A vision for the future is what connects the next two industry leaders to feature on AsianInvestor’s second list of the 25 most influential women in Asian asset management.
Both Munirah Khairuddin and Alexa Lam share a passion for their respective home markets and a heartfelt desire to see them develop.
Khairuddin runs CIMB-Principal Asset Management, the most regionally ambitious and successful of Malaysia’s homegrown firms. She has been instrumental in helping the firm to become a regional fund house as opposed to a domestic player, which she admits required a challenging shift in mindset.
Lam, meanwhile, has made her mark in driving financial cooperation between Hong Kong and mainland China, as an architect of offshore RMB business and products, including RQFII and mutual recognition. Her work has helped to position Hong Kong as the world’s leading offshore RMB centre.
AsianInvestor’s project to identify the top 25 women in asset management 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 www.womeninam.com, 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, Munirah Khairuddin and Alexa Lam.
Munirah Khairuddin, CEO, CIMB-Principal Asset Management
Malaysia is not short of women in senior fund management roles, as can be seen at the local business of AmInvestment and Eastspring Investments, both of which have female bosses. But in the end we chose Munirah Khairuddin for our top 25 list as chief executive of CIMB-Principal Asset Management, perhaps the most regionally ambitious and successful of Malaysia’s homegrown firms. Its achievements helped to secure the firm AsianInvestor’s Asian fund house of the year award in 2013.
Khairuddin joined CIMB-Principal in November 2006 and as deputy chief executive officer was instrumental in developing international business opportunities and institutional sales, before taking up the CEO post last year. She started out on the investments side, working as a strategist at Malaysian state oil company Petronas and as a fixed income portfolio manager at Rothschild Asset Management in London. But Noripah Kamso – chief executive of CIMB-Principal at the time – singled her out in 2006 as suited to the client-facing side and moved her into institutional marketing. Under Kamso, Khairuddin was closely involved as CIMB-Principal moved to become a regional fund house rather than simply a domestic player. It won its first Asean portfolio mandate in 2007. The firm has since seen its AUM rise 62% from RM22.4 billion ($6.9 billion) to RM36.3 billion in the three years to the end of 2013. Khairuddin feels that the biggest challenges in her career have not been related to her gender, but to switching mindset to a new type of role helping her company to expand beyond Malaysia. She is proud of what she has achieved, not only because Malaysian society and business industry is still male-dominated, but because she has reached this point in her career at the relatively tender age of 38. Khairuddin sees CIMB-Principal as a pioneer, having built a regional model that other domestic players are striving to emulate.
Alexa Lam, deputy CEO, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission
It was not our intention to include regulators on this list. But in Alexa Lam’s case we made an exception. It makes her one of the few survivors from AsianInvestor’s inaugural list of the leading 25 women in Asian asset management, published in May 2011. It was Lam’s prompt action that barred Lehman Brothers’ Asian arm from settling outstanding positions on September 16, 2008 – the day after the US investment bank collapsed. Since then the SFC has introduced strict new rules and been fastidious in securing compensation for retail investors. The SFC’s corporate finance division had been responsible for approving structured products, including minibonds. That function was subsequently switched to the investment products division, of which Lam was in charge.
But it is through unstinting efforts to drive financial cooperation between Hong Kong and mainland China that Lam has really made her mark. As one of the architects of Hong Kong’s offshore RMB business and RMB investment products, Lam is behind the introduction of the RQFII initiative that has positioned Hong Kong as the world’s leading offshore RMB centre. Her passion for the city’s advancement was demonstrated during a speech in January last year, when she announced plans for a cross-border RMB funds scheme between Hong Kong and China. “I would like to talk about my vision for the next breakthrough in our asset management and offshore RMB business,” she told the audience. “Over the years, a number of you have complained that our market in Hong Kong is too small for you to enjoy economies of scale for building your fund domicile here. The Hong Kong-mainland platform that we are building will likely be Asia’s largest and deepest. I hope you will complain no more.” Mutual recognition could become the cornerstone for an Asia fund passport to rival Europe’s Ucits scheme. Its significance is hard to overstate.
A local-born Chinese, Lam worked as a legal practitioner in Hong Kong, Chicago and New York for more than 20 years. She joined the SFC as an adviser in 1998 and was appointed chief counsel in 1999 and executive director in 2001. She was named deputy CEO in February 2008. Her current term runs until March 2015.