30,000 people who don't manage assets in Hong Kong

You might be excused for thinking that Hong Kong has become a centre for investment management, but the latest data from the territory's Investment Funds Association says otherwise.

AsianInvestor writes for asset managers. Or we thought we did. As it turns out, we write for someone else.

According to Desmond Ng, the new chairman of the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association, total employment in the local funds-management industry has stabilised at 30,729.

Thirty-k. That's not bad considering the slashing and cutting we've reported since the onset of the global financial crisis. As Mark Twain said: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

Take a closer look, however. Only 1,164 people, or 3.8% of the industry in Hong Kong, are actually involved in the practice of managing portfolios.

Having recently completed our investment-performance awards selections, we can vouch that fund houses make a fuss over how much they value research and analysis in their investment processes. Yet only 737 people, or 2.4%, are categorised under 'research and analysis' by the IFA. Hongkongers are known for their efficiency, but this suggests there remains space for someone looking to uncover a few hidden gems in the stock market.

As it turns out, the smallest category in the industry is involved in corporate planning and business management. There are 411 personnel, accounting for 1.3% of the industry, at the top. There can't be too many CEOs and COOs involved after all. But we Hongkongers perhaps could do with a flatter business-planning structure.

So what are the other employees in Hong Kong's asset-management industry doing, and just who is AsianInvestor writing for? Yes, dear reader, you are most likely in 'sales and marketing'. In fact, Hong Kong can boast some 24,548 people involved in selling and marketing funds. On a per-capita basis, this could be a record. If the total working-age population is 5.26 million (2.55 million men and 2.71 million women), that works out to one fund salesperson or marketer for every 214 working-age people in the territory.

Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission calculates that these 24,548 are selling 2,093 authorised funds. Of course, they also run institutional and private-wealth accounts, but even so, the figures suggest a small army is flogging 348 bond funds, 1,114 equity funds, 113 diversified funds, 44 money-market funds, 105 funds of funds, 59 index funds, 123 guaranteed funds, 14 hedge funds and 11 "other specialised schemes".

A big shout-out to the back-office workers toiling to support all of these salespeople. Fund administration employs 1,970 people (6.4%) and dealing and trading another 661 (2.2%).

AsianInvestor is struggling with just one number. There are 1,238 people, 4% of this industry, who categorise themselves as 'other'. AsianInvestor has encountered many nice receptionists and tea ladies during on-site visits to fund managers, but who are the 'others'? Hong Kong island has its fantastic side, but we are Lost.



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