim is to become the market leader in investment management and advisory services with global partnerships.
The company continues to seek innovative investments in different asset classes in line with its active investment strategy by exploring new fund ideas appropriate for different market cycles, and in keeping with corresponding investor segments. World Finance spoke to Vana Bulbon, CEO of UOBAM (Thailand), for a deeper insight into how it is leading the latest developments in terms of investment strategies, not to mention its commitment to technology and attention to customer service. Beyond that, Bulbon also gave an insight into the challenges and opportunities facing the fund industry in Thailand.
How is the company’s fund performing in the local market?
During the last few years, Thai investors have shifted their investment allocation to low-risk investment asset classes – such as fixed-income funds – comprising short-term bonds and mid- to long-term bond funds in order to protect their principal and seek a stable source of income payments. However, at UOBAM (Thailand), we have a different view. We believe the current market environment presents an opportunity to tap into foreign investment funds (FIF) or sophisticated financial solutions. Through our efforts in creating awareness of FIF, our FIF assets under management have increased to THB 50bn ($1.4bn) and have moved up the ranks to third place in terms of FIF market share. Our strong strategic alliances across the region, extensive global network, and long-standing investment expertise also contributed to this achievement.
The investment environment today is increasingly complex and volatile. We face an unpredictable environment with structural changes brought on by new technology
What are your marketing strategies today, and why they are so important?
The investment environment today is increasingly complex and volatile. We face an unpredictable environment with structural changes brought on by new technology, increasing connectivity and tighter regulations. At the same time, the Thai mutual fund industry is also undergoing financial liberalisation. As such, it is challenging for both asset management companies and Thai investors to find investment opportunities with stable returns.
In view of the present market situation, UOBAM (Thailand)’s marketing strategy is to provide tactical investment opportunities to our clients through our regional networks and international alliances, particularly through FIF offerings in the Japan Small and Mid-Cap Fund and Healthcare Fund.
To enhance our FIF offerings, we launched a European Small-Cap Fund, a Japan Real Estate Securities Fund and a Thai Small and Mid-Cap Fund in 2015 to capture the thematic trends and investment opportunities where we see solid business fundamentals and attractive valuations. In addition, we continued to actively manage and oversee our fund performance to deliver returns to our clients.
Another success story of UOBAM (Thailand)’s mutual fund business is the development of a tax benefit fund, specifically the Good Corporate Governance Long Term Equity Fund (CG-LTF), which invests mainly in listed companies with good corporate governance and sustainable earnings growth potential. With profound investment management expertise, CG-LTF has recently been ranked the best performing fund among 53 long-term national equity funds for its three-year track record, and rated five stars by Morningstar for three consecutive years in Thailand.
As part of our continuous effort to widen our suite of products, our head office in Singapore – UOBAM – signed a memorandum of understanding with Wellington Management Singapore in May 2015 to develop investment solutions designed specifically for the group’s increasingly sophisticated client base in Asia. This brought together the complementary strengths of the Wellington Management group’s asset investment industry experience globally, and UOBAM’s strong investment expertise and extensive distribution capabilities across Asia.
What is the one key characteristic that helps your company stand out from the pack?
We pride ourselves on our relationships with our clients. We are constantly reaching out to our clients to understand their needs, investment objectives and goals. We regularly provide investment recommendations, including new investment solutions to our clients and distributors, especially given current financial market uncertainties.
For example, in response to our investors who are looking to build up their retirement fund and protect their savings from eroding through inflation, we launched the UOB Smart Asia Pacific Income Fund and United Income Focus Fund with an option of automatic redemption feature to provide potential regular income.
Similarly, in March this year we launched a fixed-income fund, the United Income Daily Ultra Plus Fund. This fund invests in foreign fixed income instruments such as foreign deposits, high-yield fixed income and debt securities to provide investors with better returns from fixed-income investments. On top of this, we are mindful of the unique needs of our institutional clients and provide them with tailored solutions through our professional investment advisory.
The company prides itself on the high standard of customer service it provides – how is this achieved?
In today’s age where information is crucial, UOBAM (Thailand) seeks to enhance the customer experience with our Premier Online platform, enabling our investors to access our services at their convenience. Service innovations and technology improvements are important factors to cater to investors’ lifestyles and enhance competitiveness in the industry. We continuously improve the platform with additional services and a more user-friendly interface to serve our clients. Premier Online users have substantially grown by 32 percent in year 2015 as compared to the year of 2014.
This is just one of the few initiatives we have taken to become a premier regional asset manager and a leader in the investment management and advisory industry. We are focused on delivering customer satisfaction, investment returns and services with professional management. At the same time, we maintain strong business practices, continue to innovate, and recognise our commitment to shareholders, employees and society.
Given the current uncertainties in the market, what advice would you give to a prospective investor?
Given market uncertainties, UOBAM (Thailand) advocates investing in a diversified investment portfolio, such as a multi-asset fund like the United Income Focus Fund, to reduce downside risk. We also recommend the United Global Durable Fund, which has exposure to durable and stable companies that typically exhibit characteristics such as moderate but predictable revenue growth, prudent capital allocation, good management practices and a low risk of significant profit decline.
Another investment theme that offers potential investment opportunity in the long term are trends shaping the future of society, such as the demand for security services.
Therefore, we invest in companies that contribute to safeguarding the integrity, health and freedom of individuals, companies and governments, and would recommend the United Global Security Fund to investors interested in seeking exposure to this sector.