With strong Australian connections at the top of its Asia- Pacific arm, blueblood New Yorkbased manager Neuberger Berman is looking to re-establish itself in this market after a tumultuous few years. The firm regained its independence last year in an assisted management buyout, after five years of ownership by the now-defunct Lehman Brothers. Incredibly, more than 90 per cent of staff remained with the firm through the Lehman troubles and bankruptcy, and after the buyout was completed last May. In Asia-Pacific, which has been marked as a strong growth region, Tony Edwards was appointed chief executive last December and recruited Christopher Gunns as consultant relationships manager in January.
Edwards is known in Australia as the former Sydney-based head of distribution for Alliance Bernstein. Gunns, who has spent most of his adult life in Australia, was most recently head of institutional business for ING Investment Management before moving to Hong Kong with that firm. They intend to visit Australia from the Hong Kong regional headquarters every four to six weeks, they said on a visit in March. The firm has also retained its Melbourne office, run by Paul O’Halloran, through the recent ructions. He has been with Neuberger for six years.
Neuberger itself is well-known to Australian institutions, initially through third-party marketing representative Sheridan Lee and an association with BNP Paribas. The firm dates back to 1939, mostly as an equity manager but with a recently built-up fixed interest and alternatives capability too. Most of its A$173 billion under management is institutionally sourced. Of the 1,600 staff around the world, about 250 are shareholders. Edwards said he would like to hire another person in Australia, possibly for Sydney, and to study the introduction of an Australian equities manufacturing capability within the next two years.
“We might either buy a firm or take out a team,” he said. The firm is also in discussions for the provision of a domestic feeder trust for its flagship hedge FoF. Neuberger is one of the few US-based firms to have a strong presence in China, where it runs a long-only and a long/short fund. There are 10 analysts based in Shanghai, and two portfolio managers and a trader in Hong Kong. The head of private equity for the region and head of Asian hedge funds of funds are also based in Hong Kong. “In all we have about 50 people in the region for Asia ex-Japan,” Edwards said.