This news service talks to the former EFG Bank senior figure who has bought Crossinvest (Asia), one of a clutch of independent wealth management houses in Southeast Asia, based in Singapore.
Growth is very much on the mind of Cem A Azak who, in October 2020 bought a majority stake in Crossinvest (Asia), the Singapore-based wealth management house. And Azak, who had been the market head for international at EFG Bank, brings an investment banking background, and a strong interest in private equity and related investing to his new berth.
Azak’s decision to buy Crossinvest has also demonstrated the appeal of a crop of independent wealth management houses that have sprung up in Asia over the past decade or so, sometimes built by breakaway banking professionals. And the move happened in a year when the Monetary Authority of Singapore gave the local industry a boost with its Variable Capital Company (VCC) regime. With a history dating back to 1985 in Switzerland, Crossinvest (Asia), received a full licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore for fund management in 2005. Crossinvest (Asia) is also a founding member of the Association of Independent Asset Managers Singapore.
Providing clients with access to best-in-class offerings will be a driving theme for the business, Azak told WealthBriefingAsia recently.
“We have very high expectations on ourselves to ensure that we deliver the best solutions to our clients. Our interest is always aligned with our clients as we depend on the trust and long-term relationships with our clients. To ensure this, we do not have any kind of budgets for our advisors/RMs or minimum pricing structures. We work with more than 10 custodian banks to ensure that we get the most competitive pricing for our clients,” Azak, who is also president of Crossinvest, said.
Azak has been planning to build his own firm or buy a firm he felt comfortable with. The opportunity to buy into Crossinvest (Asia) came about six months ago. He wanted to buy 100 per cent of the business – in the end he agreed to buy 95 per cent of it. Azak said his departure from EFG Bank was amicable: “They were very supportive and I am proud of my time there.”
“I am a private equity and venture investor and also a member of the shareholders’ board in a German fintech, and a co-founder and major shareholder in a digital education platform in Germany. For the past 20 years I was a corporate soldier for large banks,” Azak, who is Turkish-German, said. He was born and raised in Germany but his parents are from Turkey. His ancestry goes back to the former kingdom of Abkhazia (today’s Republic of Abkhazia).
Deals and moves
Since joining Crossinvest, Azak hasn’t wasted time in getting on with business. “We are closing a deal for a Singapore company (on the private equity side at Crossinvest (Asia)) right now,” he said. Azak is working on a number of deals in Australia and Singapore. He is also carrying out some due diligence in order to acquire an Australian asset manager.
Over time, Azak wants to boost headcount. “We can see that the current market environment is working for us as a lot of banks out there are having a hiring freeze,” he said. We have 12 full-time employees right now and we intend to increase our headcount to 26, either through organic growth or through acquisitions of teams or other independent asset managers.”
Azak continued that he is planning to partner with some foreign banks where Crossinvest would conduct their asset management.
Discussing private equity, WealthBriefingAsia asked Azak about how the market boom in this sector, and subsequent COVID-19 crisis, had affected the space.
“Valuations got a bit excessive before COVID-19 but they have come down quite a bit. In this environment niche players such as us are adding real value as even in this difficult time we can get financing through our own funds and through our extensive international investor relationships,” he said.
Azak said he liked areas that are being affected by major trends, such as digitalisation.
“It is not enough to have great ideas but to have the stamina to run a company and keeping pushing forward,” he said.
Azak is bullish about Singapore and the associated market region.
“I strongly believe that Singapore as a global financial hub has one of the most robust regulatory frameworks and has also a very sophisticated wealth management sector which is constantly improving. Furthermore, the independent space is strongly growing,” he said.