AsianInvestor's Top 10 sovereign wealth fund (SWF) executives in Asia list is aimed at recognising exceptional senior executives -- from CEOs and CIOs to alternatives and sustainability specialists -- responsible for leading the industry’s growth and development.
With the right governance structures in place, SWFs can be particularly valuable in preserving and growing a nation's savings.
We believe it is important to acknowledge the role key individuals play in boosting the influence of SWFs in the region, especially as these entities are set to grow in importance in coming years.
It's also important to recognise that not all SWFs are the same – they can have vastly different mandates and investment goals. AsianInvestor recognised those differences as we created our list.
You can find out more about the rationale for our Top 10 SWF executives in Asia list here.
Today, we highlight two senior executives from Brunei and China.
Head of alternatives, head of listed assets, executive manager, Brunei Investment Agency
Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) is one of the more established sovereign wealth funds in Asia, having launched in 1983, when the region was slowly warming to the idea of entities managing sovereign wealth in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.
More impressively, BIA also has a long history of investing in alternatives, including snapping up prime properties overseas since the 1980s and making private equity bets for more than 20 years.
Fronting BIA’s activities in these areas is Noorsurainah Tengah, head of alternatives and head of listed assets .
She was one of the more obvious choices in AsianInvestor's Top 10 SWF executives in Asia list, as industry observers were unanimous in acknowledging Tengah is a driving force in successfully steering various aspects of BIA's alternatives portfolio over the years.
While the fund does not publicly disclose details of its assets under management, its alternatives portfolio includes private equity, absolute return, commodities and multi-asset strategies, Tengah told FinanceAsia in a 2022 interview.
Tengah has worked at BIA since 2007 in a variety of roles, including head of absolute return and commodities, a portfolio manager for UK gilts and credit research analyst.
While the fund has kept a low-profile on private market investments in 2022 and 2023, one recent example of BIA’s direct investments is its participation in Chinese driverless tech company Pony.ai’s $100 million series C round in 2021.
Another example is its $15 million investment in Indian meat and seafood brand Licious in June 2021.
Within real estate, it has an admirable track record of buying luxury premium properties overseas right from the 1980s.
BIA owns The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, bought in 1987, as well as the Grand Hyatt Singapore Hotel, among many other presitigious hotel properties in its portfolio.
BIA’s private equity investments are managed through a combination of funds, direct investments and co-investments.
The sovereign entity also has a hedge fund strategy since 2012, with all the strategies believed to be externally managed.
BIA has also adapted with the times: around 2020, it launched its first new vertical in almost two decades – a multi-asset strategy that aims to assemble an optimal beta portfolio of passive long holdings.
BIA has also been active in ensuring its portfolio has a fair share of investment bets focused on long-trend themes, such as sustainable investments, Asia consumption and technology-enabled disruption.
Sustainability, in particular, is a big topic of discussion within the fund, which is looking at ways to incorporate sustainability principles, both internally within teams as well as investment strategy.
Engagement efforts with portfolio companies include conversation on gender diversity on boards – an increasingly important topic for asset owners around the world.
Similar to the fund constantly seeking to keep itself abreast of changing times, Tengah is also a firm believer in upgrading her skills constantly: besides having an economics degree. Tengah also has portfolio management, leadership management and leadership qualifications from Harvard Business School, London Business School, and Alliance Manchester Business School.
She is also a chartered financial analyst and chartered alternative investment analyst.
She has previously said that the most important component on BIA’s balance sheet is not the AUM – it’s the people.
No doubt her progressive leadership has been instrumental in making BIA the astute private markets investor that it is today.
Chairman and CEO, China Investment Corporation
As leader of the world’s second-largest sovereign wealth fund, Peng Chun is one of the heavyweights in Asia's SWF industry.
Peng joined China Investment Corporation (CIC) in 2019 from China’s Bank of Communications (BoCom), where he was chairman.
His experience of more than 20 years in a state-owned financial entity, where he led BoCom's successful transition from fully-owned by the state to a listed entity with diversified business operations, will come in extremely useful as he pilots the mega wealth fund.
With $1.24 trillion in assets under management, the sovereign fund operates a highly diversified portfolio with investments in over 110 geographies across all major asset classes.
Under Peng’s leadership, CIC has made notable progress in allocating investments overseas -- especially to alternatives -- while keeping an eye on sustainability.
The fund has steadily increased its alternative assets exposure since 2017, up from 38.1% then to 53.2% by the end of 2022.
In doing so, it has accomplished its 50% target allocation to private markets in the overseas portfolio. Offshore investments accounted for about 40% of the total AUM.
“Our alternative asset investments have yielded favourable results in terms of capturing illiquidity premia, stabilising portfolio returns, and hedging against inflation, thus helping to buffer the company's total portfolio against market volatility,” CIC said in its 2022 report released in December 2023.
The annualised cumulative 10-year net return on CIC's overseas investments stood at 6.43% in dollar terms at the end of December 2022 -- beating the 10-year performance target by 26 basis points.
The annualised cumulative growth of state-owned capital under CIC's management since inception in 2007 also came in at 12.67%.
“All of the primary objectives and targets set out in the China Investment Corporation Strategic Plan 2018-2022 were successfully accomplished,” Peng noted in the latest annual report.
In response to China’s ambition to become carbon-neutral by 2060, CIC in May 2022 developed guidelines to reach carbon neutrality and implement sustainable investing.
The wealth fund is already actively engaged in thematic investments relating to climate change and energy transition.
In April 2023, it also launched an action plan to achieve carbon neutrality in daily operations.
CIC adheres to responsible investing practices to fuel green development across the world and seeks to build a global ecosystem for cross-border investments, Peng told the fund’s annual forum held in Hong Kong in September last year.
The sovereign entity has an energy transition portfolio that boasts investments in natural gas power generation, liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure, fossil fuel transition, renewable energy, and transportation electrification.
CIC also launched a dedicated energy transition sub-strategy in 2022 and has since developed new partnership models with top-tier managers and sought out investment opportunities in emerging technologies and innovative business models.
In the home market, CIC plays a crucial role as an “active shareholder” in Chinese financial institutions which are mostly state-owned banks, securities companies, and insurance companies.
It refined what it calls the “Huijin Model” and actively participates in the resolution of distressed financial institutions to ensure China’s financial market stability.
Heading into 2024, CIC is set to focus on state-owned financial capital management to ensure the country’s financial industry better serves the real economy while maintaining market stability.
It is also poised to continue enhancing its capabilities in direct overseas investments.