Li Ting has built a career in asset management. Her story began along traditional lines. After getting a masters degree in finance in the U.S., she won an internship at State Street Global Advisors, and there she would stay for more than a decade.
She worked her way up, first as a risk manager, and then a portfolio manager for U.S. fixed income, before moving to Hong Kong in 2005. She would go on to play a leading role in the firm’s story in Asia. First she set up SSGA’s investment risk framework for Asia Pacific, putting together a system for monitoring risk. Then Li developed the firm’s China business from scratch. “China sales became a big contributor to the firm,” she said, thanks to SSGA’s ability to capture the rapid accumulation of national wealth among Asian sovereign wealth funds, central banks and major pension funds.
She capped her career at State Street as head of Asia ex-Japan, managing the entire business. But even as she reached the heights of the asset-management industry, she felt the winds change. “The accumulation of national wealth began to slow,” she said. “Now the growth is among the middle classes.”
That led her to look for ways to reach these individuals – and traditional fund managers weren’t best positioned to do that. In 2015 she joined what would become Yunfeng Financial Group, a Hong Kong-licensed brokerage that was taken over by the private investment vehicle of mainland Chinese entrepreneurs Jack Ma and David Yu.
As CEO, she led last year’s introduction of its YouYu robo advisor, which provides a new way to distribute active mutual funds to Hong Kong investors, and now is doing B2B business for one bank as well. “Asset management’s opportunity is to reach individuals,” she said – and that means doing so through digital means.