Interactive Investor

Abrdn’s Asia veteran fund manager Hugh Young to retire

Succession planning for Young’s departure had been put in place, with three managers continuing to manage abrdn Asia Focus.

23rd October 2023 11:31

by Sam Benstead from interactive investor

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Abrdn’s veteran Asia fund manager Hugh Young has announced his retirement, bringing to an end a long career investing in Asia which saw him deliver market-beating performance.

Young will leave his job as chair of Asia Pacific at abrdn, where he manages abrdn Asia Focus trust, which invests in smaller companies in Asia, on 31 December 2023.

He has managed the trust since 1995. During this period it has returned net asset value gains of 2,283.6% (12% a year), compared to 261.3% (4.7% a year) for the MSCI AC Asia ex Japan Small Cap index, in sterling terms, according to broker Numis.

He will also leave a directorship position on the board of abrdn New Dawn, which is merging with stablemate Asia Dragon.

Abrdn planned for his retirement by appointing additional fund managers on abrdn Asia Focus in 2022. Flavia Cheong, abrdn's head of Asia Pacific equities, joined as co-manager alongside Young, as did Gabriel Sacks.

Xin-Yao Ng joined the management team in 2023, so Young’s departure leaves a trust with three managers, who have all worked with Young before.

Numis said: “Clearly there is an element of key man risk, however succession planning has been in the pipeline for a while, with the appointment of Flavia Cheong as co-manager alongside Hugh Young and Gabriel Sacks back in November 2021. Xin Yao Ng has also been appointed as a co-PM. Both have worked alongside Hugh for 15 and five years respectively and we believe this should ensure a smooth transition.”

Young has had a storied career investing in Asia. He first managed his first Asia strategy for abrdn in 1987, according to data provider FE Analytics. He founded the Asia-Pacific business at the firm.

Over his 36 years managing money in the region on behalf of abrdn, he has been a named manager on 19 funds, according to the data group.

Data from FE Analytics going back to January 2000 shows that Young returned 652% compared with 404% for his peers.

Singapore-based Young stepped back from managing open-ended funds five years ago. He managed 11 funds at the time, including abrdn Emerging Markets Equity and abrdn Asia Pacific Equity.  

Krishna Shanmuganathan, chair of abrdn Asia Focus, said: “The cumulative long-term performance is testament to Hugh Young’s skill, dedication and methodology that he has handed down to the management team over the years.

“While Hugh leaves us in good hands with a high-quality team across Asia (over 40 investment personnel across six countries) continuing the vital on-the-ground research as part of the company’s investment process, he will be much missed.”

Young’s retirement follows a flurry of veteran fund managers who have announced plans to call it a day. Over the past couple of months, Bruce Stout of Murray Internationaland John Bennett, who oversees several European funds for Janus Henderson, have said they plan to retire from running money. They will retire next summer, in June and August respectively.

Their announcements came after news from UK equity fund manager Richard Buxton, who said in June that he would be retiring. In this instance, the handover process is shorter, with Buxton stepping down at the end of this summer. 

In addition, earlier this month James de Uphaugh, fund manager of Edinburgh Investment, announced that he will be retiring from the industry early next year, in February 2024.

In a recent podcast episode we covered what fund and trust investors should look out for and weigh up when a fund manager retires or jumps ship to a rival firm.

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