Fidelity International, the first foreign firm to obtain a private fund management licence and launch an onshore product in China, has suffered a setback in its plans to build out its business there. 

The asset manager has lost Freddy Wong, its lead portfolio manager for China fixed income, to US rival Invesco. He will leave Fidelity at the end of this week after 16 years with the firm, a spokeswoman told AsianInvestor.

Wong will return to Hong Kong with Invesco as a managing director in a senior client portfolio manager role that the US firm has been looking to fill for a while, said a source familiar with the firm.

Both Invesco and Wong declined to comment.

Freddy Wong

Bermuda-headquartered Fidelity has promoted Alvin Cheng to succeed Wong, the spokeswoman said. The Shanghai native was previously a credit analyst covering Asian corporate bonds in the international market and renminbi bonds in the China onshore market.

Fidelity and Invesco, with $379.2 billion and $882 billion under management respectively, both have well established local operations in China.

Invesco climbed to second place from fourth in consultancy Z-Ben Advisors' annual ranking of foreign asset managers by the strength of their mainland businesses. Fidelity remained in sixth place, according to the list published in April. 

Fidelity was among the first batch of foreign firms to establish a WFOE in Shanghai, in 2015, and the first to register as a private fund management (PFM) company in China in January 2017.

Invesco set up its own WFOE in early 2017 before receiving its PFM licence in November of the same year. 

A PFM licence enables a firm to manage and offer onshore funds to eligible high-net-worth and institutional investors in China.

WONG'S BACKGROUND

Having started at Fidelity in 2003, Wong transferred to Shanghai in early 2017 to work on building up Fidelity’s wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE) and launching onshore products.

He had managed three onshore funds, including the China Bond No.1 Private Fund and China Bond Opportunity No. 1 Private Fund. The former was the first onshore private fund set up (in May 2017) by a foreign firm, while the latter launched in January last year.

The unnamed source said Wong had also been working on other product launches.

His switch of companies is not unusual, especially in the current environment. The demand for China investment talent is huge and growing, as the number of international asset managers with onshore units and licences continues to rise, as does foreign demand for local exposure. US fund giant State Street Global Advisors was among those awarded its approval recently, in December last year.

These expansion efforts have led to a merry-go-round of talent. For example, Dutch fund house Robeco hired from BlackRock for a new China chief in October 2018 after losing Michael Lu to Eastspring Investments' Shanghai WFOE earlier in the year. The year before, Aberdeen Standard lured Amy Wang from Amundi Pioneer to head its own WFOE.