Service the key to JF investment

Chris Chapel

JARDINE Fleming Investment Services (JF), with US$23 billion under management, offers a private banking service to people with as little as $250,000 to invest.

These investors are given access to JF's managed unit trust service.

Under the scheme, two senior fund managers swap clients between Jardine unit trusts according to the group's market view and clients' objectives.

Richard Harris, head of private banking and chief executive of JF, explained.

'Essentially, money comes from you to me,' he said. 'I invest in the managed unit trusts at net asset value (avoiding entry fees). The allocation of those unit trusts in Japan, Europe, or whatever, is done by the two senior fund managers and you go from that stage: bang, straight into the market.

'In a way, it is very much like having a top fund manager managing your money. If we like Japan a lot, we will have a lot of Japan and, if we like Korea, we will have a lot of that; it is quite a good way of getting in and it is a low-cost product.' What makes this private banking and not simple fund investment is the service. Clients are given their own portfolio manager to advise them on investments and market conditions and they receive personalised monthly statements detailing all the individual stocks in their portfolio.

Private clients with investments in a managed unit trust account can use JF's numbered or code-name account service for their outside investments.

They can also borrow up to 50 per cent of the value of their managed unit trust holding from Jardine Fleming Bank, a licensed non-retail operator.

The managed unit trust operators can choose from 10 Jardine funds.

'You have a massive diversification of stocks and investments across that portfolio and it is actively managed, which means we can provide institutional fund management right down to the guy with $250,000,' Mr Harris said.

The available JF funds are divided into a menu of four mini-umbrella funds to suit investors' different appetites and risk profiles.

These managed unit trust accounts have proved popular with charities seeking to improve on the low returns offered by banks.

The Pacific Basin Account is 100 per cent equity and aims for good returns by switching among Asian country funds and Asia Pacific regional funds.

'It is very popular with people offshore who have nothing in Asia. It is a classic Asia play,' Mr Harris said.

The Balanced Global Account is a medium-risk product with a mix of stocks, bonds and cash.

'In the good years, this dampens performance but there is less downside in bad years,' he said.

The Global Growth Account is a fast-switching, aggressive account that can dabble in JF's smaller company and warrant funds as well as the global range of JF funds. It is a high-risk high-return product.

In the year to September 30, the Pacific Basin Account was up 36 per cent in US dollar terms, the global growth was up 31.5 per cent, and the balanced global had grown 17 per cent.

The respective three-year performance figures were 117 per cent, 88 per cent and 61.4 per cent. Investors preferring to invest their money directly in the Hong Kong stock market in the year to September 30 would have lost 19.9 per cent of it if their portfolios reflected the fall in the Hang Seng Index over the period.

Other levels of private client service kick in at above the $400,000 investment level, at which point clients can operate advisory accounts where they have the power to 'push the button' on orders.

'A client might say: 'I'm running a factory in China, but I quite like punting around in the market myself. I'd like to give the orders about what to buy and sell',' Mr Harris said.

With discretionary accounts, JF has total responsibility for investment decisions.

Most of JF's funds under management are institutional but it has about 800 private clients accounting for about $1 billion.

Mr Harris said dealing with private clients was much more complex than dealing with institutional clients.

'What has happened in Hong Kong is clients have tended to give general guidelines for general objectives and the profession has really taken those on board at face value,' he said.

'One of the things I am trying to bring in is an element of structure so that, when a client comes in, we have people available who can ask: 'You say you are an aggressive investor, but are you really aggressive? If you put your money in and the market falls 20 per cent tomorrow, are you going to be upset, or will you accept it is part of the game and take the attitude, 'I'm going to hold these assets for 18 months not 18 minutes'? 'Essentially, our view as a private bank is that client objectives come first but it is not as simple as it seems to define that.

'You have to go though this fact-finding procedure to try to find what their objectives are, whereas an institution typically knows its objectives or has them already laid out more clearly by a group of trustees.'