Following 2022’s investing year that can only be described as annus horribilis when 10-year US treasuries and the S&P 500 were down by more than 10% in total returns – not seen since 1872 – making it to the list of Asset Benchmark Research’s G3 Most Astute Investors is no doubt an achievement.
Investing in Asia’s G3 bond market has also been marred by the considerable funds outflow that left for the safety of the developed markets – largely into short-dated US treasuries. Astute Investors had to likewise contend with the meltdown of China’s property market with several of the erstwhile credible and most prolific issuers slamming into repayment walls. Meanwhile, new-issue activity shrunk by nearly a third in the first six months of 2023 as corporates scampered away into the safety of bank loans and tapped onshore liquidity.
Those who featured in this year’s Most Astute Investors therefore navigated plenty of challenges that were much different from the years before the pandemic. Even during the Covid years, fixed income investing fared better as market reopening and pent-up demand made up for the elevated market volatility.
But G3 bond investing is undergoing changes. On the one hand, demand for rate products remain high thanks to central banks’ pivot away from an era of excessive low rates to one that is at the other end – higher rates for longer. At the same time, credit selection and differentiation have become paramount as value starts to emerge in high-grade names.
In Hong Kong, Nicholas Mesken, portfolio manager at Millennium, retains the top position as in the last survey. Mesken is praised for his insights both on the macro and micro levels. Coming second this year is Lau Chak Sum, vice-president and investment manager at Citic Bank International. Two years ago, he ranked ninth.
In Singapore, Christina Chiow, managing director and head of credit portfolio management at OCBC Global Markets, improved her standing from seventh a year ago to this year’s top spot. Her experience and coverage span the entire corporate spectrum of high-grade and high-yield issuers, China and non-China, and previously covered clients in asset management, treasury desks, insurance companies, hedge funds, etc.
Also moving up in the Singapore rankings is Colin Tan, an analyst at Millennium. A colleague of Mesken, both having worked previously at Segantii Capital Management, Tan is now ranked second, an improvement from his eighth place a year ago. He also previously was director of global credit trading at Deutsche Bank, where he spent more than 12 years.
In other regions
Outside of Asia, Amy Kam retains her top spot in the UK/Europe area. As a senior portfolio manager at Aviva Investors, she also has co-management responsibility for global emerging market corporate bond portfolios. Kam frequents China to gauge the on-the-ground chatter in one of the most important markets in Asia. She is also a passionate squash player, and once captained a team in one of the best-known clubs in London, which rose to number two in the England National Club Championship in the early 2000s.
Coming in second in UK/Europe is Sanchay Singla, a senior fund manager at Legal & General Investment Management, where he’s been for the over eight years. He is now also the lead fund manager for a new range of emerging markets ESG funds. He improved his ranking from seventh place a year ago.
In the US, Johnny Mak, principal and portfolio manager for PGIM Fixed Income's emerging markets debt team, rises to the top spot this year, improving from third place a year ago. Mak’s remit is non-Japan Asia, responsible for the analysis and management of hard and local currency emerging markets debt.
Both ranking second in the US are Javier Segovia, head of emerging market corporate credit analysis at TCW International, and Seung-Ho Ahn, a corporate research analyst at Lazard’s emerging markets debt team. Segovia, who covers banking and real estate, also ranked second in the previous survey, while Ahn improved from fourth place.
In the MENA region, Arpit Palan, an investment manager at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, moved up from the third spot to rank number one this year. He manages the bank’s fixed Income portfolio, which spans both developed and emerging markets. He has more 18 years of experience in portfolio management.
Investment house rankings
Among institutions, this year’s Investment House rankings produced a few surprises. China Life Franklin Asset Management in Hong Kong rocketed to the top from its 15th position a year ago. Several of the asset managers in the firm were nominated as Most Astute Investors. Tokio Marine Life Insurance broke into the insurance category occupying the third spot together with China Ping An Insurance.
And there were those firms that held strong to their positions. BlackRock, for example, is tops again this year for the regional category, a position it has occupied since 2018. PIMCO, a fixed income house that has been growing in the region, kept its second place for the third consecutive year.
In Singapore, Eastspring Investments maintained its top position for the third year running. Among banks/securities firms in Singapore, OCBC is number one, a ranking it has kept since 2018. In the Middle East, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank takes the prime position among banks/securities firms for the third year.
In 2023, over 270 individuals including analysts, economists and strategists, salespeople and traders were invited by Asset Benchmark Research to nominate the Most Astute Investors, based on their knowledge of the credits and markets, trading skills and acumen in making investment decisions.
Asset Benchmark Research rankings, now on its 24th year, also include investors who are not included in absolute return or performance assessments. Nominations are subject to the rating of the individual casting the vote. Based on the nominations received, the top ten Most Astute Investors with the highest weighted score are ranked by geographic location.
For a full list of most astute investors, please click here.
For a full list of top investment house, please click here.
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