Au King-lun, president and former chief executive of Value Partners, is leaving the Hong Kong-based fund house after a few years of upheaval under his leadership and declining assets under management (AUM), AsianInvestor can reveal.
In February this year Au decided to retire from his position as president of the active fund manager. His last day with the firm will be in early August, and he is currently on gardening leave, a company spokeswoman told AsianInvestor.
Au's regulatory licence with Value Partners ended on July 10, according to records of Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission.
As president, Au has mainly focused on overseeing Value Partners’ corporate affairs and other external-facing responsibilities. He began to transition his duties earlier this year under the leadership of the key senior members in the business team, the spokeswoman said, without specifying who has been the recipient of Au's responsibilities.
She also declined to comment on whether Value Partners was planning to name a new president or on the identities of the senior leadership members.
The Hong Kong-based fund house has seen a few years of heavy staff turnover that started with a major shake-up after Au arrived as CEO in December 2016.
Deputy chief executive Raymond Tam and head of exchange-traded funds William Chow left Value the firm amid this radical restructuring in 2017. Then Wayne Shum lasted just nine months as head of sales, after being hired in May 2017. Eric Poon was brought in to fill his role in early 2018 but lasted just one year, moving on in January 2019. And in August last year senior fund manager Philip Li also left.
Value Partner’s latest round of cuts follows an earlier set of personnel that were released amid pandemic-fuelled market volatility in April. They included Michael Mills, managing director of alternative products, Julie Zhu of the China sales team, and Michael Greenall, Kuala Lumpur-based head of Southeast Asia. The total number of SFC licensees at Value Partners has fallen from 84 to 78 since end-2019.
When Au arrived at the end of 2016 Value Partners’ AUM stood at $13.25 billion, and over the next three years it grew by a relatively modest 13.2% to stand at $15 billion as of end-2019. However, the impact of Covid-19 has been painful, and Value Partners reported its AUM was $11.3 billion at the end of May.
That effectively leaves the fund manager at a boutique size, at a time when active fund managers are seeing downwards pressure on their fees. Value Partners’ 2019 revenue of HK$1.6 billion ($206.45 million) was 2.3% lower than the year before, and while its year-on-year net profit rose 123.7% to HK$513.4 million, this followed an 89% drop the year before.
Au had stepped down from his CEO and executive director roles when Value Partners conducted another shuffle of its leadership, in July last year. Instead he assumed the role of president in the senior management team, a member of the leadership committee and the chairman of the risk management committee.
In a statement at the time, Value Partners said Au would be responsible for the group’s corporate affairs. It did not fill the CEO role, stating that it would “in the meantime” be carried out by the leadership committee. This is currently comprised of Au, company founder Cheah Cheng Hye and Louis So. The latter two of whom were made co-chairman in March 2019, along with being co-chief investment officers.
The continual shifts in management have underpinned a widespread belief that Value Partners hasn't made the progress it needed to in building up its institutional client base. Some observers believe Cheah would be willing to sell the business if possible.
Richard Morrow contributed to this article.