Weekly roundup of people news, Aug 5

Former China Life Group CFO returns as company president; Prudential regional CEO for growth markets departs; Sun Life appoints chief client and innovation officer in Singapore; GIC head of data governance and management leaves after 23 years; Temasek director of investment for agri-food sector moves from San Francisco; VFMC hires head of equities from Hesta; and more.
Weekly roundup of people news, Aug 5


Zhao Peng

Industry veteran and former chief financial officer of China Life Insurance (Group) Company Zhao Peng has returned to the Chinese life insurer. He has been appointed as president and executive director of China Life Insurance Company, which is a listed subsidiary of the group, the company announced on Tuesday (Aug 2).

The appointment came after Su Hengxuan tendered his resignation as the company’s president, executive director and member of the strategy and assets and liabilities management committee on Monday (Aug 1), which took effect on the same day.

Su Hengxuan

Su will remain the vice president and a member of the Party Committee of China Life Group.

Zhao was named a member of the Party Committee of China Life Group and secretary to the Party Committee of the China Life Insurance Company in July.

Zhao first joined China Life in 2009. From 2009 to 2020, he held several senior roles, including general manager of the finance department of the China Life Group; assistant to president, vice president of the China Life Insurance Company; and chief financial officer of the China Life Group.

From 2020 to 2022, he served as the vice president of the Agricultural Development Bank of China.


Wilfred John Blackburn

Wilfred John Blackburn, Prudential’s regional chief executive officer who oversaw the insurance business across growth markets, left the group on July 27 after almost 10 years in several senior leadership roles, according to a regulatory document.

According to a public filing to the Indian stock exchange BSE on July 27, Blackburn, who was non-executive director of the board of ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company, had resigned from the board with effect from July 27 due to his resignation from the Prudential Group effective the same day.

ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company is the Indian joint venture of ICICI Bank and Prudential.

Blackburn joined Prudential in Hong Kong from Allianz in September 2012 as the regional director of new markets and business development, where he oversaw the launch of Prudential’s business operations in Cambodia and the establishment of Prudential’s representative office in Myanmar and Laos.

During his nearly 10 years at the life insurer, he held CEO roles for Singapore and Vietnam, before becoming regional CEO for insurance growth markets in February 2020. Based in Hong Kong, he oversaw Prudential’s insurance business in high-growth markets in Asia and Africa, including India, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Benjamin Bulmer

Prudential announced the expansion of its group executive committee, adding four senior executives to the leadership committee. Together with the expansion, Prudential formed three strategic business groups, led by three of the four new committee members, including Singapore CEO Dennis Tan, CEO for Insurance Lilian Ng, and group chief strategy and transformation officer Solmaz Altin.

They each lead one strategic group to oversee all markets across Asia and Africa, including growth markets that were previously led by Blackburn.

Additionally, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance has appointed Benjamin Bulmer, Prudential’s CFO for insurance and asset management, as a non-executive director of the company to replace Blackburn, according to the public filing.


Chris Wei

Canadian insurer Sun Life has appointed Chris Wei as executive vice-president and chief client and innovation officer (CCIO) based in Singapore, it announced on Wednesday (August 3).

Wei will also be part of the firm’s executive team. The chief sustainability officer, chief marketing officer and head of corporate communications will report to him.

He will be responsible for developing innovative solutions and establishing measurable targets for customers to achieve financial security and foster a sustainable society, the firm said in a statement.

He was previously chair for Blue Insurance Hong Kong and executive chair of Aviva Asia, and global chair for Aviva Digital.

Between 2011 and 2014, he was the group chief executive of Great Eastern in Singapore, and before that, he was group CMO and head of bancassurance and direct marketing at AIA in Hong Kong.


Ryan Rakestraw, a director of investment for agri-food, has moved from San Francisco to Singapore for two years while remaining in the same role.

