APS forms bond JV with ex-DBS manager

The Singapore equities boutique sets up a bond JV with Lim Heong-Chye, a star manager who recently left DBS.

APS Asset Management, a boutique equities fund manager in Singapore, has established a joint venture company to manage fixed income with a team of former DBS Asset Management pros led by Lim Heong-Chye. The new company will be called APS Komaba Asset Management.

'Komaba' is the name of the arts and sciences campus of the University of Tokyo where Lim and APS chairman and CIO Wong Kok-Hoi had studied together as undergraduate students. The two were Monbusho (Monbukagakusho) scholars, the prestigious scholarship programme of the Japanese government.

Wong says he and Lim, in addition to being friends, have long shared a similar investment philosophy. "It does not matter who seduces who in this joint venture," he says. "Heong-Chye and I have been friends for 30 years. I Have always admired his intellectual honesty, his deep curiosity, his passion for investing and most importantly, his Midas touch for bonds."

Lim adds: "Unlike in the equities world, there are few fixed-income shops around, not only in Singapore but in the region, and my personal ambition is to build an independent, first-class fixed-income asset management company."

APS took a 70% stake in the JV, with Lim and his five colleagues from DBS-AM owning the rest. Wong says, however, that the JV will be run independently, both in terms of its portfolios as well as its businesses. Of course it helps that they operate in distinct capital markets. "In order for APS Komaba to be run nimbly and creatively, I think the less we interfere with it the better," Wong adds. Lim in turn will be appointed a member of APS, but for now will not have a cross-shareholding.

Under Lim and his team, DBS Asset Management became a powerhouse in global fixed income, punching above its weight and attracting clients from across Asia. Lim grew DBS-AM's Shenton Income Fund into the largest mutual fund in Singapore. Lim and his team had known each other from previous jobs but cohered into a single unit at DBS-AM - a unit DBS hopes to replace under the leadership of its new CIO, Lau Wing-Tat, a former equities manager at GIC.

Lim's team includes:

1. Chan Cheh-Shin, Lim's number two in fixed income for the past decade with a specialization in Europe and global emerging market debt; the team's quant guy.

2. Lucas Yeoh, a fund manager with nearly 20 years of experience, including running global fixed income portfolios. His speciality will be identifying macro trends driving bond and currency strategies.

3. Koh Liang-Choon, a fund manager with 10 years of experience in US and regional bonds, swaps and FX; he willl be in charge of the team's proprietary credit evaluation model, a prime driver of security selection.

4. Koh Hwee-Joo, a Singapore and Malaysia bond specialist; she willl be responsible for FX and cash management in the bond portfolios.

5. Wu Da, a mainland Chinese national; the team's money market fund manager and Greater China specialist.

In addition, Lim brought two other DBS colleagues along: Marie Teo, director of marketing, and Edward Chong, director for operations and finance.