Tracy Li has left a Shanghai-based hedge fund to open an office for New York-based TransPacific Securities in Hong Kong.

TransPacific was founded by president Mark Mason, an academic who has taught at Harvard and Yale universities, after he conducted a study of alternative investments for East Asian institutional investors. Using the contacts he made for that work, he spun his academic career into a commercial one, helping Western hedge funds and private-equity firms access Asian capital.

ôFew Asian institutions today deliver good risk-adjusted returns because their portfolios arenÆt diversified,ö Mason says. ôThey are held back from investing in alternatives by their lack of understanding of the asset class û not at the working level, but at the senior board level.ö

Because the top brass donÆt like to admit this, they donÆt support their technocrats. Mason says he provides private, confidential training to such people in order to make them comfortable with alternative investments.

ôHedge fund groups are willing to give only a modest amount of training, because theyÆre not in the education business,ö Mason says.

He founded TransPacific two years ago as a broker/dealer and says he now acts as a placement agent for four alternative-investment groups in the United States and Europe. He says he sources money from institutions in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Tracy LiÆs role will be to deepen these relationships and develop new ones from Greater China. She declined to name the hedge fund she used to work for.