WHEN IT COMES TO RAISING FUNDS, MOELIS AUSTRALIA ASSET MANAGEMENT’S ANDREW MARTIN WILL EAT WHATEVER IT TAKES.
When it comes to raising funds, Moelis Australia Asset Management’s Andrew Martin is ready to eat whatever it takes.
ANDREW MARTIN has spent the past nine months travelling in China, eating scorpions, snakes and turtles whenever duty required, all part of pitching the benefits of Moelis Australia Asset Management’s property fund for wealthy investors keen to take advantage of the federal government’s significant-investor visa.
The fast-track scheme, which started last November, allows foreigners to live, work and study in Australia for four years if they put more than $ 5 million into approved investments. “It’s been tough, but also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” managing director Martin says.
The journey, which took him to some of the less well-known cities across China, helped Martin raise $ 200 million from about 40 high net worth investors for the Moelis Australia Property Visa Fund.
A former head of infrastructure and private equity at UBS Global AssetManagement, Martin is much more accustomed to dealing with sovereign wealth funds or pension funds, but says he has learnt a few tricks along theway about securing investment from retail tycoons, realestate kingpins, mining magnates and IT entrepreneurs.
And that can include pretending he is a vegetarian when dining with an investor to avoid eating some of the fare served in China.
“I have eaten scorpion and I have eaten snake and I have eaten turtle. The turtle wasn’t great,” he says with a laugh. “But you just have to go with the flow. So I have plenty of those sorts of war stories.”
Martin says the drinking games so familiar to many China- seasoned executives are no longer favoured by high net worth investors. They prefer to form strong relationships with their fund managers while sober. “I have met each one of these [Chinese] investors several times. It’s not about putting a flyer out there and hoping for the best.”
Martin says the Chinese market can often seem opaque, with no formalised private banking or financial planning networks. “A lot of it is word-of-mouth and referral. A lot of the endeavours are about building personal relationships.”
And he has found the investors to be shrewd business people. “They ask as many questions as would someone who works for one of the major sovereign wealth funds or pension funds, which is quite surprising.”
Martin has taken a number of Mandarin-speaking executives from Moelis’s Singapore office to China to smooth the process. However, his efforts to sign up investors have been frustrated by Australia’s immigration bureaucracy, which has been slow to approve the visas. At this stage, only two applications have been finalised, with the remainder still being processed.
Loath to criticise the government, Martin says that he understands that it can take time for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to assess whether the funds have been lawfully obtained. Unfortunately, he adds, paperwork is not among the strongest suit for China’s wealthiest citizens. Therefore, it can take some time for visa requests to be assessed, even for “excellent candidates’’.
Martin has also touted Moelis’s products to investors in other Asian countries who are interested in the Property Visa Fund.
“The data tell us it’s 93 per cent coming from Greater China, as we do have investors out of Taiwan and out of Hong Kong.”
Moelis has also been establishing relationships with investor groups in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia and Singapore, and it has secured some investors from those countries. “We are throwing a rock in the pond for India and likewise in Japan, but frankly it’s the low-hanging fruit, and I can’t spread myself too thin.”
Back in Australia, Moelis is looking to seed the fund with its first property, the $20million Heales ville Walk shopping centre in Victoria’s Yarra Valley. The neighbourhood centre is anchored by Coles and includes 14 specialty stores.
Martin says the fund’s next investment is likely to be another low-risk retail complex. “Investors like a diversified mandate, across retail, office and industrial property, as well as across different cities in Australia.”
Moelis Australia Asset Management managing director Andrew Martin (right) with Property Visa Fund chairman Richard Colless.