Lenses on External Asset Managers (EAMs) – An Exclusive Interview with Ms Annabelle Chow of Bank of Singapore


Disclaimer: This article is purely for educational purposes and should not be misconstrued as promoting EAM. EAM is also interchangeably referred to as IAM (Independent asset manager). 

Annabelle is an industry veteran with more than 16 years of experience managing the external intermediaries’ business for various private banks. She joined Bank of Singapore in 2016, following the acquisition of Barclays’ Wealth and Investment business in Singapore and Hong Kong. She joined Barclays Asia in 2012 and was instrumental in setting up the IAM business there, and prior to Barclays Asia, she was a Team Head with Credit Suisse AG where she spent years building up the bank’s EAM offering in Singapore.

Q. The American, British, European and Swiss banks have a long heritage in managing EAM business, heritage that perhaps dated before the founding of Singapore as a country.  How does the Bank of Singapore compete in this race for EAM business?

 A. Firstly, a high level of service standards.  My team has many years of experience servicing the EAMs. We understand their needs and we can respond quickly. 

With our headquarters and senior management all conveniently located within Singapore, we are a lot more agile, and this gives us an edge, as decisions can be made a lot faster, especially in light of the special requests we receive from our EAMs.   

Secondly, Bank of Singapore maintains an open-architecture product platform. This provides our EAMs access not only to a vast range of products, but also competitive pricing.

Thirdly, we are also constantly upgrading our technology and digital platforms to better adapt to the evolving needs of our EAM partners. 

Our digital services include a platform for faster execution, ease of checking positions, a dedicated interface for EAMs where they can easily observe margins, statements, and other trade-related information, a multi-issuer price discovery tool for structured products and the EAM data feed, just to name a few.

Apart from platforms, we also go beyond and frequently engage our EAMs with bespoke thought-leadership, regular forums and training programmes especially tailored to engage not only the EAMs but their end-clients as well, to keep them abreast of key market trends and developments. 

Q. What do you think are the opportunities and challenges in the EAM business for custodian banks?

 A. I foresee that the assets under management (AUM) by EAMs will continue to grow exponentially alongside the growth in wealth regionally.  

There are definitely growth opportunities when working with EAMs but it is also a very competitive landscape for custodian banks, and often, there are differences in client suitability standards and expectations between both parties (EAMs and the various custodian banks).

Some EAMs shop around for custodian banks to see who will give them the best sharing terms. Many are accustomed to the “retrocession fees model” and they bargain for higher retrocession fees to be passed on to them. 

And another area which can sometimes be challenging, is the client onboarding process. Each bank has its own standards and processes for account opening and EAMs do take into consideration the ease and speed of account opening when they decide on their preferred custodian banks.

Q. The retrocession fees model is common in the EAM business but just how common is it? Is there an alternative fees model in this industry?

 A. Currently, I’d say roughly 70% of the EAMs I encounter, are on retrocessions and 30% are on a performance fees model for their business. This is related also to client preferences. In Asia, clients generally lean towards advisory rather than discretionary mandates.   For example, clients want to make the call on which stock to trade and whether the returns on the stock can be more than the returns that their businesses are delivering.  

An alternative model could be a flat “all-in” fees structure between custodian banks and the EAMs, so that there is pricing transparency.

Q. From our research, the current AUM managed by EAMs is estimated at 5% of the total assets managed in Singapore. We spoke with a few EAMs and they expect the EAM sector to experience strong growth with AUM managed by this sector to be well in excess of 10% over the next 5 years.  What are your views on the growth of the EAM industry in Singapore? 

 A. The estimates seem reasonable.  I think the potential growth in AUM managed by EAMs will rise from the current 5-6% today to about 10% in 3 years, and likely to about 15% in 5 years. It is an incredibly fast-growing segment, especially in the North Asia market.


Disclaimer by Bank of Singapore:

This material, by itself, is not and should not be construed as an offer or a solicitation to deal in any investment product or to enter into any legal relations. 

This material does not constitute advice (whether financial, legal, accounting, tax or otherwise) on or a recommendation with respect to any investment product and should not be relied on as advice or a recommendation or for any other purpose. This material has been prepared for and is intended for general circulation. This material does not take into account the specific investment objectives, investment experience, financial situation or particular needs of any particular person. You should independently evaluate the contents of this material and consider the suitability of any service or product mentioned in this material, taking into account your own specific investment objectives, investment experience, financial situation and particular needs. If in doubt about the contents of this material or the suitability of any service or product mentioned in this material, you should obtain independent financial, legal, accounting, tax or other advice from your own financial or other professional advisers, taking into account your specific investment objectives, investment experience, financial situation and particular needs, before making a commitment to obtain any service or purchase any investment product.  

Bank of Singapore Limited and its Affiliates and their respective officers, employees, agents and representatives do not make any express or implied representations, warranties or guarantees as to the accuracy, timeliness, completeness or reliability of the information, data or any other contents of this document. Past performance is not a guarantee or indication of future results. Any forecasts or projections contained in this document is not necessarily indicative of future or likely performance.  


This interview was conducted by the research team comprising Dr. T Mandy Tham, Assistant Professor of Finance (Education), Academic Director, Master of Science in Wealth Management, Sino Suisse Fellow, Lee Kong Chian School of Business; Ms Esther Kong, Senior Deputy Director and Ms Juliana Koh, Research Associate, Business Families Institute, Singapore Management University, with Ms Annabelle Chow, Head of the IAM/MFO team at Bank of Singapore.