Harriet Steel said the company expects to see growth in its three-person Singapore sales team over the next five years, as the company creates ongoing dialogues with institutions in the region and offers more approved investment products.
It will use the team as a hub for marketing to the whole of Asia, including Hong Kong and Korea.
Steel said the company is also exploring how to increasingly target US clients, and has looked at using US pooled investment vehicles rather than segregated accounts, as well as targeting big brands in the country.
“The problem is that the US is a very competitive market, and difficult for smaller companies to enter,” she said. “As a result, we are looking at targeting the big existing brands over there as a way of furthering our capitulation of the market.”
"In the post-GFC environment, small to medium sized companies must offer something different, so we had to figure out where we would sit"
Steel was recruited as global head of business development and a member of the executive committee in November 2011 by chief executive Saker Nuesseibeh, and in October 2013, she became its first ever female executive director.
She joined from Portico Advisors, an asset raising and marketing advisory firm for alternative investment managers which she founded.
She said she joined Hermes with a five year plan to turn the company away from internally focused asset management and towards third party business. Since then, its third party assets under management have risen 243%, reaching £7.2bn as of 31 December 2014, accounting for 40% of total assets under management. The company’s business development team has also grown from 20 members to 56.
Steel said that when she joined the company it was losing money as a result of the Global Financial Crisis and “massive” infrastructure changes lasting from 2007 until 2011, a period where business development was not targeted.
“In the post-GFC environment, small to medium sized companies must offer something different, so we had to figure out where we would sit,” she said. “We didn’t want to compete with larger companies so we headed for the ‘blue ocean space’ where we could differentiate our services.”
She said the company formed a “three pillar” approach which focused on liquid strategies, providing access to private markets, and responsible investing.
According to Steel, the growth seen so far has been driven in part by the companies push into, and resultant growth in, Europe and the UK, as well as its ability to provide access to investments normally available only to institutional clients, such as infrastructure projects.
Additionally, she said the company values itself as a “leader” in ethical investing, a focus it plans to continue developing through bespoke services in different regions.
“Responsible investing, with a focus of ethics, sustainability, and governance (ESG) is not only a moral issue, it also drives long-term relationships,” she said. “We engage with the businesses we invest into and suggest ways in which they can improve their ESG in a constructive, rather than an aggressive, way.