T. Rowe Price has hired Craig Hurt, an experienced fund professional who most recently headed up AXA Investment Managers in Australia, as its new head of institutional business for Australia and New Zealand.
His recruitment is part of an expansion of business capabilities for the firm, which includes the relocation of the firm’s APAC head of the Investment Specialist Group, Nick Beecroft, from Hong Kong to Sydney in the new year and recent recruits Sam Ruiz, who joined as a global investment specialist, and Cassandra Crowe who joined in 2019 in the role as head of consultant relations. Another investment specialist, Joran Laird, has relocated to New Zealand, where T. Rowe has a significant presence.
Hurt, who left AXA Investment Managers last year, becomes the 54th Australasian employee of the global multi-sector manager when he starts early October, according to Darren Hall, the head of distribution who was one of the handful of employees who opened the Australian office in 2007.
“We’ve been building for a number of years,” Hall said last week (September 16). “For me, the key appointment to make was Craig’s, so we thought long and hard about it.
“Our business has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. Initially, it was just myself, an office manager and Murray Brewer, who left the firm last year. We’ve added significant resources and are very well diversified by strategies. We now have a strong footprint with a powerful engine behind it.”
Brewer, who recently joined Capital Group in Sydney, had been ANZ country head, overseeing institutional at T. Rowe, alongside Hall as head of intermediary business. The two had worked together at Schroders previously. The Baltimore-based firm has about A$22 billion in Australasian-sourced assets under management.
Hall said that to meet the future needs of clients in a rapidly changing environment, a clearly articulated strategy that is well supported by senior management and strongly executed is imperative.
“One of the immediate areas of focus for me was to ensure that we have the right people in the right roles to set ourselves up well for future success. That’s why we didn’t rush to make a decision on Craig’s role,” he said.
“There are lots of external factors influencing the institutional space. The regulatory environment has arguably changed both channels – institutional and intermediary – forever. We need to work with clients, beyond investment teams, to address these needs.”
On this broader client engagement, Thomas Poullaouec, Hong Kong-based head of multi-asset solutions for Asia Pacific, has been a frequent visitor to Australia and New Zealand for the past four years since he joined T. Rowe and also before that when he led the strategy and research team at State Street Global Advisors.
Poullaouec speaks with clients across the region on a quarterly basis and says there are a lot of similarities between the funds, no matter how they are structured.
“How they spend their active risk is critical,” he said. “In the active/passive debate, we remain at an advantage on a net-of-fees basis, and we are the only target-date manager with the ‘High’ rating on Morningstar’s predictive pillars of ‘People, Process and Parent’.
For his part, Hurt said he was keen to join T. Rowe because he felt the firm was well placed to contribute to the next phase of the industry’s development, a more mature phase following excesses of the past and then regulatory clampdowns.
He believes the Australian market will come out of the current period of consolidation and restructuring in three or four years and grow to a market of possibly $12 trillion within 10-12 years.
“I think T. Rowe Price will succeed going forward because of two main factors: it is a client-centric company with only one P&L; and it has very deep research. Ultimately, good strategies and products only come through good research and IP,” he said.
In terms of its diversified strategies, he said the global equities and global fixed income capabilities were world class, but multi-asset capabilities would be increasingly important going forward. As will the more specialist sectors such as emerging equities, emerging market debt and so on.”
The areas in which his background could be particularly helpful were with the integration of ESG principles and the lessons he learned in London with AXA involved with liability-driven investments.
“I’ve been talking to clients in the ESG space for about 12-14 years,” he said. “T. Rowe Price is a firm which has made very wise investment decisions for many years and sees ESG data and research as being incredibly meaningful… The depth of research at T. Rowe Price means can not only capture that data but also can apply it in a variety of settings that are relevant to clients.”
While liability-driven investment strategies are known mainly for their application by defined benefit funds, the same concepts are used in glide-path investing for the retirement sector.
“Big super funds do have liabilities,” he said, in reference to their members’ liabilities in the older age brackets. “They just express them differently.”
Hurt joined AXA IM in London in 2004, after starting his career in South Africa with the former Investec (now Ninety One). He relocated to Sydney in 2007 as the company’s inaugural country head for Australia and New Zealand. At T. Rowe, his remit will also take in New Zealand.
He said the three things he missed out on during his year off work were: all the fund mergers, the start of YFYS and the “concept of Zoom fatigue”.