xi's moments

A pioneering foreign asset manager

By Jiang Xueqing | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-30 10:30

The office of Fidelity International in Hong Kong. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Editor's Note: This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up. China Daily interviewed top executives of well-known multinational companies for their views on the country's socioeconomic development.

Fidelity International enriches products for catering to Chinese investors' needs

Please use three words to describe China's changes in the past 40 years.

Can-do: Without a can-do attitude and a strong drive for development, improvement and growth, China would not have been able to come the long way to where it stands today. I deeply respect the entrepreneurship, vision and ambition that are shared among the government, companies and the people in China.

Confident: The opening-up itself is a demonstration of confidence. As the financial markets continue to open up, foreign asset managers such as Fidelity International have the opportunity to participate in the mainland market, and we believe that healthy competition will benefit the entire industry and each player in it.

Collaborative: The market is increasingly open, transparent and dynamic, enabling and also encouraging more collaboration between companies and even across industries.

What's the biggest challenge China faces today and how can the country overcome it?

Like many countries, China's aging population will continue to exert pressure on its existing pension system. A recent survey by the National Academy of Economic Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences revealed that if not addressed, the funding gap could top 600 billion yuan ($86.3 billion) in 2018, reaching 890 billion yuan in 2020.

The Chinese government has made a huge effort to make up this shortfall through many different measures. However, individuals still need to take more responsibility for their retirement savings.

As a global leader in pensions, we are keen to share our experiences with the Chinese market, which we have gained from running sophisticated pension businesses in Asia and Europe. Our efforts in China will mainly focus on the following pillars:

Education. Through partnering with the government, top think tanks and business partners, we will look to improve financial literacy and basic pension knowledge in China through ongoing investor education programs. We have established a five-year partnership with Ant Fortune, a subsidiary of Ant Financial, to develop and launch a China Retirement Readiness Survey every year.

Structure. We are pleased to see that tax incentives have been incorporated into the third pillar pension scheme, which would encourage more people to build up their retirement savings. Tax incentives have proven successful in other countries, like the United States and Australia. We would suggest having additional financial subsidies for specific groups, such as low income earners, as well as setting a default investment framework, similar to the US.

Solutions. We will advocate the implementation of retirement products that are relevant and easy to understand, such as target date funds. Fidelity International has established a strategic partnership with China Asset Management Co Ltd, and we will act as research consultant providing advice on research work on ChinaAMC's target date funds.

How has your company benefited from the country's reform and opening-up policy?

China is a core part of Fidelity International's long-term strategy. As a privately owned organization, we have the ability to take a long-term view in terms of our future growth in the world's second-largest economy. We started investing on the Chinese mainland 20 years ago. To date, we have a total Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor quota of $1.2 billion - one of the largest quotas held by any fund manager globally.

The opening-up policy, especially the opening-up of the financial markets in recent years, further enables us to become a pioneer among foreign asset managers to establish onshore business on the Chinese mainland.

We established a wholly foreign-owned enterprise in Shanghai in 2015, and became the first global asset manager to register with the Asset Management Association of China as a private fund management company in January 2017. To date, we have launched three onshore private funds in China and looking ahead, we will continue to diversify our product offerings to cater to domestic investors' needs and demands.

Has competition intensified between your company and Chinese companies?

We believe healthy competition is vital to ensuring a market's robust and sustainable development. Thanks to the opening-up policy, we appreciate the opportunity to be able to participate in China's financial markets as a foreign asset manager.

We come into the market with our global expertise and strong research capabilities. Globally, with over 400 investment professionals around the world, Fidelity International has some of the most comprehensive research capabilities of any buy-side asset manager.

We also have one of the largest buy-side China investment teams with more than 40 investment professionals covering China, providing investment expertise and research coverage with industry-leading depth and breadth.

In the meantime, we do recognize it takes time and extraordinary efforts for us to develop businesses in China as a foreign fund manager. We will focus on building the team, establishing a strong network with a variety of stakeholders, as well as gaining in-depth insights on local investors' appetite.

Apart from economic development, what progress in other fields have you witnessed in China in the past 40 years?

As a global leader in pensions, we pay close attention to the retirement and pension market. We are very glad to see this industry has been progressing over the past 40 years.

Elderly care has always been one of the most important topics within Chinese households down the ages. With the socioeconomic development, people living longer and the aging population increasing at an increasingly faster pace, how to ensure that every elderly person has someone to depend on, has a place to live and has something meaningful that makes them happy becomes a key question.

We applaud the government's recent moves toward the third pillar development of the retirement and pension industry. The implementation of the tax deferred pension insurance in May 2018 was a breakthrough in this area. The approval in August of the first batch of 14 pension target funds in China also marked a new step in the development of China's third pillar pensions market.

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