Paul Smith is stepping down as director of Triple A Partners, the firm he established in 2007, to join the CFA Institute as managing director of Asian operations.
Triple A began as a hedge-fund seeding business, but investor appetite for Asian hedge funds has been poor since so many funds underperformed during 2008-2010. Global investor appetite for risk has also shrivelled, to the detriment of the region’s hedge fund industry.
Since then Triple A has oriented itself primarily as an adviser to European or North American family offices and wealthy individuals, helping them to identify and access opportunities in Asian hedge funds and private equity.
Smith says the firm is still working to identify a successor. He remains a responsible officer under Hong Kong law so his departure date has not been determined. (He remains a council member of the Alternative Investment Management Association.)
He is, however, accepting the CFA Institute role effective from October 3. Smith says the institute has had a presence in Asia for about 10 years, with an administrative centre in Hong Kong and society chapters in local markets.
The centre office has been run by full-time CFA Institute employees seconded from the US; Smith’s appointment marks the first time someone embedded in the Asia landscape is taking on the regional leadership. (The present director, Ashvin Vibhakar, is returning to the US.)
Smith sees his new mission as helping local societies to interact more forcefully with regulators, financial institutions and individuals to promote ethics, transparency and level playing fields.
“We need to play a bigger role because since the global financial crisis, it’s evident that we in financial services must do better.”
The famed exam that the institute oversees has always had a large portion dedicated to ethics. If financial services is a true profession, then its practitioners must adhere to the same values as other professions, such as doctors or lawyers, that client interests must come first.
Says Smith: “It needs to be said more loudly: ‘it’s not your money’.” He goes on to add: “It’s time for CFA members to stand up and say two things. First, not everyone in finance is a crook, but second, as an industry we do face some issues.”
The institute also pushes best practices. Smith is careful to note that these are generally accepted principles, not a “Western” agenda. “What counts is the application of best practices, not the basic propositions.”
The CFA Institute is in the process of drawing up a series of recommendations for regulators and market participants worldwide to re-establish finance on a more sustainable basis. “Everyone wants the same thing: for markets to operate more efficiently, and for the good of the end user.”