At a time when Asia Pacific’s pension funds need to modernise, expand and improve, having high calibre professionals in key roles will be vitally important.
For that reason, AsianInvestor has consulted leading pension fund experts, consultants, custodians and fund managers to put together a list of 20 pension executives who stand out in their field. The list which is being rolled out online over the next week and a half, is not ranked. Nor is it intended to be exhaustive. But hopefully it highlights why these particular executives in the region have so impressed their peers, business partners and colleagues.
You can also find out more about the rationale for our list. Today, we move on to executives from Hong Kong and Thailand.
Executive director, Hospital Authority Provident Fund Scheme, Hong Kong
Industry experts applaud Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority Provident Fund Scheme (HAPFS) for its corporate governance, investment capabilities and innovation. Much of the credit for this goes to Heman Wong, who stepped down from running the investment division in December 2016, after nine years in the role. Doris Ho (pictured) took over from Wong, and experts credit her for being a steady pair of hands who invests the scheme’s HK$58 billion ($7.41 billion) asset base in a similar manner to her predecessor.
Under Wong’s leadership, HAPFS issued several new mandates, among them its first smart beta strategy in 2016.
Ho, who joined HAPFS in 2007, oversees all investment operations, including strategic asset allocation, risk management and manager selection.
Prior to joining HAPFS, she was the associate director of investment at consultancy firm Mercer. One industry expert that AsianInvestor spoke to noted that Ho is generally open to new investment ideas and outsourcing investment mandates.
“She has also encouraged more regular portfolio reviews and brought more rigour to the investment process of HKPFS,” he said She is also seen as a keen advocate of environmental, social and corporate (ESG) strategies and has reportedly said that over 90% of HAPFS’s assets are managed by fund managers that are signatories to the United Nations-supported Principles of Responsible Investing.
HAPFS has been active in ESG strategies for some time. Under Wong it banned its asset managers from investing in tobacco and other ‘bad’ companies and discussing such topics at several public forums. However, Ho is clear-eyed about the difficulties of ESG investing. She has noted that while such factors can help long-term fund performance, the inability to measure results in an objective manner is proving a hindrance to broader acceptance and use of such strategies.
In the past, it has also not been afraid to seek external help to spur its development. It last did so in 2015, and the results led it to implement an enterprise risk management framework.
In 2012, the HAPFS also became the first pension fund in Hong Kong to obtain qualified foreign institutional investor (QFII) status, allowing it to directly invest in the Chinese A-share market.
Head of private market investment department, Government Pension Fund, Thailand
Teerapong Ninvoraskul has been a key figure in introducing more rigorous decision-making processes for private market investments at Thailand’s Government Pension Fund (GPF).
The head of the private market investment department and managing director at GPF oversees around $1 billion of assets invested in private equity, real estate and infrastructure in both Thai and overseas investments.
An investment banker before he joined GPF in 2010, Teerapong has gradually steered the pension fund away from making ad-hoc direct deals, instead introducing an investment process that fits the fund’s diversification goals without taking on high levels of risk.
This has included using external managers to allocate beyond the internal team’s areas of expertise.
“After analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the pension fund, it was clear that internal resources and governance systems did not necessarily support direct deals,” Teerapong told AsianInvestor, adding that most smaller pension funds find it a challenge to undertake due diligence on direct deals.
As part of Teerapong’s efforts, GPF has steadily expanded beyond domestic assets over the past four years. It now has a global portfolio in real estate, infrastructure and private equity, allocating 2% and 3% into international investments in the two latter areas, respectively. It has a target allocation of 14.5% for private investments.
With investments turning more complex, Teerapong said he is keen on increasing the capabilities of his team. He seems to enjoy improving GPF’s resources, noting that it’s incredibly rewarding to find an organisation whose values and interests align with one’s own.
Before joining GPF, Teerapong worked for banking and securities firms, including TMB Bank, Barclays Capital and Merrill Lynch Phatra Securities.
Like many other pension executives, Teerapong sees growing interest in environmental, social and governance strategies but believes generating good returns could be challenging.
“We have seen more instances of impact investing, which generates social impact and provides good returns, and it is something we are looking at,” he added. “We are keen to do more ESG.”