James Wu, general manager at Fidelity Investments in Taiwan, is leaving the firm to become executive vice president at Fubon Bank, where he will run its retail banking business. He starts at Fubon just after Chinese New Year.
Fidelity's business has expanded under Wu's four years at the helm, and the firm now claims 30% of offshore mutual fund assets. Although the company had an advisory licence since 1986, it was only under Wu that it secured an investment trust license as well as last year's brokerage licence. The two licences represent around $20 million in invested capital.
Wu said the decision to leave "a beautiful company" was difficult but he couldn't resist the chance to take advantage of dynamics created by the new financial holding company law.
He will focus on building the retail distribution for Fubon's individual wealth management business. Since the government passed the Financial Holding Company (FHC) Act in November, 2001, Fubon FHC has been at the vanguard of cross-selling insurance, securities and asset management through the bank. It was also the first to kick off a long-awaited round of consolidation in the bank sector with its acquisition last year of Taipei Bank, which boosted its retail distribution channels, including insurance and broker outlets, to around 1,130. Citibank has a 15% stake in Fubon FHC.
Wu's departure may prove Fidelity's gain. Wu insisted to Fubon that he must be allowed to remain on Fidelity's board of directors and act as a senior adviser. Referring to Fubon's retail distribution, he said, "I'll naturally have a positive bias toward Fidelity products."
Wu's multi-disciplinary background makes him ideal for a job that will integrate banking with insurance, asset management and brokering. He launched his career with Chase Manhattan Bank in Taiwan and regionally, operating for five years in the commercial banking sphere. He then spent over eight years at Bankers Trust, where he set up its securities business in Taiwan, helped expand its credit derivatives business in New York and then spent four years as the firm's Japan country head. In 1996 he returned to Taiwan to launch Citibank's securities business, and in 1998 was lured to Fidelity.
Wu will report to Fubon Bank's president Wang Chuan-hsi and to Fubon Bank vice chairman and Fubon FHC co-CEO Daniel Tsai. He will be replaced by Patrick Shea as Fidelity's country manager. Shea moved to Taipei six months ago from Hong Kong, where he had served as Fidelity's chief operating officer, and reports to managing director Brett Goodin in Hong Kong.