EUROPEAN NEWS Q&A: Back to The Hague

PERE: What is the background to the personnel change at ING Select?
Jan Meulenbelt: ING as a group has instigated a “back to basics” strategy which is about offering products that are easier to understand and that have clear corporate governance. As part of that, ING is bringing the global Select business back to The Hague in the Netherlands where ING Group is based. The good reason for that is to offer investors clear governance, client servicing, and performance data and so on from one central place. The legal department, tax department, legal compliance is here. Nick Cooper, my predecessor, ran the global Select business from London and did not wish to move to the Netherlands, hence my appointment.

PERE: How have you relayed news of the change to investors?
JM: We informed all investors of the personnel change in December when the announcement was made.  The UK community mostly communicates through the consultants, so the next stage is to info


rm them about our strategic plans or confirm their expectations in February. In the Netherlands and in wider Continental Europe we are doing this with clients individually because of our direct relationships.

PERE: How have investors reacted so far?
JM: The Dutch community know me, but were less aware of Nick Cooper as the director of the business. In many cases, investors in Continental Europe communicate with the individual fund managers rather than with the director of the business, so it hasn’t affected them as much. However, it is fair to say UK clients and investors have been more concerned.

PERE: What is your plan for the business?
JM: My plan is to open the regional funds. Under the Global Osiris fund, we have three regional funds – Europe, Asia Pacific and the US. These three are currently not open to investors, but my aim is to open these as separate vehicles. We set these three funds up with a Dutch tax structure. When setting up the Global Osiris funds, I specifically asked our advisors PricewaterhouseCoopers and [Dutch law firm] Houthoff Buruma to make sure that, if at a later stage, we wanted them as separate vehicles, there would not be a big problem.

PERE: What is the reason for opening them up?
JM: I can imagine a lot of investors are specifically interested in a region. Maybe investors will end up not in our global fund, but in two out of the three regions. The global fund will still be there, and maybe in the future I might want to open the global fund for smaller private investors.  That is not for the near future, however.

PERE: What else are you planning?
JM: I want to grow from a vertical to a horizontal structure, which means empowering the regions whereby the regional managers have a serious say in where to invest and how to manage the regional portfolios.

PERE: Does this mean expansion for some teams?
JM: Yes. The US team is far smaller than the team in Asia so I would like to strengthen it. In Asia and in Europe it is strong already. In summary then we will be telling investors we are looking to extend product offering, reduce operational risk and strengthen one of the regional teams. We have also been asked to “white label” our services to a couple of smaller fiduciary managers already.