Peter Graham is the head of Product Development and Marketing at New York-based Mirae Asset Global Investments (USA), an arm of an Asian financial services firm that tries to provide investors in the United States with access to investments in emerging markets.
Prior to joining Mirae Asset, Graham was the U.S. Head of Product Development for Credit Suisse Asset Management where he developed alternative investment vehicles and managed the U.S. mutual fund product line. He also spent five years as the head of Strategic Marketing for Deutsche Asset Management's global hedge fund business.
Before moving into the hedge fund business, Graham was the head of Product Development and Management for Deutsche Bank's U.S. mutual fund business, which included the Bankers Trust, Alex. Brown, Deutsche and Morgan Grenfell fund families.
Graham recently spoke to Money Management Executive about his latest back-to-the-future venture in the mutual fund business and why Mirae Asset is well-positioned for growth in the U.S.
MME: Can you give us some background on the firm to start?
Graham: The company was founded in Seoul in 1997, amid changes in regulations in the local market. Mirae was the first to launch a mutual fund under these new regs and positioned (itself) as an innovator with product, positioning and branding.
Over time, there was an introduction of non-Korean investments for Korean investors and so in 2003, the firm set up its international headquarters in Hong Kong, providing a gateway for the investment side to feed in talent and expanded investment opportunity to Korean investors. From there, it was a natural progression to continue the expansion of investment teams of portfolio managers and analysts on the ground and so offices in India and Brazil were set up.
With all of that on-the-ground investment infrastructure in place, the U.S. was seen as a natural location for the firm to expand from a marketing and distribution standpoint to deliver emerging market investment expertise that the firm has.
And that really ended up being a key differentiator for us here.
The U.S. market demand and interest in the emerging market has always been there but over the past couple of years it's really been recognized as an investment opportunity set that can't be ignored. It may still be seen as risky for some investors but there are a lot more investors and intermediaries speaking about emerging market as a core component of a portfolio rather than opportunistic.
MME: Why did you decide to join Mirae?
Graham: What would drive the product line is the expertise and vision the firm has rather than my own background. I do have a very strong interest in emerging markets, so to join a business that was dedicated to EM was the main attraction. I have been in a number of different situations with businesses within larger organizations so the whole business build out side was an attraction as well.
MME: Tell us about your firm's fund lineup.
Graham: We actually have a very interesting product line and that's another thing that differentiates us in this market. We have launched equity funds that are global. We have Asian region-focused products. Then we have two single country funds that invest in Brazil and China. We've seen a lot of interest in the global product because that is a natural place to go to have a diversified exposure to emerging markets. This year, we've launched our seventh equity fund and our Global Dynamics Bond fund, a fixed-income fund, which looks to give investors exposure to emerging markets via fixed income.
MME: What sort of appetite are you seeing from advisors and wirehouses for emerging market products?
Graham: We have seen an uptick of attention from advisors and wirehouses of emerging markets' positioning within portfolios. Over the past few years, we've seen between 3% and 8% of a portfolio with exposure to emerging markets.
MME: What sort of push are you implementing in your sales and distribution efforts among different channels?
Graham: Our focus right now is on wirehouses and independent advisory firms as well as Registered Investment Advisors. Our first set of equity funds have a year-and-a-half of performance now so we're looking to manage our distribution based on brand awareness and track record. We're finding quite a bit of traction within these channels and the drivers of that are that advisors see product set and dedicated offerings around emerging markets.
We're on our way to establishing the branding and track record, and we've had some great successes already. We're on some distribution platforms much earlier than we thought we would be in some cases.
We have currently between 25 and 30 relationships with advisors and supermarkets [large fund complexes]. We have six sales and six marketing people. We have a particular focus on the Northeast and we're looking to build a core set of advisors looking to do emerging markets business so we're not overly concerned with being everywhere to all people at this time.
We're in it for the long run in terms of waiting for the brand awareness and the track record to come around.