After a decade-long affair with State Street Global Advisors, Sammy Yip, head of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) for Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong, has left the firm to join a smaller local set-up, where he will be reunited with a few SSgA alumni.
Sources confirm Yip is now head of business and product development at Lippo Investment Management, a fund-management entity that is part of Indonesian conglomerate Lippo Group. Lippo IM was set up in 1990, saw a brief illustrious chapter with its award-winning Indonesian Growth Fund in the run-up to the Asian financial crisis, but had retreated from view somewhat by the late 1990s onwards.
SSgA's Asia spokesperson confirmed Yip's departure, adding that there will be key hires made to the regional ETF business in an expanded structure, the format of which is still being finalised. The decision whether to replace Yip's role has not yet been reached.
Yip will report to Stanley Kwok, Lippo IM's chief executive and a former SSgA portfolio manager responsible for institutional Hong Kong, China and Asian equities. Yip will also work with Conrad Cheng, chief investment officer at Lippo IM. Cheng was a long-time Fidelity International veteran who worked for SSgA for a year in 2008 before rejoining Fidelity as head of institutional business in Hong Kong, then ditching Fidelity for the newly revived Lippo IM set-up.
The Asian financial crisis was not kind to the Lippo group, which had to make big cuts to non-core businesses. Ten years on, it is in a position to rebuild itself into a serious financial services player.
Of late, the firm has been striving to restore the brand to its former glory. It began this process first by transferring the Lippo IM CEO title from Jenny Chan, wife of Lippo China Resources chairman Yip Yun Kuen, to Kwok, an experienced manager from outside the group. This was a bid to overcome what one source described as the curse of "family-controlled entities at cross-generational power axes".
Kwok is now starting to recruit former colleagues, with Cheng and Sammy Yip joining forces to re-invigorate the brand. (Chan has been working at the Asian conglomerate since the 1990s. Among her other posts, it appears she has yet to relinquish her role as CEO of Lippo Securities.)
Sources close to the situation say it's still early days to say exactly what the reunited trio is cooking up. There is a possibility that Lippo IM will continue adding headcount as it decides on which new products to develop. ETF-related and property-related products -- particular strengths of the SSgA alumni and Lippo, respectively -- are under consideration.
During his 10-year tenure with SSgA, Yip had been the architect and technical advisor who realised his vision and helped to make Asia's biggest ETFs possible.
From day one of Yip's tenure at SSgA in January 1999 to the end of February this year, shortly before his departure, ETF assets in Asia went from zero to totalling $38.4 billion. There are now 226 ETFs listed in Asia-Pacific ex-Japan, 138 of which are primary listings. Of this number, six belong to SSgA, which has a total regional ETF AUM of $10 billion, giving it a 26% share of Asia Pacific ex-Japan assets and the number one spot in the market.
Yip's career in the past decade takes in some of the landmarks of ETF development in Asia. He was closely involved in the set-up of the Tracker Fund of Hong Kong, Asia's first-ever ETF. He was also instrumental in establishing the ABF Pan Asia Bond Fund, the region's first fixed-income ETF and SPDR Gold Trust, Asia's first physical gold ETF.
In China, he sub-advised China Asset Management in developing its ETF product line; he did the same for Polaris Investment in Taiwan and Woori Asset Management (formerly known as LG Asset Management) in South Korea. Between them, the three firms have issued 19 ETFs for a total asset size of $6.1 billion. Yip remains active in advising regional stock exchanges on their ETF endeavours.
Before taking up the Asia-Pacific ETF head role, he was head of global structured products for Asia ex-Japan and a manager of SSgA's portfolios of ETFs in Hong Kong and Singapore.