Girl power

Category: Asia, Hong Kong, Japan, Global, Europe, U.S.A., United Kingdom
By Derek Au

Women increasingly breaking the mould by rising to industry top spots

The asset management industry is sometimes derided as being something of an “old boys’ club”, but there is mounting evidence to suggest that this could not be further from the truth, with female leaders now permeating every facet of the market.

Asia Asset Management has interviewed ten of them who hold key positions in the industry. Some are founders, some regional heads, while others are experts in emerging asset classes. Besides their ambitious business plans, they also speak candidly of their career journeys, success secrets and personal lives.

Name: Ting Li
Company: State Street Global Advisors

Position: Senior managing director and head of Asia ex-Japan

Ting Li manages the Asian business of State Street Global Advisors (SSgA), the manager behind the SPDR stable of ETFs. She is responsible for offices in Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei and Singapore.

Ms. Li joined SSgA as an intern on its fixed-income trading desk in Boston. She gradually took on different roles in risk and portfolio management and relocated to Hong Kong in late 2005, assuming the responsibility for spearheading SSgA’s business development activities in China a year later. Since then, SSgA’s Chinese business has taken off and has now become a significant source of revenue in the region.

Ms. Li says she always takes the initiative to seek more opportunities in addition to the roles that have been assigned. However, she reckons women still have less incentive than men to pursue their careers. “Most of them still need to be 100% sure before they raise their hands, and sometimes they need to be pushed,” she says.

Name: Shelly Painter
Company: Vanguard Asia

Position: Regional managing director

Since assuming the role of the regional managing director for Vanguard Asia in 2011, Shelly Painter has overseen the strategic direction of the ETF provider in the region.

She heads a team of 56 employees, whose aim is to work with clients, regulators and market makers to build and promote quality investment products that will provide long-term value to investors.

Revealing her management philosophy, Ms. Painter underscores the importance of inviting views from others: “Each manager on every team has a different set of experiences or lens that they look through when determining how to address a business objective. Without understanding what the different views are, it is difficult to come up with the most informed decision and it is difficult to explain how and why the decision is taken.”

With over 20 years of experience in the fund management industry, Ms. Painter has the conviction that work should be fun. “If you don’t enjoy going to work you are not in the right place. Once you find the right place, say “yes” when asked to take on a new project or role,” she says.

Name: Madeline Ho
Company: Natixis Global Asset Management

Position: Managing director, head of wholesale fund distribution, Asia Pacific

Madeline Ho leads the growth and development of Paris-based Natixis Global Asset Management’s (Natixis GAM) distribution business in Asia. Since joining the firm last year, she has led initiatives to expand the wholesale distribution in the region.

Ms. Ho intends to leverage Natixis GAM’s global, multi-affiliate model to bring products and services to the region that have previously succeeded in other markets. The company has 16 retail funds registered in Singapore currently, and is looking to add more throughout the year. The firm is also keen to register five to ten funds for retail distribution in Hong Kong within a year, she says.

Prior to Natixis GAM, Ms. Ho worked for seven years at Fidelity Worldwide Investments, where she was instrumental in developing business in Singapore and other Southeast Asian markets. Prior to this, she spent ten years at Franklin Templeton Investments, where she was appointed country head in Singapore at the age of 34.

Name: Michele Bang
Company: Eastspring Investments

Position: Deputy chief executive officer

As one of the top executives at Eastspring Investments – the Asian asset management arm of UK insurance giant Prudential – Michele Bang is responsible for the firm’s distribution, product management, investment marketing and branding in Asia, the US and Europe.

To run an organisation that spans westward from Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong to the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East, she believes the key is to work with and trust the local management teams.

Ms. Bang suggest that the management make-up of Eastspring, which has AUM of about US$105 billion, is a good example of how women can succeed at the highest level. “Our Taiwan operation, for example, is run by a lady, and our Taiwan business is the second-largest onshore asset management company in Taiwan. Our Malaysia asset management and Singapore asset management businesses are also run by women.”

Name: Beonca Yip
Company: Investec Asset Management

Position: Regional head of adviser distribution, Asia ex-Japan

Since joining Investec Asset Management last year, Beonca Yip has taken over the distribution business at a pan-Asian level and spearheads the firm’s regional expansion plans. With a brief to replicate its global success in Asia, she aims to swell business in Hong Kong and Taiwan, while expanding into Southeast Asia and China.

Prior to Investec, Ms. Yip worked at Eastspring Investments, where she was head of retail for Asia Pacific and Europe. She also had a stint at Société Générale Asset Management as head of sales and marketing in the region.

Ms. Yip believes asset management is about long-term commitment, which is applicable to both investing and career progression. “I have long term ambitions, and always take a long term view on both investments and on any business-related issues,” she says.

