Asset managers moving en masse

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An outbreak of team moves is causing sweaty palms in Australia's asset management market.

"Team moves have happened occasionally over the years on the sell-side, but it's becoming a little bit more commonplace on the buy-side," says Lee Humphrey, principal consultant in the funds management practice at Derwent Group in Sydney.

In May, for example, ING Australia's entire small-caps team made a swift exit to Credit Suisse.

Humphrey says the move could herald another bout of 'small-caps merry-go-round' in the Australian fund management market; employers in the sector are already responding with remuneration packages that are both more generous and tie people in.

"Michael Hawker at IAG said only last week - very quickly after the Credit Suisse raid on ING - that IAG was looking at a more aggressive long-term incentive plan for some of its key personnel," he says.

Legal restrictions, such as non-compete clauses which prevent employees doing the same thing for a competitor within a specified period of time, are also set to become more prolific in the asset management sector, predicts Humphrey. There was little sign of them in ING's case, however: "It can't have been too tight for the ING guys if they're doing small caps at Credit Suisse," he reflects.