In a potentially ground-breaking personnel move, Invesco has hired a China equity specialist in a dedicated role to tap rising institutional interest in A-share exposure.

Resurfacing to take up the post – which one Hong Kong-based recruiter told AsianInvestor was newly created – is Chia Chin-Ping, formerly the head of Asia-Pacific research at index provider MSCI until around May this year.

This month he became Invesco’s Asia-Pacific head of business strategy and development for China-A investment, according to a post on his LinkedIn page yesterday (August 28). He reports to Anna Tong, Asia-Pacific head of investments, said the unnamed recruiter.

Invesco declined to comment on the appointment.

Chia Chin-Ping

The asset manager appears to be seeking to capitalise on the rising interest of international institutional investors to put money into Chinese equities, increasingly via dedicated portfolios.

Recent examples include Coal Pension Trustees, which manages the UK’s legacy coal industry retirement funds, handing out its first standalone A-share mandate. Similarly, US public pension funds like Alaska Retirement Management Board and Washington State Investment Board are mulling such moves.

Chia certainly has relevant experience for the new position. In his 18-odd years at MSCI he worked with numerous asset owners, as well as managers and broker-dealers in Asia Pacific.

Moreover, he was key to the still-ongoing process of the inclusion of A-shares in MSCI’s emerging markets index. The index provider began adding onshore Chinese shares to its indexes in June last year, leading institutional investors around the world to grapple with how best to build exposure to the asset class

This, along with the opening of new channels for investment into the mainland, notably the Stock Connect programme, underlines the growing importance of Chinese equities as its own asset class.

“UNIQUE” ROLE

Industry observers said Invesco’s appointment of Chia made sense.

The recruiter said: “This is the kind of product specialist/client portfolio manager role with a technical, commercial and research focus that we have seen with Invesco’s recent hire of Freddy Wong and firms such as Wellington and others.”

However, he added, Chia’s role is unique in how it focuses on China A-shares and strategies, overlapping with equity product specialists and client portfolio managers (CPMs) who would usually cover them as part of an overall equity asset class coverage.

“This perhaps represents the start of segmentation in CPM roles [in Asia] and focusing on asset class subsets of importance, much like the segmentation already seen in client coverage types,” the recruiter said.

Janet Li, Hong Kong-based wealth business leader for Asia at investment consultancy Mercer, echoed this view: “Generally interest has increased in A-shares, and investments with a niche proposition will be attractive to investors, both local and overseas.”

A senior Singapore-based asset management consultant agreed Chia’s appointment was an unusual one. “It’s a very specific role; not one I’ve seen elsewhere,” he told AsianInvestor

However, he does not expect there to be a swift proliferation of such hires among other fund houses: “It’s a bit too targeted for a position that would be very common.”