The investment industry of Asia Pacific has evolved in leaps and bounds in the 20 years since AsianInvestor began publishing. To celebrate our 20th anniversary edition we asked a set of the most experienced and senior industry veterans to describe the major changes they have seen, both in their organisations and beyond.
Sheila Patel first joined Goldman Sachs's investment bank 17 years ago, before transferring to Goldman Sachs Asset Management in 2009. Based in Singapore for seven of the past 12 years, she has long advised asset owner clients in Asia. She was made chairman of GSAM in September 2019.
She tells AsianInvestor how the region's asset management industry has evolved, and why she would like to see it ensure more consistency of assets and professionals.
Q. How has Asia’s institutional investment industry changed since 2000?
When I started focusing on Asia 20-plus years ago doing pairs trading in Hong Kong, fixed income markets weren’t really tradable in the region, and there weren’t many private opportunities. But Asia has now come into its own, both for the quality of investors based here and for the breadth and diversification of investing that’s available in the region.
Ultimately, international investors now view Asia as not subject to the same volatile trends or liquidity drainouts that happened 10 or 20 years ago.
Q. What have been the key strategic challenges facing the asset management industry since 2000?
Asia has held both the greatest promise and at times huge disappointment for asset managers. In the past 20 years, institutional clients’ level of commitment to emerging markets – of which Asia accounts for a huge part – and the scale at which they’re willing to invest hasn’t always met what we’ve expected.
That said, while in past crises Asia has been the place that people left first, there’s been a change in the maturity of the market. I expect that to continue. Getting to and retaining that level of scale and consistency of interest is the main challenge.
Q. With tensions rising between China and other countries, particularly the US, how is that affecting how investors view China?
Whether on a two-year or five-year horizon, geopolitics is in the top handful of risks that institutional investors across the world are concerned about. And the dominance of the US-China trade issue and those countries’ overall relationship is on everybody’s radar.
There aren’t many [geopolitical] relationships around the world at the moment that feel permanent. With the Covid-19 pandemic we see all this more starkly.
Q. What’s been the proudest achievement in your role?
The relationships and friendships I’ve built through the years of experience I’ve had in getting to know clients. I feel I can go to any country in the world and I’ll know somebody there, and know them well.
Q. What do you in your spare time?
I love photography. I have a backlog of photos I’ve taken over months of travel that I’m always trying to catch up on. I do my best to try a lot of different things. My latest thing is that I’m trying my hand at astrophotography.
This interview initially featured in AsianInvestor's 20th anniversary edition, which was initially published in late June.