Many important people have played a role in helping institutional investors across Asia Pacific develop over the past 20 years, but far fewer can claim to have truly broken new ground.
For our 20th anniversary we have chosen 20 individuals in no particular order that we think have made a major impact in the development of asset owners across the region over the past two decades. These individuals represent some of the most thoughtful, open-minded and motivated individuals in the industry.
Some are leaders of their organisations; others have played important roles within them, helping expand their institution’s capabilities into important new areas. Each has made a telling contribution to the evolution of institutional investment across Asia Pacific over the past two decades.
Our latest profies look at the impact of Clara Chan, who is currently chief investment officer for private markets at Hong Kong Monetary Authority until last month, and Kevin Bong, the director of economics and investment strategy for Singapore's GIC.
Chief investment officer (private markets), Hong Kong Monetary Authority
Hong Kong has not been always known as having the most adventurous asset owners, outside of its life insurers. However, Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) is slowly changing that, and Clara Chan has played a key role.
Chan, who is a qualified barrister, joined HKMA in 2010 after working as an administrative officer for several years across the government’s home affairs, transport and housing and financial services and treasury departments. This included work on cross-border infrastructure initiatives and on China’s first cross-border renminbi bond issue.
At HKMA Chan focused on private asset investing, an area the central bank’s Exchange Fund has increasingly looked towards. As part of this she heads the long-term growth portfolio team that invests in private equity, private credit, infrastructure and real estate, and also helps direct the investment of the Future Fund, or reserves from the government’s budget.
In 2018 Chan was promoted to CIO for private markets, while her colleague Albert Goh took over coverage of public markets. They have continued to spur better governance and transparency with external asset managers over mandate expectations and bidding processes.
Chan has also helped expand the Exchange Fund’s engagement with environmental, social and governance criteria, which HKMA wants to encourage across banking and investment activities.
Shortly after AsianInvestor first announced this list, HKMA announced that Chan would move positions to take over as executive director of money management, on October 17. In this new role, Chan will be responsible for HKMA's work related to maintaining financial and monetary stability through macro-financial surveillance and market operations, and oversee the licensing and supervision of stored value facilities and the designation and oversight of retail payment systems.
Director of economics and investment strategy, GIC
While Ng Kok Song, GIC’s first group chief investment officer, was central to its old guard (which is why he also appears on this list of 20 individuals), Kevin Bong is integral to current operations.
Bong leads the department that helps articulate the fund’s outlook over the medium and long term. His team defines factor and asset class exposures and benchmarks, targeting optimal allocations for active strategies across the portfolio.
“He is quite central to GIC’s thinking and in how they spend time on long-term navigation of the markets,” said the head of a big US asset management firm.
This year, for instance, his department led GIC’s collaboration with US fund manager PGIM to develop an asset allocation framework that explicitly models the impact of private assets on total portfolio liquidity. This made sense, as liquidity quickly became a key concern for investors amid the Covid-19 pandemic this year.
Indeed, Bong’s analytical skills have been increasingly important at a time when institutional investors are focusing on data management and analysis. His approach to portfolio design and management combines quantitative and qualitative methods, reflecting his education in electrical engineering, computer science and management science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Since then Bong has spent most of his career at GIC, starting there in 2005 analysing risk and return expectations before working as a portfolio manager in New York. In 2014 he left to become a portfolio manager at Canadian pension fund OPTrust, before returning to GIC in 2017.
Bong’s expertise is widely sought after. In June he joined the 33-strong international advisory board of the Edhec Risk Institute, while a month earlier he started on the board of the San Francisco-based Pacific Pension & Investments Institute.
These profiles originally appeared in the 20th anniversary edition of AsianInvestor magazine, which was published in late June. The Kevin Bong piece has been expanded slightly to include his department's leadership of GIC's collaboration with PGIM this year.