Charlie Brady flies around the globe so much he's practically in his own time zone.
While any business executive is familiar with the rigors of travel, few know the concept as well as Mr. Brady, who jets to at least 20 different countries a year as chief of Amvescap PLC, the big asset management company.
"I hear people talk about three-day jet lag traveling from East Coast to West Coast," said Mr. Brady, who is seldom at his Atlanta office. "I think, 'My God, that's like going to the corner for an ice cream cone.'"
If Mr. Brady's stamina and travel schedule can be classified as unusual, so too can the company he runs. Amvescap is one of the few pure asset management companies that is positioned to be a truly global player.
Its mutual fund and institutional businesses in the United States alone make it one of the world's biggest investment companies. Of its $275.4 billion of assets under management, $228.4 billion is in the United States. Profits last year were a robust $389 million on $1.3 billion in revenues.
But Amvescap sees even more opportunity in the market reforms, common currencies, and particularly the pension system revolutions that are creating demand around the world for investing expertise.
"It is a watershed time," Mr. Brady said. "And we can handle any part of retirement funds in any currency in any part of the world I know about."
Industry watchers say that some companies merely pay lip service to being global, but Amvescap has built the critical mass, physical presence, and cultural ties to actually be successful.
It has 4,900 employees in 25 countries, with a focus on using native talent to run the business in each country.
"There are very few organizations that have the global scale and scope and the ability to do it," said Ben Phillips, a consultant with Cerulli Associates Inc. in Boston. "Over the last nine years, Brady and his team have really done a great job of putting that organization together and positioning it to compete."
Capping Amvescap's rise have been a pair of bold mergers and acquisitions.
Two years ago Mr. Brady engineered the merger of Invesco and AIM Management Group, bringing together AIM's business of selling mutual funds in North America with a sales load and Invesco's no-load, direct approach to the same market and an established presence in the United Kingdom and elsewhere overseas.
(Invesco later snared NationsBank Corp.'s Mark H. Williamson, its consumer investing executive, to be its CEO.)
But it was Amvescap's $1.3 billion purchase of LGT Asset Management last year that provided a "quantum leap forward" for Amvescap's global ambitions, as Mr. Phillips put it.
Amvescap had been patiently building a presence overseas. The LGT purchase gave it major-league scale everywhere from Germany, where it is the third-largest foreign asset manager, to Japan, where it is 13th in retail assets under management.
"Just a handful of other entities could have done in one transaction what this one did for us," said Robert McCullough, Amvescap's chief financial officer.
Amvescap's emergence coincides with Japan's Big Bang reforms, which allow foreign asset managers to manage more of the country's pension funds and will allow the company to distribute its products through banks and insurance companies.
The countries of Europe are gradually privatizing their pension systems. And the adoption of a common currency promises to fuel increased interest in equity investing, Mr. Brady said.
"It will shift the European mentality toward equities, whereas they have been very conservative," Mr. Brady said.
To be sure, Amvescap must contend with powerful rivals, from Merrill Lynch & Co. to J.P. Morgan to Fidelity Investments, names that are more recognizable in many corners of the globe.
"People like Fidelity have been building their brand name for a long, long time and have spent a lot of money on that in a variety of markets," said Diana MacKay, London-based European chief for Lipper Inc. "There's a lot of competition."
But Amvescap is counting on its focus on money management to get a leg up. For example, since the company is not in the brokerage business, it won't alienate foreign distributors wary of its competition, company executives say.
And since it is independent, its asset management profits won't be used to cross-subsidize, say, a sister insurance company or to make bank loans.
Amvescap also has the valuable commodity of a track record overseas. It has been in France for 11 years and in Japan for 15 years, for example. And though many international competitors may be heavyweights in size, Amvescap is often quicker to the punch.
"They have given the appearance of being very nimble and very quick to respond to market opportunities," Ms. MacKay said.
Still, why fiddle in foreign markets when the U.S. business is tried and true, and accounts for 90% of Amvescap's revenues?
Mr. Brady says the opportunity is too good to pass up. While the United States is the world's hottest market, it's also the most mature market, and it won't grow forever.
"You've got 300 million people in Europe," Mr. Brady said. "It could easily look like the U.S. in 20 or 30 years."
Getting positioned to cash in has required short-term earnings sacrifices. Integrating LGT dragged Amvescap's operating margin to 32%, from 35% in 1998; Mr. McCullough expects it to rebound this year.
But the company's shareholders are giving it leeway.
"I think the shareholders are very much in tune with what Charlie Brady's strategic mission is," said Dean Eberling, an analyst with Putnam, Lovell, de Guardiola & Thornton Inc., a New York investment bank.
So what comes next? In Poland, Amvescap has applied for permission to market its services to the 10 million workers whose pensions are being partially privatized.
In the United Kingdom, the world's third-largest pension market, it plans to set up an insurance company framework, which is required for entry to the pension business there, by the middle of the year.
Despite the fair winds blowing across the global investment markets, exporting success from the United States is not a given, Mr. Brady said.
It requires patience, financial commitment, and a respect for local cultural attitudes.
"Many people go overseas and wind up with an outpost that does a little research and tries to solicit accounts, and that's what they call global business," Mr. Brady said. "You've got to design a product from the ground up in the country you're in. You're not going to dictate it from some other part of the world."
And that takes time, as does setting up distribution relationships and simply learning to coordinate business units across multiple time zones.
"If you're not pretty well positioned already, you're not going to have time to get positioned," Mr. Brady said. "The time to get ready for what's happening now was 10 years ago."