Blue Owl taps ex-UBS boss for Asia private wealth push

Pak-Seng Lai joins as head of private wealth distribution in APAC at a time when the firm is pushing aggressively into the individual investor channel.

Blue Owl Capital, the listed GP stakes and direct lending giant, has appointed a former UBS boss to lead its private wealth business in Asia, Private Equity International has learned.

Pak-Seng Lai joined as head of private wealth distribution in Asia-Pacific at the firm’s Hong Kong office this month, according to a source familiar with the matter. Lai previously spent four years as managing director and head of private markets APAC for UBS, per LinkedIn.

His appointment is visible on Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission filings.

Blue Owl and UBS both declined to comment.

Prior to UBS, Lai had spells at Chinese private equity firms Vision Knight Capital and 3W Partners Capital. Between 2007 and 2014 he was head of Asian private equity funds and co-investment at Auda Advisor Associates, which later become global fund of funds and secondaries firm HQ Capital. He also spent four years as head of investment process management at Adveq Management in Switzerland.

Blue Owl has been aggressively expanding into the retail space through its credit business and plans to expand access for its other products. The firm raised $1.1 billion of equity capital from this channel in the third quarter alone, not including an additional $500 million by its newly acquired real estate business Oak Street, according to its latest earnings.

“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves on the potential opportunity in retail, but clearly large amounts of capital can be raised in this channel and we intend to be fully in the mix with a number of differentiated products,” chief executive Doug Ostrover said on a November earnings call, noting that the firm planned to increase the size of its retail sales team in Asia and Europe.

The process will not be easy. Last week, Marc Lipschultz, co-founder and co-president of Blue Owl, told delegates at the iConnections Global Alts ’22 conference that expanding into retail has pitfalls that must be avoided.

“Everyone’s talking about retail, but retail isn’t just something you flip a switch and say, ‘Great, I want to sell my product’,” he said. “Getting the product packaged right and delivering that institutional quality experience is most important.”

Blue Owl is a relative newcomer to Hong Kong, having acquired placement firm Ascentium Group in December. The move saw Ascentium founder James Lee, who was previously head of Asia distribution for Credit Suisse’s private fund group, become head of Blue Owl’s institutional sales team in Asia. Lee was reunited in January with Eric Sun, a former Credit Suisse director, last month, PEI reported.

PEI first reported on Blue Owl’s tie-up with Ascentium, which involved the latter serving as placement agent for the former’s products in Asia, in June. Ascentium was founded in 2020 as a joint venture with Owl Rock, the direct lending manager that merged with Dyal Capital Partners the following year.

The acquisition was Blue Owl’s ninth office globally and second in Asia, behind a recently established foothold in Singapore.

“In order to better serve our current and prospective clients globally, we are thrilled to strengthen our presence in Asia with this acquisition of Ascentium,” Ostrover said in a December statement. “There is tremendous opportunity for GP stakes, direct lending and real estate solutions in the APAC region, and we look forward to bringing our unique offerings to a market that is well positioned for long-term growth.”