SINGAPORE (Nov 5): Southeast Asia has traditionally been a challenging region for fund managers to navigate. Even with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) being an economic bloc, the capital markets of members remain somewhat fragmented, with different regulations and tax structures. For instance, setting up the same fund in a few Southeast Asian countries would set a manager back significantly in legal and administrative fees alone.

But for Munirah Khairuddin, CEO of Malaysian fund house CIMB-Principal Asset Management, the potential of the ­Asean market is simply too big to ignore. She pauses as she calculates the combined population size of just four major Asean economies — Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia — off the top of her head. “Let me do the math... That’s like 370 million people in just these four countries. It’s huge… We may not be the European Union (EU), but I think you can see the business and investment flows across the countries,” says Munirah, who spoke to The Edge Singapore ahead of last month’s Asean Capital Market Conference.

This is why fund managers such as CIMB-Principal are coming on board the Asean Collective Investment Scheme framework, an initiative that helps fund managers “passport” out their funds in the region. Launched in 2014 under the Asean Capital Markets Forum (ACMF), the Asean CIS framework involves Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Under the framework, asset managers can offer units of a fund domiciled in one participating jurisdiction to the other two under a streamlined authorisation process. Essentially, this facilitates cross-border offerings of funds to mom-and-pop investors. 

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