Legg Mason gears up for growth in Dublin office

Four European offices to report into Dublin operation of US fund manager

Legg Mason has moved into the One Ballsbridge development in Dublin 4.

Legg Mason has moved into the One Ballsbridge development in Dublin 4.

 

US fund manager Legg Mason is gearing up for growth in Dublin, with plans for its new Brexit-inspired office set to evolve depending on the outcome of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

The Baltimore, Maryland fund manager , among the 20 largest fund managers globally, with some $733 billion (€646 billion) in assets under management, was one of the early movers after the Brexit vote, announcing in March last year that it would open a management office in Dublin to oversee its Irish fund range and allow it “flexibility to serve clients”. The firm has hired six people for the new office thus far, with room for 12 employees at its premises in the new One Ballsbridge development.

Global chief executive Joe Sullivan, who has Irish roots on the Beara peninsula in Co Cork and was in Dublin to formally open the office, said he was “excited” about the move.

“We’re not doing it because we have to have a token presence in Ireland; we want this to be a meaningful and substantial presence in Ireland that will build in scale over time,” he said. He added: “We’ve started with this office, but over the years you’ll see us continue to grow.”

‘Evolving’ function

Legg Mason launched its first Dublin fund more than 20 years ago in 1997, and later consolidated its European range in Dublin. Today it has some $30 billion in funds domiciled here, and the fund manager’s four European offices, apart from London, will report into Dublin, while its overall function will “evolve” as more clarity emerges around Brexit.

While the focus of the office will be on supporting its fund range here, Mr Sullivan said he would “never say never” when it comes to the possibility of establishing a front-office fund management operation here.

“We like to come in in a measured way and grow consistently over time,” he said.

Earlier this month the Central Bank launched an investigation into more than 2,000 Irish-domiciled funds, with “closet indexing”, whereby managers say they are actively managing funds but instead just look to hug the benchmark, a key concern.

“I would assume they will look at everybody and I think that’s fair,” Mr Sullivan said of the announcement. He added: “Just because they launch an investigation doesn’t mean there’s something there.”