The move is “purely an internal geographic rotation which is quite common for our colleagues”, a spokesperson confirmed with AsianInvestor.

Rakestraw is one of a few directors within the team, and is not a member of the firm’s senior management, the spokesperson said.

He has been with Temasek for four years in San Francisco, and had previously worked at various venture capital firms.


Tay Swee-Yuan, the head of data governance and management at Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC has left the firm to take a break, he wrote on LinkedIn earlier this week.

GIC did not respond to a request for comment, but does not generally comment on people moves.

Tay has been with the fund for 23 years, starting out as a risk analyst in 1999 and rising the ranks t head up several functions throughout the years including equities risk analysis, and investment risk and performance.

Before that he was an associate at investment advisory firm Koeneman Capital Management and an IT executive at SG Securities.


Stuart Birkett

Victorian Funds Management Corporation (VFMC) has hired Stuart Birkett as its new head of equities following a thorough internal and external recruitment process, the sovereign wealth fund announced on Tuesday (Aug 2).

Birkett joins VFMC from industry superannuation fund, Hesta. He will commence his role on August 22. He will sit on VFMC’s investment leadership team and report to chief investment officer, Russell Clarke.

Michael Stavropoulos

Birkett replaced previous head of equities Michael Stavropoulos, who left VFMC in April after over 13 years, and joined AustralianSuper as head of portfolio construction and strategy for equities in May, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Birkett most recently headed up the management of Hesta’s international equity and active currency programs, having also previously managed the fund’s Australian equity and alternative credit programs. He previously held equity team leadership roles at Mercer and QIC.

Hesta did not respond to requests for comments.


Xin Shao

Principal Global Investors former China managing director Xin Shao has joined Eastspring Shanghai, the wholly foreign-owned enterprise of Eastspring Investments in China, as head of China on Monday (Aug 1), the firm announced on the same day.

Based in Shanghai, Shao will be leading a team of over 20 employees in the city and driving the growth and development of offshore and onshore offerings with key clients and distributors in Eastspring Shanghai, and supporting strategic initiatives of Eastspring Investments in mainland China, the firm told AsianInvestor.

Before Shao joined, Eastspring’s CFO Janelle Yeo was the interim China head from October 2021, driving the China business.

Shao is supposed to report to Eastspring’s head of corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), a role that the firm is still hiring. In the meantime, CFO Yeo will continue to oversee these responsibilities including chairing the Eastspring wholly foreign-owned enterprise board of directors, a spokesperson told AsianInvestor.

Eastspring is the asset management arm of Prudential.

Shao joins Eastspring from Principal Global Investors, where he was managing director for China since January 2019. He has 20 years of industry experience, having held various senior roles in Beijing Jiumu Capital Management Company, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Changsheng Fund Management Company, and China Asset Management Company.

Following the departure of Shao in July, Principal Global Investors told AsianInvestor that the firm is in the process of finding a replacement to support the China business moving forward. The Principal China team will continue to support clients’ needs in the interim, the firm said.


Yuichi Alex Takayama

Australian advisory firm Frontier Advisors is establishing an office in Tokyo and appointed Yuichi Alex Takayama to lead its presence in Japan and assist Frontier in establishing its presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Takayama joined Frontier on August 1, Frontier Advisors Japan GK was officially incorporated on July 21 2022, a spokesperson told AsianInvestor.

Takayama most recently held the role of head of business development with Misaki Capital who did not respond to AsianInvestor's inquiries about his successor. Prior to that, he held senior roles with Nikko Asset Management and Tokio Marine Asset Management.

The new Tokyo office follows eight years of presence in Japan. Takayama will also travel regularly to Australia and, over time, will work to help Frontier develop other business opportunities in Asian markets, such as Korea.

Prior to Takayama joining, Frontier did not have permanent people in Japan, the spokesperson said. Frontier Advisors Australia staff regularly visited Japan to assess the market opportunity and build relationships in market. CEO Andrew Polsen led these efforts and a team of consulting and research experts in the Australian business.

