Robeco has hired Mitchelle Zhou from rival BlackRock to run its commercial activities in China as general manager in Shanghai, replacing Michael Lu, AsianInvestor can reveal.

Zhou will start in the role next week and will initially be based in Hong Kong, said a Robeco spokeswoman. She will relocate to the mainland next year, where she will oversee the wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE) that the Dutch fund manager established in late 2016.

Zhou, whose Hong Kong regulatory licence with the firm started on October 22, should help boost Robeco’s institutional expertise. The firm's Asian assets under management are 77% comprised of institutional money. 

Mitchelle Zhou

The appointment comes soon after another senior hire aimed at strengthening the institutional offering. Joshua Crabb joined this week as senior portfolio manager for Asian equities to co-run the Asian equity strategy and institutional mandates.

The appointments appear to reflect Robeco’s strategy of seeking to build up its institutional business in Asia and globally, noted Andrew Daniels, Hong Kong-based senior research analyst at Morningstar.

They also reflect the fierce talent war for Chinese investment and sales talent due to the fast-growing number of foreign houses receiving or seeking licences to manage fund onshore.

Zhou's predecessor Lu had worked for the firm in Shanghai for 10 years and left in September 2017 to join Eastspring Investments’ WFOE as general manager in March this year.

Zhou had been a director on BlackRock’s China institutional client team since November 2015 and left the US fund house in July 2018. It is understood that her duties will be absorbed by the other members of the team, which is headed by Ji Bing.

BlackRock declined to comment on her departure.

Previously Zhou had worked at US asset manager Legg Mason and France’s BNP Paribas Investment Partners.