Kwek speaks on new role as Pheim Singapore CEO

08 July 2013   Category: News, Asia, Malaysia, Singapore, Southeast Asia   By Paul Mackintosh

Andrew Kwek joined Pheim Singapore at the end of May, bringing with him some 32 years experience in the finance industry. His last role was as CEO with Deutsche Asset Management (Asia) Limited where he was also head of sales, and he has served as vice chair of the Investment Management Association of Singapore (IMAS). Asia Asset Management spoke to him about his new role and his plans for Pheim Singapore.
Rebuilding confidence
Mr. Kwek explained how Pheim Singapore’s current structure and leadership relates to his predecessor, Dr. Tan Chong Koay. “The prohibition order set out against Dr. Tan from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) essentially excludes him from voting his shares as well as holding executive positions in Pheim Singapore. He continues to be licensed in Malaysia and is the CEO of Pheim Malaysia – he is the major shareholder in both companies.” 
He continued: “Pheim Asset Management Singapore was not sanctioned by the MAS. I decided to come inside and help return confidence to existing investors, past investors who have left as a consequence of the MAS sanction, and also to future investors who could benefit from the investment philosophy and strategy. The return to confidence is the first priority. This begins at home, with the people in Pheim Singapore today. It is critical that we all share the confidence that Pheim continues to be a viable firm. I would work to raise their comfort levels that there is leadership and strategy going forward. That’s the first message that I would like the staff to have. And that same message will be then broadcast to all the clients – present, past and future.”
Expanding on his immediate goals and plans for the firm, Mr. Kwek said: “One of the first things I’ve done is to beef up the infrastructure. I’ve added staff to the operations, I’ve added dimensions to compliance, and a workflow process to ensure compliance on investments and the stipulated and agreed guidelines.”
Good numbers
Pheim Singapore’s future depends on demonstrating that it can sustain the sterling track record of previous years. Here, Mr. Kwek had good news to report. “I have the advantage that the year-to-date performance has been very good. This has been achieved under the leadership of the new CIO, Chon Kiat Teo. He and his team were essentially responsible for these numbers. And it’s important to note that these performance numbers were achieved without any input or influence from Dr. Tan.”
“We are leveraging the investment philosophy of value and growth, and we are adding expertise in the Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and Korea markets,” he added. “The team, with the added resources, will be much stronger than it was before. That’s the other message that will be broadcast to all and sundry. This is not about just recovering lost glories but going forward as well. I am intending to build a bigger, better and stronger team that will value add to our clients’ portfolios. This is a challenge in our present circumstances but the team has the resolve to realise this aspiration.
Investment philosophy
Mr. Kwek also touched on the maintenance of Pheim’s well-established investment philosophy and differentiating characteristics. “Pheim has always focused on value and growth. Some fund managers focus on value, some on growth. Our differentiator would be value AND growth. If you look at our investment philosophy, you are not limiting yourself to small and mid-cap companies, but you would also for certain market conditions even be looking at big-caps which markets may have forgotten or not be paying attention to at a particular point in time. It’s looking for that value, the ones that markets don’t quite see. We ignore the ones that are very well covered and go in search of the undiscovered champions.”
“The second differentiator, which is not so well known is that as absolute returns managers, we also can have the luxury to keep a higher allocation to cash should we be of the opinion that the market situation warrants it,” he continued. “If we think that the markets are getting to be too rich and expensive, and look as they might top out, we would be able to allocate more to cash rather than be fully invested. As well as being a small company we can work with clients on a personal level and can create a more bespoke portfolio in alignment with the clients’ risk appetite. And if they decide on an allocation to go 100% cash then we will have that discussion. That’s the benefit and beauty of being small.”
On his own track record, Mr. Kwek remarked: “I have longevity in the industry, experience in working on the sell side as well as the buy side, and I have dealt with a variety of clients, ranging from sovereign wealth and state pensions to the individual investor. Certainly it’s my hope that I’ll be able to build confidence and bring back the clients.”