Chicago-based William Blair Investment Manager is the latest global asset manager to announce it will set up operations in Australia.

William Blair, which manages around US$47 billion across equities, hedge funds and fixed income, has announced the appointment of two-decade industry veteran Alex Francois to head its Australian and New Zealand distribution, which is squarely focused on the institutional market.

“This is a brand new opportunity for us and I’m talking with the asset consultants and the institutions about how we can add value in down here,” Francois told I&T News.

“Our focus is on global equities and, unlike many other US houses, that is where we started, rather than with US equities, so I like to think we are a specialist in that area.

“We also have hedge fund and fixed income products, but in the first instance we will be offering global equities.”

William Blair is looking for mandates of $50 million or more from local institutions, and Francois says he is undeterred by any trend for “insourcing” investment by the larger funds.

“We have a large research capability and we like to build partnerships with clients, and in those cases we can help funds gain a deeper understanding by sharing that research,” he said.

William Blair’s arrival in Australia comes after the employee-owned firm in 2007 established a UK operation, which now has around US$4 billion under management.


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