Asia's top 25 women: Fan Hua, Lakshmi Iyer

AsianInvestor profiles Fan Hua from China Investment Corporation and Lakshmi Iyer of Kotak Mahindra AM from our list of the most influential women in asset management.
Asia's top 25 women: Fan Hua, Lakshmi Iyer

Good performance and sound judgement are behind the promotions of the next two choices to feature on AsianInvestor’s second list of the 25 most influential women in Asian asset management.

Fan Hua is responsible for fixed income and hedge fund investments at the $650 billion sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation (CIC), where the Colombia graduate has worked for the past five years. CIC is increasing its exposure to alternative assets, and as such Fan is integral to its diversification strategy.

We also feature Lakshmi Iyer, CIO for fixed income at Kotak Mahindra Asset Management. Iyer is a role model in India’s asset management industry, having risen through the ranks from credit research at this leading mutual fund company. Now head of products, she is charged with authorising funds in all asset classes.

AsianInvestor’s top 25 project is unique. To see the list in full published in alphabetical order by surname, please click here. To compare it to our inaugural list – which included distribution experts and service providers – please click here. You can also click here to view a photo gallery of our top 25 from 2011.

To celebrate, AsianInvestor is hosting a lunch to congratulate the winners. This will be staged in conjunction with AsianInvestor’s inaugural Women in Asset Management Forum, at which many of these winners will be present to discuss a series of industry topics.

Both will take place on Tuesday, May 20 at the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong. For tickets or sponsorship enquiries for our Ladies' Long Lunch or Women in Asset Management Forum, please email [email protected] or call +852 3175 1954.

Below we profile the next two choices on our top 25 list, published in alphabetical order by surname.

Fan Hua, Head of fixed income and absolute return, China Investment Corporation
As a sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corporation has an imperative to maximise returns within a risk tolerance framework as it strives to invest the nation’s vast foreign exchange holdings. Its investment remit is wide, with Fan Hua among the frontrunners of managing its diversification strategy.
CIC boasts almost $650 billion in assets, of which a little over $200 billion is allocated to overseas investment. Fan is responsible for the fund’s fixed income and hedge fund investments. She joined CIC in 2009 as a managing director within its asset allocation and strategic research department, where she was responsible for developing allocation plans and investment analysis. She also ran a multi-asset portfolio engaging external managers incorporating global macro and tactical allocation strategies.
In 2011, the Columbia graduate was promoted to take on a broader mandate as head of the fixed income and absolute return department. She also now sits on CIC’s investment committee. In her role she manages CIC’s active strategies for fixed income, absolute return and commodity futures. In particular the sovereign wealth fund is increasing its exposure to alternatives. This is relatively unchartered territory for the fund, which engages external managers to help.
For absolute return, CIC is primarily invested into hedge funds, which account for 12.7% of its overseas portfolio as at the end of 2012 – the latest data available. Fixed income accounted for 19.1%. As such Fan works closely with the external management community, where she is described as astute. She also manages fixed income and absolute return portfolios. Fan started her career at Goldman Sachs and spent 11 years in fixed income trading and risk management.

Lakshmi Iyer, CIO, Kotak Mahindra Asset Management
There is nothing to prevent women from attaining senior management roles in India other then a mental block, the presumption there is no place for them there, says Lakshmi Iyer. While she acknowledges that financial services is a male-dominated industry, she sees the “presupposition that women cannot make it to the top of the corporate ladder as the biggest detriment”.
She can be viewed as a fair judge as chief investment officer for fixed income at Kotak Mahindra Asset Management, one of India’s leading mutual fund companies. “Nothing is stopping women from attaining the top posts in India,” she says. “If you believe you’re competent you can conquer it.”
Iyer has been with Kotak Mahindra Asset Management for 15 years, having first started as a fund manager responsible for credit research and deal execution in 1999. She rose through the ranks to become fixed income CIO in 2008. In addition she is now head of products, charged with authorising funds of all asset classes.
It is experience of product pricing and coordinating with the fund management and sales teams that has given her the confidence to believe that Kotak Mahindra has a corporate culture to empower female staff for management roles. “At Kotak, [professional] ascendency is all to do with whether a candidate possesses the required calibre to fulfill a certain role,” she notes. “Empowerment is strong for both men and women, as we are allowed not just to make decisions and take responsibilities, but just as important to experiment with things you deem as right.”
That offers creative leeway in the decision-making process, to make bold decisions and not to be afraid to make mistakes. A graduate in business management with finance at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai, Iyer’s first job was at Credence Analytics as a research analyst tracking India’s corporate bond markets. There she helped to build financial software tools to track Indian markets.

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