Takayama and the Japan operation are currently being supported by the Australian office. Over time more staff will be added to the newly opened office at FinGate Terrace in Tokyo’s commercial district, the spokesperson added.


Hayden Briscoe

Hayden Briscoe, head of global emerging markets and Asia Pacific for fixed Income, will additionally be appointed as asset management head for Hong Kong, effective 1 August 2022. Briscoe will report to Raymond Yin, head of Asia Pacific at UBS Asset Management, in this capacity.

Having started his career in Sydney, Briscoe moved to Hong Kong in 2013 and joined UBS Asset Management in 2016.

A spokesperson told AsianInvestor that Briscoe takes over the asset management head role for Hong Kong from Adolfo Oliete, head of hedge fund solutions in Asia Pacific. Oliete took the role in May 2021 where he succeeded Markus Egloff, who is now with KKR.

Oliete will be returning to London over the summer where he will continue with his hedge funds solutions head of Asia Pacific investments role and as a member of the senior leadership team for hedge fund solutions’ global business.


Daigo Hirai

BlackRock Real Assets has appointed Daigo Hirai as managing director and head of Japan real estate, effective August 2022. Hirai-san replaces Chris Handte, a director of the real estate team, a spokesperson told AsianInvestor.

Hirai will oversee BlackRock’s real estate business in Japan. His primary responsibilities include managing the team’s day-to-day operations and leading deal sourcing activities in Japan. Based in Tokyo, Hirai reports to Hamish MacDonald, head of Investments for Asia Pacific Real Estate, and Hiroyuki Arita, head of Japan.

Hirai joins BlackRock following 12 years with the Blackstone Group, where he most recently held the role of managing director in its Japan real estate team and based in their Tokyo office. According to the Blackstone Group website, the Japan real estate team continues to be led by senior managing director Daisuke Kitta.

Prior to Blackstone, Hirai served at the real estate private equity group of Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs Realty, accumulating more than 18 years’ experience in the real estate industry and possesses an extensive network in deal sourcing and project refinancing.


Alice Leung

Asset manager Value Partners announced the appointment of Alice Leung to the newly created role of managing director, head of digital, with effect from August 2.

Leung will be based in Hong Kong in her new role and will oversee the firm’s e-commerce and digital marketing strategy and will also be responsible for building new creative growth strategies. She will report to June Wong, Value Partners Group’s chief executive.

Previously, Leung was the head of digital for Asia Pacific at Mattel Inc for the better part of the last two years. There she led the regional team and developed its e-commerce and digital marketing strategy for 12 markets in Asia Pacific and 10 key brands.

Before that, she served as the digital branding lead at Accenture Interactive, where she led regional projects for all brand and digital transformation and creation strategies.


Noboru Hirabayashi

Commercial real estate and investment firm CBRE has appointed Noboru Hirabayashi as head of CBRE Capital Advisors Japan, starting July 2022.

Based in Tokyo, Hirabyashi will lead equity and debt placement for Japanese institutions investing abroad, as well as for capital investing in Japan. He reports to Takashi Tsuji, head of capital markets, Japan at CBRE. Hirabayashi replaces Junichiro Muto who left CBRE at the end of March 2022, a spokesperson told AsianInvestor.

Hirabayashi joins CBRE from Diamond Realty Management, a real estate investment management arm of Mitsubishi Corporation (MC), where he specialized in cross-border real estate investments, spending time in the United States and Japan.

Hirabayashi was most recently a Managing Director at one of MC’s affiliates in Los Angeles where he led new ventures for the firm and launched multiple equity and debt funds in the U.S. for Japanese institutions. Diamond Realty did not respond to AsianInvestor's inquiries about Hirabayashi's successor. Prior to Diamond Realty, he led the development of joint-ventures and investment management programs at GE Capital Real Estate.

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