Top 25 fund selectors: James Fava, Paul Hodes

Our 10th and 11th most influential fund selectors in Hong Kong and Singapore are James Fava of UBS and Paul Hodes of Citi, who work for two of the biggest wealth platforms in Asia.
Top 25 fund selectors: James Fava, Paul Hodes

AsianInvestor conducted a recent project to identify the most influential protagonists in fund selection and distribution in Hong Kong and Singapore. You can find more background on the project by clicking here.

Here we unveil the 10th and 11th gatekeepers on the list, which is ordered alphabetically. We have already published write-ups for numbers one to nine. The other names are listed at the end of this article, and the full feature appears in the November issue of AsianInvestor magazine.

James Fava 
Asia-Pacific head of product development and management of funds
UBS Wealth Management
As gatekeeper at UBS Wealth Management in Asia for the past 14 months, James Fava is first point of contact for fund providers in Asia. His endorsement can make the difference, although the bank stresses a team approach. 

“I sit in between the analysts and sales team to manage our funds offering in Asia,” says Fava. “I talk to our fund due diligence team, our internal asset management division and third-party providers for new ideas to bring onto the platform.” 

Fava transferred to Hong Kong from Zurich, where he was global product manager for hedge funds. His remit in Asia includes long-only and hedge funds. 

In deciding which funds merit due-diligence analysis, Fava judges whether they meet minimum selection criteria, such as performance track record (three years) and asset size ($300 million). Funds need to provide diversification to UBS’s shelf and be aligned to its CIO views. 

The bank’s due diligence team is primarily located in Zurich. It has analysts in Asia who focus on due diligence, but the basic onboarding process, including signing of distribution contracts, is done in Switzerland. 

UBS has more than 1,000 long-only funds, ETFs and alternative products globally. Its focus list includes core fund holdings and those in line with its tactical overweight calls as a house. The Asia list is selected and reviewed quarterly by a committee including Fava. 

He says he meets around 10 providers per month. “We are well built-out. A lot of funds being presented to me are similar to what we already have on the shelf, so we don’t bring a lot to the pipeline,” says Fava, who recently became a dad for the first time. 

His advice is for managers to promote their high-conviction fund list. “How does a fund stand against peers and how is it being positioned? It’s hard to position a fund that’s too niche. Managers have to have confidence in their funds,” he says. 

The bank is looking to expand its alternative product list, which stands at 80 funds, both Ucits-approved and unregulated hedge funds.

Paul Hodes 
Asia-Pacific head of consumer bank wealth management
A dual role sees Paul Hodes lead both consumer bank wealth management in Asia Pacific and traditional managed investments for Citi's consumer and private bank units. Its influence can be seen as one of the top three wealth management players in the region, with $250 billion in client assets. 

In Asia, Citi works with more than 100 product providers and 1,000 funds, including ETFs and liquid alternatives. Due diligence is conducted in person and managed centrally through the regional team. 

Hodes (pictured left) oversees the regional due diligence team led by Gary Sim and manages profit-and-loss for wealth management. Fund managers go direct to Hodes to get a sense of direction, as he is in contact with all the regional heads and has a grasp on what types of products are needed. 

“Gary’s team selects managers and funds and I sign off on each,” he says. “I regularly interact with the heads of our wealth management unit businesses in each market and with clients throughout the year.” 

Hodes meets up to seven managers a week. “He provides the first direction whether there is a chance or no chance for our funds,” says one fund sales head. “If there is a chance, we meet the business heads in different banks and lines.” 

Hodes sees the key challenge as growing the advisory offering consistently across Asian markets and clients. Ultimately, he views fund providers as business partners.

The other individuals identified from the list so far:

Roger Bacon, Citi Private Bank

John Cappetta, Julius Baer

Ernest Chan, Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management

Toby Chan, HSBC

Leo Cheung, AIA Pension and Trustee

Chung Shaw Bee, UOB

Pierre DeGagne, DBS

Dany Dupasquier, Standard Chartered

Sam Edwards, HSBC Private Bank

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