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Harvest aims to be China’s first global house

Ambitions run high at Harvest, where foreign offices and acquisitions outside of China form part of the firm’s strategy to become the first global Chinese asset manager, said Ashley Dale, chief business development officer at Harvest Global Investments (HGI).
Ashley Dale, Harvest Global Investments

“We want to be the first global Chinese asset manager,” said Dale.

He said being global is not necessarily offering multiple products in various asset classes. Instead, the firm wants to position itself in foreign markets as a manager with Asia investment expertise as the core competence.

“Trying to do everything is just not possible. China, Asia, and emerging markets should be enough for us for the medium term.”

The main task is to “convince clients that it makes a difference with an Asian firm investing in Asia”, Dale said. “Our initial strategy is to win marketshare and there is enough business out there to gain marketshare from distributing Asian investment products.”

Potential M&A

HGI, the wholly-owned arm of Beijing-based Harvest Fund Management, has offices in Hong Kong, London and New York. Apart from white label passive products for DWS (asset management arm of Deutsche Bank), HGI also distributes four Ucits funds in Europe. They are China A-shares, all China equity, Asia ex-Japan, and China bond strategies.

To expand overseas, Dale revealed that the firm is looking “very closely” at any merger and acquisition opportunities outside China. However, Harvest Fund Management’s AUM is $124bn, still relatively small when compared with its foreign peers.

Before making M&A decisions, Dale admitted the firm has a long road to build up assets and track record in the funds registered outside of China. It will have to bring in some mandates for foreign institutional clients, which he said are difficult to win.

The firm has a four-member sales team in London. Dale said educating foreign clients is crucial in persuading US and European investors to get over the worry about investing in Asia.

“Relentless marketing and getting in touch with end clients is essential. We see Chinese firms setting up their Hong Kong base and sending people [to Europe and the US]. But we think it cannot be done remotely.”

Internally, Dale said the management has been emphasizing to the staff that they are not competing with another Chinese firm but with large-scale international players.

“It is about educating people from within the firm that some practices need to change a bit, for example understanding the international standards in giving presentations and integrating ESG principles in the investment process,” he said.

In Hong Kong, Harvest manages seven active funds and two ETFs, according to FE. The firm was also one of the the first fund houses to apply for the mutual fund cross-border scheme between Hong Kong and Switzerland. It distributes two Hong Kong-domiciled equity funds – the Asia Frontier Equity Fund and the China Equity Fund – to Swiss investors through the scheme.

Parent company Harvest Fund Management runs assets of $124bn and has established a joint venture in China with DWS. The partnership also covers sub-advisory services with part of the Xtrackers ETF range of DWS in Europe.

Last year, HGI poached from RBC Capital Markets, UBS and Credit Suisse for three senior appointments to its Hong Kong-based investment team.

Other mainland asset managers with an overseas foothold include Bosera Asset Management, China Asset ManagementChina Post Global and CSOP Asset Management.

Part of the Mark Allen Group.