Name: Carol Wong
Company: Old Mutual Global Investors

Position: Managing director, Asia Pacific

Having joined Old Mutual Global Investors (OMGI) in 2013, Carol Wong is determined to revamp the UK-based asset manager’s Asian business. She has herself an ambitious target to grow regional net sales by three to four times within the next three to five years.

To achieve these lofty ambitions, Ms. Wong has overhauled the firm’s sales channels in Hong Kong and Singapore to private banks, retail banks, family offices and insurance companies, compared to relying on independent financial advisers as it had done.

Previously, Ms. Wong was at BNP Investment Partners, where she spearheaded the firm’s sales business in Asia. As the firm’s head of investment fund services, she was responsible for developing and executing business strategies in the region, including distribution, marketing, and product and client servicing.

Name: Jessica Cutrera
Company: EXS Capital

Position: Managing director

As one of the founders of Hong Kong-based EXS Capital, a fee-based asset manager that constructs ETF portfolios, Jessica Cutrera oversees all aspects of financial and operational control, as well as regulatory compliance at the firm.

With her first degree in psychology and background as a social worker, Ms. Cutrera says she enjoys spending time interacting with clients not only to offer investment advice, but also to help solve their life problems. “I really enjoy the interaction with people, helping them analyse their goals and plans, the opportunities they have and helping them build a framework for financial decision making,” she says.

For women working in the financial industry, she believes trade-offs and sacrifices must be made, and highlights the importance of good planning. “You have to plan accordingly. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a family, you can’t have other relationships, you can’t have other obligations and still pursue a career in finance,” she claims.

Name: Karine Hirn
Company: East Capital

Position: Partner

Karine Hirn is one of the founders of East Capital, which was established in 1997, just months prior to the Asian financial crisis.

The Swedish firm began with operations in Russia and the Baltic states which, like other emerging markets, were hit hard by the ensuing market slump. “We were just a new company. We only had a few clients and it was a very tough year,” she says.

In order to survive the financial crisis, the company explored other opportunities. For one, it set up a small corporate finance unit which helped investors who had interests in buying Russian assets. Ms. Hirn believes this business, which operated for a couple of years, kept the firm alive and made them familiar with these markets. “If you spend some time on the ground, you understand things much better than sitting in the office and staring at your Bloomberg screen,” she says.

Ms. Hirn likes to put herself in places where she can best contribute to the firm. That is why she moved to China in 2010 when the business decided to expand east. She worked in Shanghai until 2013, when she relocated to Hong Kong. Under her tenure, East Capital obtained a QFII licence last year and launched a China A-share fund thereafter.

Name: Miyuki Kashima
Company: BNY Mellon Asset Management Japan

Position: Head of Japanese equity investment division

With more than 25 years of Japanese equities experience, Miyuki Kashima leads a Tokyo-based team and is ultimately responsible for all investment strategies.

Female workers form the majority of Ms. Kashima’s investment team, whose responsibilities include managing a so-called ‘womenomics’ fund, which leverages Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to promote the role of women in the workforce. The fund invests in Japanese companies that are increasingly employing females, and are well positioned to benefit from economic stimuli designed to boost women’s purchasing power. “The timing is appropriate, as there is effort top down to try to promote more female participation in the workforce, and there is now a labour shortage,” she says.

Ms. Kashima admits though that “it is very difficult for women to move up in Japan. It is hard to gain the opportunity to prove ourselves.”

As the head of an investment team that has achieved consistent outperformance, Ms. Kashima believes the Japanese market is “at a major inflection point offering investors a rare opportunity during a transition from prolonged nominal GDP contraction to expansion.”

She also believes the growth prospect of Japanese corporate earnings have improved markedly amid signals showing that Japan has moved out of the deflationary cycle.

Name: Gillian Tiltman
Company: M&G Investments

Position: Fund manager for global real estate securities

Gillian Tiltman manages the global real estate securities strategy at M&G Investments. She follows a high conviction and unconstrained investment approach, driven by bottom-up stock selection, which does not pose market cap restrictions to hold particular stocks or sectors, simply because they form part of an index. She targets companies with a specific focus, which she believes is an imperative selection criterion for managers to get the best returns in real estate. Ms. Tiltman also works closely with the firm’s global equity team, sharing a fundamental focus on stock picking. Her working style is collegiate and supportive, allowing for frank and open discussions of investment ideas and themes, she says

From her perspective, real estate is currently very attractive due to the favourable market environment. Ms. Tiltman believes the pick-up in the global economy will feed through into increased demand for real estate assets, against a backdrop of limited supply, due to a halt in new developments in time of the global financial crisis. She expects this dynamic will remain supportive for the asset class moving further into this year.

Ms. Tiltman highlights the importance of striking the right balance among career, friends and family. She believes exercise is a good way of combating the stress that comes as part of the job and sets her up for productive and enjoyable work days. One of her passions outside of work is yoga, while she also enjoys gym activities and sports.