J.P. Morgan Real Assets Head Joseph Azelby Is Retiring

Under former NFL linebacker Azelby, the bank’s global real assets division scored a touchdown by swelling to $90 billion.

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Commuters walk past the JP Morgan, left, and Thomson Reuters Corp., right, buildings illuminated at night in the Canary Wharf business, financial and shopping district of London, U.K., on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015. In its monthly consumer confidence index, GfK said a measure of Britons’ outlook for the economy over the next 12 months dropped to minus 4 in October, the lowest reading this year. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

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Joseph Azelby, J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s head of $90 billion in global real assets, plans to retire from the bank in early 2017. Azelby, who has been with the firm for 30 years, spent the past 19 in real assets, which includes private and public real estate, infrastructure, and global maritime and transportation. His team will report to Chris Hayward and Anton Pil, managing partners of J.P. Morgan’s global alternatives platform.

The real assets business at JPMAM has grown quickly over the past few years as interest rates reached historic lows and equity valuations moved higher. In 2012 the company published a paper arguing that institutional investors should boost their allocation to real assets, because doing so would deliver higher yields than fixed income and give them access to holdings uncorrelated to stocks and bonds. On average, institutions have since increased such investments from about 10 percent of their portfolios to 15 percent. The JPMAM paper predicted that this proportion will rise to 25 percent if low rates and other trends persist.

Azelby, who studied economics and was captain of the football team at Harvard University, pursued a career in professional sports before turning to finance. After graduating in 1984, he was drafted by the National Football League and played linebacker for the Buffalo Bills. He joined J.P. Morgan at the end of 1985 on the trading desk. But Azelby wanted another chance at football, so he left the bank the following summer to train with the Indianapolis Colts.

Azelby returned to J.P. Morgan in late 1986 and worked in fixed-income trading for five years before moving to the portfolio management group. He was responsible for running the private placement mortgage fund, making direct investments in commercial and residential debt. By 1998 he had moved to the real estate group.

In 2013 Azelby and his brother, Bob, published a management book called Kiss Your BUT Good-Bye. The book promises to help “professionals find their individual BUT — whether it’s a lack of skills, a distracting behavior, or a personality quirk that interferes with achieving success.”