Allianz Global Investors has created a new post to oversee the buildout of its fund management business in China and hired former Mercer executive Leo Shen to fill it, AsianInvestor can reveal.

The fund house, part of German insurance giant Allianz, has also named Wang Zheng as its new head of multi-asset for China in Shanghai. He replaces Ray Zeng, who left in November after two-and-a-half years with the firm.

Wang joined from Korean firm Mirae Asset’s Shanghai operation, where he was a portfolio manager for China investments, a spokeswoman told AsianInvestor. Mirae did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Leo Shen: new China head

Shen reports to Desmond Ng, AllianzGI's head of Asia Pacific, and Wang to Yang Zijian, regional head of multi-asset. Both the new hires started in their posts on January 4. 

Shen was until December 25 the China wealth and investment business leader at consultancy Mercer, a role in which he oversaw client coverage for both the wealth and institutional segments.

Catherine Li, Mercer’s chief executive for China, and Janet Li, Asia wealth business leader, are overseeing the firm’s mainland business until a replacement is named for Shen.

As head of AllianzGI's fund management business for China, Shen will be based in Hong Kong but also spend time working in Shanghai, the spokeswoman said.

The appointment makes Shen AllianzGI's most senior China-dedicated executive. That had previously been Cicely Sun, who retains her role as Shanghai-based managing director overseeing institutional client business in China. She reports to Philip Tso, Asia Pacific head of institutional.

CHINA PUSH

Shen's hire signals the rising commitment of both AllianzGI and the wider Allianz group to China’s increasingly competitive asset management market.

Indeed the two hires come as the group announced today (January 28) it had received approval to set up Allianz Insurance Asset Management in Beijing, marking the first wholly foreign-owned insurance asset management company in China. This came after it opened its China insurance holding company in Shanghai in January last year.

Moreover, Allianz Real Estate, the insurer's property investment arm, set up an office in Shanghai last year.

And now Shen will oversee the expansion of AllianzGI's onshore fund management business in China, across the retail, private wealth, pension and institutional client segments. It is understood that his main focus, at least initially, will be to build its retail and private wealth businesses.

Asked whether AllianzGI had a target for further hires in China in the coming months, the spokeswoman said the company has no imminent plans.

The fund house was one of the earlier movers in establishing a local wholly foreign-owned enterprise and obtaining a private fund management (PFM) licence onshore in China.

It set up its Shanghai WFOE office in 2017 and the following year launched its first product under the country's qualified domestic limited partnership (QDLP) scheme. QDLP is one of the channels that allows foreign fund managers to raise money from qualified Chinese investors onshore.

In 2019 AllianzGI received a PFM licence, and it later rolled out its first private fund targeting domestic high-net-worth individuals and institutional investors.

It faces stiff competition, however. The number of foreign asset managers setting up onshore WFOEs has risen fast in recent years and consequently the fight for China investment talent has become ever fiercer.