New hire to power Morgan Stanley's AsiaPac expansion

Australia at the heart of Mark McLean's regional strategy for Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners.

Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners (MSIP), the infrastructure investment arm of the global bank, has brought on board investment banking veteran Mark McLean to head its Asia-Pacific strategy, as it seeks to expand its activities in the region over the next few years, MSIP told Infrastructure Investor.

McLean joins MSIP from Credit Suisse Australia, where he was head of the Financial Institutions Group since 2011. In all, he has 18 years of investment management experience, previously holding positions in Deutsche Bank's Infrastructure Investment Group and in Macquarie’s investment banking division, according to the firm.

McLean is stepping into a new role at Morgan Stanley – his predecessor, Deven Karnik, was a managing director based in Hong Kong, but was not considered head of Asia. Karnik left Morgan Stanley in March, Infrastructure Investor reported earlier.

“I was approached by Jim Wilmott [MSIP’s head of Europe] a few months ago about this opportunity,” McLean explained. He said he was attracted by MSIP’s strong management team and quality of funds under management. Nevertheless, he pointed out that there is still much work to be done in the Asia platform.

“Morgan Stanley has looked at a number of situations in Australia, but to date it hasn’t closed any,” McLean said. One of his central goals, then, will be to “get some deals done”. Although McLean’s focus will be on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries of Asia, he predicts that the majority of his time will be spent in Australia.

McLean also pointed to what he called “an insatiable need for infrastructure investment in Asia” – developing economies need an incredible amount of infrastructure built, and developed economies need capital to maintain what they already have. “The key,” he said, “is to get the money deployed sensibly.”

McLean sees Australia as a particularly promising market because it has a history of privatisation across all large-class infrastructure assets, as compared to the US, where the vast majority of airports and toll roads are still under the government. Prices can be high in that market, however, because it is so active and has so much capital chasing deals, he added. Thus, McLean does not expect to complete a deal for at least another year.

Even if he is head of Asia, McLean insisted that his role at MSIP is inseparable from the global platform. Rather than having a set allocation for Asia, MSIP will look to “deploy capital where it makes the most sense from a global perspective”.

McLean is only the most recent personnel shuffle in MSIP this year. 

After Karnik departed in March, one of the firm’s three co-heads – Anne Valentine Andrews – left the firm while the other two adjusted their roles: Markus Hottenrott became the firm’s global head while Jim Wilmott became head of Europe. Chris Koski, the former global head of infrastructure at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, recently joined as MSIP’s global head of investment strategy. And on top of that, MSIP is rumoured to have started raising a $2.5 billion fund.