Enhancing the lives of future generations links the next two industry leaders to feature on our second list of the 25 most influential women in Asian asset management
Vicky Li has worked her way up at China’s $1.3 trillion de facto sovereign wealth fund Safe to head the bond-dealing desk. The institution has been diversifying from US Treasuries into non US dollar-denominated bonds, leading to the prospect of higher returns.
Meanwhile, as deputy head of fixed income and head of global macro, Liew Tzu-Mi helps to manage a third of GIC’s $100 billion-plus portfolio. The Singaporean sovereign wealth fund has also been diversifying, becoming less benchmark-constrained and more focused on total return. This allows the team to extract more value.
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 is being staged today 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 today at the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong. If you have time, come down and join us. Here we the next two choices on our top 25 list, Vicky Li and Liew Tzu-Mi.
Vicky Li, assistant director-general, State Administration of Foreign Exchange
Heading the dealing function at China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (Safe), assistant director-general Vicky Li Hongyan is one of the few leading female figures to have helped China’s foreign exchange regulator put its sizeable $3.8 trillion in FX reserves to work. For this alone she stands out.
Li has worked her way up within the ranks at Safe, from a junior trader in her early years to become head of the bond dealing desk. AsianInvestor understands she was recently switched into a risk management role, although information on Li is hard to come by and a Safe official declined to provide details. Nor could we find a biography for her, so we had to rely on banking and asset management sources.
Nevertheless, her position is notable in itself. As a division of the People’s Bank of China, Safe is charged with managing foreign currency bought by the central bank as part of money-market intervention. It is seen as a de facto sovereign wealth fund managing the bulk of China’s international reserves, alongside the more recently created China Investment Corporation, which was set up in 2007.
Asset allocation by Safe in recent years has diversified away from US Treasuries into bonds denominated in currencies outside the US dollar. While China is still the largest foreign holder of US Treasuries, estimated at $1.3 trillion at the end of last year, moves by Safe to diversify into other foreign-currency-denominated assets has led to the prospects of higher returns. For example, it was active in investing into Japanese government bonds during 2012, and has diversified into euro-denominated assets by investing into bonds issued by the European Financial Stability Facility, a special purpose vehicle created in 2010 amid the height of the sovereign crisis in Europe to provide financial assistance to eurozone states in difficulty.
Li’s role in helping Safe to diversify must be respected, with the weighting of US Treasuries in China’s FX reserves having been cut to 50% in 2012, from 63% a decade earlier.
Liew Tzu-Mi, head of global macro, fixed income, GIC
As deputy head of fixed income and head of global macro at one of the oldest and most sophisticated sovereign wealth funds, Liew Tzu-Mi helps to manage as much as 36% of GIC’s entire portfolio, which stands at well over $100 billion.
Having begun her career at the Singapore sovereign wealth fund in 1998, Liew has held several roles in the fixed income department. She is now is among the most senior members of a team of about 40. This entails her putting a strong investment process in place, working closely with the research teams and developing capabilities in various markets.
Her team has three mandates to manage: government bonds, inflation-linked bonds and fixed income total return. The latter covers a range of fixed income segments, including government bonds, mortgages, emerging markets, corporate bonds and even convertible bonds.
Asked about the career challenges she has faced, Liew says that while the financial industry in general is male-dominated, she does not feel she has been discriminated against because she’s a woman. She sees GIC as a rewarding place to work. One competitive advantage is the fund’s long-term investment horizon, including that GIC does not have quarterly performance targets to aim for.
About four years ago, Liew notes the fixed income team started to look at investing in a more flexible way, less benchmark-constrained and more focused on the total return prospects of the investments on a longer-term basis. Liew says this change has allowed the team to extract more value from its portfolio.
“The ability to focus on long-term performance is aligned to the purpose of the funds that we manage,” she adds. “It makes the work we do very meaningful as we know we can make a difference to the lives of present and future generations in Singapore.”