Shanghai-based wealth manager Noah International has moved to strengthen its private equity capabilities by hiring Wang Piau Voon from Adams Street Partners as co-chief investment officer, AsianInvestor can reveal.
He started this week to oversee private-market strategies and will jointly lead the investment team in Hong Kong with William Ma. Ma had joined in mid-2015 as the firm’s first CIO – as first reported by AsianInvestor – and is responsible for hedge funds and public-market assets.
Wang will lead a team of 12-15 professionals in the private equity and real estate investment team, with the two asset class heads reporting to him. There may be additional hires.
Wang pointed to the opportunities offered by China as both an investment destination and a source of capital. “Emerging markets are the next frontier, and China is the biggest juggernaut,” he said.
Noah had sought an investment professional in the private equity space with international, emerging markets and Chinese experience. Discussions with Wang, most recently a Singapore-based partner at Adams Street, went on for six months.
He was finally convinced to relocate to Hong Kong and take up the position. His last day at Adams Street, a Chicago-headquartered private-markets investment firm, was in December. Wang remained an adviser to the firm until March this year.
The move to hire another investment leader was in line with Noah’s strategy to expand the Hong Kong operation into more than just a product-sourcing hub. In effect, it is mimicking the development of its China operations, which started out as a distributor of third-party products but then built investment capabilities in the form of Gopher Asset Management about five years ago. Gopher is now a $13 billion asset management firm.
Kenny Lam, president of Noah Holdings, the parent company, told AsianInvestor: “The strategy has been to build the Hong Kong operation into a real active asset management hub. We see a wide space for a Chinese firm with global capabilities.”
Indeed, Noah has benefited from moves by Chinese high-net-worth investors to diversify internationally, which has resulted in its Hong Kong operation, which oversees the international portfolios, growing $1.5 billion last year to $2.5 billion. Of that figure, 60% is in private equity and real estate and the rest in hedge and secondary funds.
In China, Noah’s PE investments are 85% in fund-of-fund structures and the rest in co-investments. In Hong Kong, the initial focus will be on established names and markets, namely North America and Europe.
Wang’s arrival comes as Noah readies two private-market secondaries funds, one focused on PE and the other on real estate, as reported.
He said four “long-term, disruptive trends” would form the basis of future product launches by Noah: industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, referring to automation and manufacturing technologies; big data; ageing populations creating opportunities in areas such as health care; and the ‘sharing economy’ represented by firms such as car-hailing business Uber and property-rental platform Airbnb.
When it comes to fund selection, Wang said the PE market was transparent to stakeholders but not to the public. Hence, picking strategies requires a finger on the pulse. “You have to be on the ground, knocking on the door, establishing relationships with bankers, managers and entrepreneurs," he noted.
Wang has 20 years of experience in global private equity. He joined Brinson Partners – Adams Street’s predecessor firm – in London in 1999 and became a partner in 2002. Prior to that, he was an investment manager at Nikko Capital Singapore, the venture capital arm of Japan's Nikko Securities.