Editorial Board Spotlight: The art of investment warfare with a CIO

In this Friday special, we go behind the scenes to understand how a chief investment officer manages his team and handles the pressure of leadership.
Editorial Board Spotlight: The art of investment warfare with a CIO

Benjamin Deng, chief investment officer of Ping An Insurance Group, likens managing the company's $650 billion portfolio to "fighting a battle".

Benjamin Deng,
Ping An

Deng oversees the investments of Ping An’s life, property, casualty insurance as well as the pension business, with Rmb4.72 trillion ($652.4 billion) of assets under management.

To effectively manage the investment team, Deng noted it is important to be “professional”, referring to the expertise that a CIO needs during the entire investment cycle from entry point to the exit.

“There are people who are dedicated to a certain stage of the value chain, such as credit analyst and equity analyst. But as a CIO, I have to have a well-rounded skillset," Deng told AsianInvestor.

"I don't have to be an expert in knowing certain stocks. I'm not an equity analyst or rates trader. But I need to know how that logic works, and more importantly how to make things work together."

In this way, he can quickly identify when certain people in his team make a mistake or lose logic.  

Deng also values being objective and detached from personal biases.

“These things cannot be personal. They have to be looked at from a distance with cool eyes and a cool mind,” he said.

Even so, the CIO said being transparent and fair to people while caring about their career path is also a crucial part of his management.

“Getting to know people, nurturing people is basically my personality and my management style. I prefer sending my best lieutenants to the front to grow them than keeping them around me,” he said.

He would warm people up to their roles first. But there is also a harsh side of him when he shuffles the team and replaces certain members as a last resort.

Running such a large ship also comes with huge pressure.

As what he calls an amateur historian, Deng always seeks lessons from global history to put him at ease.

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“History has repeatedly shown there's a clear cyclicality in things. If you have enough patience, capital, and resources in your reserve, you can ride through difficult times and come out safely and successfully,” he said.

Besides studying history, Deng also finds peace in practicing Chinese calligraphy, Tai Chi, and meditation.

“With these hobbies, you can diverge your attention and get more balance in your mind. And that will help you restore energy,” the CIO said.

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