Firing line  

“Absolute return funds are going to be key for our investors”

“Absolute return funds are going to be key for our investors”

Colin Graham believes the multi-asset market in Asia presents a huge opportunity for UK investors.

Mr Graham is an investor with experience in multi-asset research and portfolio management.

In January, he joined Eastspring Investments, the Asian investment arm of Prudential, as chief investment officer of multi-asset solutions.

Based in its Singapore office, he has been growing its multi-asset team ever since.

Before joining Eastspring, he was head of asset allocation and CIO of multi-asset solutions at BNP Paribas Investment Partners, where he managed a team of 25.

Previously, he was managing director and co-head of global multi-asset strategies and multi-asset client solutions at BlackRock, and also worked at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, after kickstarting his career as an actuary consultant at Mercer in 1995.

He says: “I actually started on the actuarial career path, but soon became disillusioned with the parts of it that didn’t involve investment, because that’s what interested me most.

“So that's why I left actuarial consulting behind at Mercer and moved on to doing the investment itself. I haven't looked back.”

Evolution of the marketplace

Over the past two decades, Mr Graham says he has witnessed significant change in the investment marketplace.

He recalls: “When I joined Mercury back in 1997, it was during the week of the Asian crisis, and that was my first foray into the investment world – quite a baptism of fire.”

Since then, he says the market has evolved considerably.

“The asset allocation universe back then was more about having a bit of domestic equities, a bit of overseas equities, and a bit of domestic bonds and overseas bonds,” he says.

“Over time, we have seen that move significantly with the birth of exchange traded funds, derivatives etc, really allowing asset allocators to run multi-asset portfolios rather than just benchmark relative balanced funds.

“Now, when we look at investment ideas, we are trying to select the best asset to reflect the idea – whether that’s currency, bonds, credit or equities – and so that gives us a real flexibility in order to generate returns for clients.”

He says investor behaviour has also changed, with investors today showing more interest in total returns.

“They are also more outcome-oriented and want to think about 'what problem is my investment manager trying to solve; is it growth, saving for retirement, or another future expenditure?’”

Mr Graham notices there is a growing interest in sustainability-focused investments.

“Whether you look at that through the environmental, social and corporate governance lens or the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment lens, that’s an objective clients are increasingly looking for,” he explains.

“It is not just about investment returns any more, but making sure you are doing well for the environment and social structure as well.”

Growth in Asia

The UK investor has a huge opportunity to invest in Asia, in terms of higher growth potential and diversification away from the local market, suggests Mr Graham.