Fresh from its sale of a 51 per cent stake in ETF provider BetaShares, Korean asset manager Mirae is preparing for an all-out assault on every segment of the Australian market.
The analogy that Kristian Walesby, the new local chief executive of Korea-based Mirae Asset Global Investment, employs for its Australia expansion is that of a cavalry charge.
“You need to make sure that all your infrastructure is behind you, so that you know all your cavalry aren’t exposed,” Walesby said last week (July 15).
“We need to make sure that we do everything correctly, so that we come with all the facilities that people need so that they can invest knowing they are investing in one of the top asset managers in the world.”
Walesby was previously Australia chief executive of the ETF Securities joint venture with ANZ – a venture that ended with Shayne Elliot’s move to simplify the institutional business and exit wealth. He carried on as CEO until Graham Tuckwell’s return in 2020. After a brief stint as a consultant to T. Rowe Price, he’s taken the reins of Mirae’s local operation just as Sydney is plunged into its latest lockdown – “not ideal”, but a situation that he says has been helped by Mirae’s “eagerness” to grow the Australian business.
Mirae has been operating in Australia for a decade and has around US$280 billion in assets under management globally across a full suite of active and passive products. While scrutiny of Walesby’s local appointment – and that of ex-Coolabah Capital CFO Oliver Reynolds as regional COO – has focused on Mirae’s efforts in the institutional space, the plan of attack is actually much broader: a full-spectrum assault on institutional, wholesale, and retail market segments.
“We’re not going to be able to do all the things we want to do immediately, because we’re starting from a small base, but the ambition – backed by Korea – is high,” Walesby said.
While the ascendant super funds are one its the main attractions, the demographics of Australia’s market – low redemption rates, high retail awareness, and the sophistication of Australian investors and their similarity to their American peers – means that Mirae believes its success overseas is “extremely transplantable” to every client segment.
Global X, the US-based thematic ETF provider acquired by Mirae in 2018 for US$488 million, is one of the franchises that Walesby and Don Gunawan, head of Australia business development, are looking to build out locally.
“A lot of fund managers arrive in Australia thinking they can easily access the Australian pension network. A lot of funds we aim to bring out at the beginning may be attractive to pensions, but not historically, because they’re more thematic as opposed to building block style funds,” Walesby said. He expects most interest from super funds to focus on Mirae’s active investments in Asian markets.
Walesby and Gunawan hope that Mirae’s Australia presence will ultimately have the “breadth and resourcing” that the firm employs across its global business. Gunawan uses the 200-odd personnel that cover the emerging markets segment as an idea of the scale it hopes to achieve – but is prioritising creating a sustainable business model; the goal from which that cavalry charge analogy sprung from.
“You can bring out products, but unless you’ve got the ability to raise their profile and distribute them correctly then it’s a moot point,” Walesby said. “Those numbers (of personnel) are going to go up relatively quickly, but in an earned manner.”