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Can Wechat help with branding in China?

BNP Paribas Asset Management has followed several other foreign asset managers in launching a Wechat account in China, according to Janis You, Hong Kong-based Asia-Pacific head for brand and communications.
Janis You, BNP Paribas Asset Management

You said that ESG is not a widely discussed topic in China compared to Hong Kong and Singapore. In fact, a recent survey by Brown Brothers Harriman found that 48% of Chinese professional ETF investors indicated that ESG factors are very important to their investment decisions, compared to 60% in Hong Kong and 75% in Taiwan.

The BNPP AM Wechat account is expected to provide users educational content about responsible investing and how ESG is incorporated within the firm, according to You.

The Wechat account, which was rolled out two weeks ago, comes right after the firm’s wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE)’s $50m quota was approved by regulators under the qualified domestic limited partner (QDLP) scheme in May. Under the scheme, the firm will be offering its water-focused strategy managed by Impax Asset Management. BNPP AM owns around a 25% stake in Impax AM.

One limitation with Wechat is that the firm cannot promote its water strategy on the social media platform. According to You, the firm would need to obtain a licence first to promote products on social media.

“Even if we had obtained the licence today, we would not promote any products right away. In China, consumers generally want to understand you first before they buy your product, and that would involve a lot of steps. A large amount of that has to do with whether they trust you,” You said.

The firm is using Wechat to share macro-economic news as well as giving insight about different asset classes.

Social media and AMs

Facebook, Google and Twitter are banned in China. But the mainland has its own social media sites and perhaps the largest social media penetration in the world. Having a population of around 1.38 billion people, there around close to a billion Wechat users as of the end of 2017, according to a Blackrock report.

“That is more than 70% of the total Chinese population. If you are serious about going into China, you cannot do without having a social media platform,” You said.

Other foreign asset managers have already set-up Wechat accounts, including Blackrock, UBS Asset Management, Schroders and Value Partners, according to data from Wechat.

Even private bankers are using Wechat to reach out to their HNWI clients in China. Around 80% of the leading wealth managers in China use the social media platform, according to a report published last year by research firm My Private Banking. These managers include UBS China Wealth Management, HSBC Private Banking, BNP Paribas Wealth Management, ABC Private Banking, Citigold Private Clients and Noah Holdings.

BNPP AM also set up last year social media accounts catering to the local markets of Indonesia and India, according to You.

In Indonesia, the firm has a Twitter account, which has gathered around 10,000 followers, according to the social media website.

“The penetration of Twitter in Indonesia is huge and is the second largest user after the US,” You said.

In India, the firm has a dedicated Youtube page, which has around 1,000 subscribers, You said, adding that the country’s domestic market prefers consuming information through video rather than reading them.

Other fund managers in the country, such as DSP Blackrock Mutual Fund, also has a Youtube channel, with around 20,000 subscribers.

Elsewhere, other fund managers have also set-up accounts focusing on the Taiwan market. For example, Franklin Templeton, Allianz Global Investors and JP Morgan Asset Management, have dedicated Line accounts in Taiwan, according to the social media platform.

Line has become one of the most popular social media platforms in the country. Out of Taiwan’s 23 million people, there are around 17 million Line users, according to data from Line.

Part of the Bonhill Group.