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Edition 2 - Article 3

On the ground

Craig Keary embodies the philosophy of AMP Capital in the Asia-Pacific regions’ individual economies – on the ground, future focused, and in tune with the human core of investment market.

Craig Keary is speaking from Osaka, Japan, early on a Wednesday morning. He is there for the Australia-Japan Business Cooperation Committee annual conference and has just flown in from Hong Kong.

The AMP Capital Managing Director of the Asia-Pacific region will head to Beijing later in the week and then fly to Sydney seven days later. Balancing the travel with family commitments has become a core life skill. “WhatsApp has become our family’s friend,” Keary says without irony.

“My wife and I live in Tokyo. My daughter has just gone back to Australia to go to university and my son is already at university in Canberra.”

“When I’m back in Australia I see the kids and my wife sometimes comes with me when I’m travelling.” Keary’s children also visit Japan during their university breaks, which is an important routine for the family unit.

He loves living in Tokyo – “it’s an amazing city, efficient and clean” – and is active in sharing his observations.

In one LinkedIn post, he writes about the similarities between continuous improvement in a ramen noodle restaurant and goals-based investing for AMP Capital. Both are about understanding the client or customer’s goal and tailoring strategies or recipes to meet them, he writes.

It is a very different life to his suburban upbringing in North Rocks, in north-western Sydney. The family home is still in that region of the city, but Keary doesn’t spend a lot of time there.

“I’d say 75 per cent of my time is in Asia and 25 per cent in Australasia.” Keary doesn’t often use the term “Asia” when referring to work.

“Typically, in Australia we think about Asia as a block, but each country is very different. Trust is critical to everything we do in each country, like it is in Australia and New Zealand, but different economies are looking for different things. It’s all about understanding what the economies are looking for,” he says.

“Understanding each culture and treating each as different, helps build relationships for the long term. Of course, in each country you must build trust, have mutual respect and be prepared to collaborate. “If we weren’t embedded in the region we would be treated very differently.”

China and Japan are the second and third largest economies in the world in gross domestic product terms. South Korea is ranked number 11. Each is at very different stages of development. China is a fast growing, urbanising economy colloquially known as the ‘world’s factory’. Its economy is forecasted to take over the United States as the world’s largest in coming years. Its growth has substantial flow-on effects for the economies around it.

Japan is among the world’s most industrialised economies, although the past two decades have seen relatively little growth. It has an ageing population which provides its own unique challenges. South Korea’s economy has been dominated by major conglomerates and over the past 20 years has evolved into one of the leading high-tech industrialised nations.

While it has become one of the world’s top exporters, it has largely invested domestically, but now is moving to invest offshore. All three have different political and social systems. Understanding the differences is critical to success, Keary says.

“Japan has an ageing population and a low interest rate environment, so we need to provide products that meet that demand. It is very important to build trust in Japan and keep strengthening that trust. Being respectful and mindful of the Japanese culture is really important when doing business,” Keary says.

“In China, the pension and wealth management systems are starting to evolve and they want insights into that. Australia has a very good pension and retirement system and the Chinese are looking for learnings from that. We have a pension joint venture in China and the value we are bringing includes the knowledge we have.

“Again, it’s about trust and also about your reputation. In China it is also about mutual collaboration. You need to be looking for a win-win situation for the various parties,” he says.

“In Korea, it starts with trust, but they really are looking for assistance. They are looking to evolve their pension system and to invest offshore and we are trying to work with them. We have experience in investing in offshore markets and we end up hosting a lot of delegates to Australia.”

While each country is looking for something different, they do share a common purpose. “There is a strong desire from people within the economies to improve everyone’s lives, by creating a better retirement system, or a better investment system, or by thinking about ESG (environmental, social and governance) initiatives,” Keary says.

“Generally, the reputation Australia has across its key trading partners China, Japan, and Korea is very strong and that makes doing business easier. It’s one of the reasons we have been successful.”

It doesn’t take much time with Keary to appreciate how much he enjoys thinking about the different economies in the region. Sometimes when you ask him a question, he warns you that he is about to get on a roll. And he does. He’s unsure of how many hundreds of thousands of travel miles he has clocked up since taking his job of running the AMP Capital business in the Asia-Pacific region, but he has learnt of few new skills.

Generally, the reputation Australia has across its key trading partners China, Japan, and Korea is very strong and that makes doing business easier. It’s one of the reasons we have been successful.” 

“I had to quickly adjust to working remotely. My office is my Surface Pro (laptop) and my iPhone. I know how to use technology. I’m completely paperless,” Keary says.

He adds that working remotely means developing a different relationship with his boss. In his case it’s Adam Tindall, Chief Executive Officer of AMP Capital.

“It’s different not being in the same country. Our relationship has actually improved. We have been able to achieve plenty and the trust between us is very high,” Keary says.

There is a  strong desire  from people within the economies to improve everyone’s lives, by creating a better retirement system, or a better investment system, or by thinking about ESG initiatives”

Two years into his stint based in Tokyo, Keary says he has started running again: “It helps me relax.” “Oh, and I’m doing a PhD. I enjoy that because it stimulates me mentally.” His doctorate, through the University of Western Sydney, includes a thesis on financial planning, currently one of the more controversial parts of the financial services industry in Australia.

Keary himself, after almost two decades at HSBC and stints at Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corporation, seems both stimulated and relaxed by his role at AMP Capital. “I’ve got an Asia-Pacific role so I could be anywhere. I am inspired by our clients, both by the value we bring to them and what we learn from them. Being on the ground with them, at the intersection of a diversity of cultures, is both exciting and a challenge.”

Important Notes

While every care has been taken in the preparation of these articles, AMP Capital Investors Limited (ABN 59 001 777 591, AFSL 232497) makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any statement in them including, without limitation, any forecasts. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Performance goals are merely goals. There is no guarantee that the strategy will achieve that level of performance. The information in this document contains statements that are the author’s beliefs and/or opinions. Any beliefs and/or opinions shared are as at the date shown and are subject to change without notice. These articles have been prepared for the purpose of providing general information, without taking account of any particular investor’s objectives, financial situation or needs. They should not be construed as investment advice or investment recommendations. An investor should, before making any investment decisions, consider the appropriateness of the information in this document, and seek professional advice, having regard to the investor’s objectives, financial situation and needs. This document is solely for the use of the party to whom it is provided and must not be provided to any other person or entity without the express written consent of AMP Capital.

Edition 2 - Article 4

The impact of political sagas on global markets

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