A long history of global trading

A long history of global trading
Lester Gray, chairman of Asia Pacific, Schroders.

Schroders started globalising its operations way way before the word was even coined by Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt in 1983.

Set up in London in 1804 by Johann Friedrich Schröder, the firm prospered by focusing on the finance of trade between America and Europe.

Then in the 1850s, it began issuing bonds for overseas borrowers in the London market.

The first bond it issued was in 1853, to finance the Matanzas and Sabanilla Railway in Cuba.

It ventured into Asia in 1870.

That year, Schroders introduced the Japanese government's first foreign loan to the London market.

A sum of £1 million was raised to finance the construction of the country's first railway, between Tokyo and Yokohama.

Today, Schroders manages some £194.6 billion (S$384 billion) of assets on behalf of institutional and retail investors, financial institutions and high-net-worth clients from around the world.

"Schroders has always had a very international approach to developing its business," says Lester Gray, the asset management company's chairman for Asia-Pacific.

"Today, Schroders is a UK-listed, UK-headquartered company. But more than 70 per cent of our revenues come from outside the UK."

The UK accounts for 37.5 per cent of the group's total assets under management.

The Asia-Pacific is Schroders' second-biggest market, accounting for 26.4 per cent of the firm's global assets.

Continental Europe's share is 19.3 per cent and North America 11.3 per cent. South America and Middle East make up the rest.

In the Asia-Pacific, Schroders has offices in nine countries - many of them going back decades.

It has fully owned asset management units in Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea.

In China, its presence is via a joint venture with Bank of Communications, and in India, it recently acquired a 25 per cent stake in Axis Asset Management from Axis Bank.

One of Schroders' distinguishing features, says Mr Gray, is that its overseas offices are all started as local businesses.

It employs local fund managers to manage local asset management products.

"This is quite different from many of our international competitors who usually start by setting up the sales operations in a particular country to sell their global products," explains Mr Gray, who hails originally from New Zealand but has built his career in among other places, New York and London.

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