The SIPA Advisory Board comprises distinguished alumni and friends who counsel Dean Merit E. Janow on issues related to the School’s mission, strategy, and programs. One of the newest members is Wang Hongyuan MPA-EPM ’04, an asset management expert and financial industry leader based in Shenzhen, China.
Over a 20-year career that includes study in the MPA Program in Economic Policy Management, Wang rose to become co-chairman of First Seafront Fund Management, a rapidly expanding international mutual fund. In a recent conversation with SIPA News, Wang discussed how his career has progressed in step with his country’s economic reforms and growth initiatives, and more.
You’ve worked in Shenzhen for many years, but you were raised in a different part of China.
I grew up in a rural area of Yan'an, in China’s Shaanxi province. Yan'an is considered to be the birthplace of China’s communist revolution—the Chinese Red Army arrived in my hometown in 1936 and was welcomed by the people, my grandfather among them. My parents were teachers in rural primary schools for much of their careers. They became formal teachers in the government education system just before their retirement.
How did moving to Shenzhen set you on the path toward leadership in China’s financial industry?
I really owe my career to China's economic reforms and opening-up policy.
Shenzhen had been a small fishing village, but in 1980 it was designated as China’s first special economic zone. Shenzhen grew to become an advanced city with rapid economic development.
I was able to move there after I earned my degree in economics, in 1997. Hong Kong was returned to China the same year, and because of its proximity to Shenzhen was an important influence.
When I arrived, it felt like everything was new and ripe with opportunity—including the financial industry. It’s remarkable how the combination of economic reforms and the opportunities in a new and growing city gave me the chance to flourish.
How did your career progress?
I started as a researcher at China's first securities company, the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone Securities. At that time, advising investments was a new career opportunity.
I moved to China Southern Asset Management in March 1998, when China's mutual fund industry was just starting. The company, which is known today as Southern Asset, grew to become one of the largest asset management institutions in China. Over 11 years I progressed up the ladder until I became deputy general manager.
As a fund manager at Southern Asset, I managed up to 60 billion RMB [renminbi, China’s currency] in public funds and 10 billion RMB in social security funds, which are similar to U.S. 401K funds. When I was the chief investment officer there, assets under management peaked at 250 billion RMB.
I’m proud to be one of the ten pioneering fund managers and among the first ten investment directors in the history of China's mutual fund industry, and I believe I was the youngest person in China to ever hold either of these positions.
You left the mutual fund industry for a time before returning as co-founder of a new firm.
Yes. I left the mutual fund industry for a few years to serve as chief investment officer for CITIC Securities. In 2013 I returned to help establish the mutual-fund company First Seafront Fund Management, which I serve as co-chairman.
First Seafront is another company that has grown because of the positive impact of China's financial reform, including numerous reforms by the China Securities Regulatory Commission that encouraged competitive and innovative action in the country’s financial industry.
Today our company is focused on equity incentives, and we have created a new, innovative, and efficiently managed investment company with strong governance. We achieved management shareholding, where senior-level management hold 25 percent of shares and align with the interests of the core staff and the company. We incentivize staff through specialized programs that attract diverse talent, reduce turnover and create stability and efficiency.
Tell us about your experience at SIPA.
I studied in what is now called the MPA Program in Economic Policy Management, and the experience was truly enriching. I have only fond memories of my professors and classmates, and the program helped me understand economic policy in a global marketplace.
How do you hope to impact SIPA’s Advisory Board?
I am thrilled to be returning to SIPA as a member of the board. I would like to share my Eastern visions and fund management experience and insights to advise SIPA on selecting future leaders that promote sustainable growth, especially in China.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
< Asset management expert Wang Hongyuan MPA-EPM ’04 recently joined the SIPA Advisory Board.