发表时间： 2023-03-09 08:00:00
Irene Zhou, a senior journalist with YICAI Media Group (aka China Business News) and Head of the Content Committee with HerValue, has extensive experience in global financial reporting, particularly skilled in reporting on global macroeconomic dynamics and the asset management industry. She has covered events such as the Davos Forum and IMF Annual Meetings, and has conducted exclusive interviews with executives from various international institutions, top foreign banks, and asset management , including IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, J.P. Morgan Chairman Jamie Dimon, MSCI Chairman Henry Fernandez, Fidelity International CEO Anne Richards, Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio, etc. She is familiar with the development of domestic and foreign asset management institutions, and is dedicated to conveying the most authentic voices of the industry.
Author's note: During the whole interview, the most impressive word was "witness and record". Irene told us about her experience as a financial journalist, witnessing and recording China’s financial market liberalization that has attracted more and more overseas investors to explore China onshore market. She also shared some "practical wisdom" - "be interest-oriented, bide your time and do the right things,then dots will eventually form a line."
1. Could you briefly share your past experience (including but not limited to study experience, work experience, etc.)?
My grandfather was a skilled surgeon and had a command over multiple languages, I have always harbored a childhood dream of becoming a linguist. Later, I followed my interests and chose to study conference/simultaneous interpretation in the Translation Department of Fudan University, with a focus on international finance and political affairs.
At that time, most of our training material came from the press conferences at which Premier met with Chinese and foreign press and answered their questions during the Two Sessions(China’s NPC and CPPCC Sessions). Since then, I have developed a keen interest in journalism, particularly in the domains of finance and politics. I believe that language serves as means of communication, and to really acquire proficiency in a foreign language, one's thinking must also become more inclusive or all-embracing, to seek common ground while reserving differences, hence the term "global citizen".
My second degree is in International Finance and I also later pursued a postgraduate degree in Corporate Finance and Investment Management at the University of Hong Kong. I am also a volunteer at the CFA Institute in Shanghai. After my graduation, I worked as an interpreter and language coach for some time. Then, due to various coincidences, I was inspired by my mentor (Ting Yan, now a senior Press Officer with IMF in Washington DC), who is also my senior at the university, to become a journalist in the field of finance and economics.
I started my career in financial media covering international finance, especially the global central banking. Earlier in my career, I have had the privilege of covering major international forums such as the Davos Forum, the IMF Spring Meeting, and the G20 Summit. I have also interviewed many central bank governors and global bankers, including Jamie Dimon (see "Exclusive interview with Jamie Dimon - JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon Has a China Ambition", https://www.yicaiglobal.com/opinion/columnist/jpmorgan-chase--jamie-dimon-has-a-china-ambition-). Later on, the areas I covered expanded from global macroeconomic policies to China's macro economy, asset management industry, and stock and bond markets. I have also witnessed the process of China's A-shares and bonds being included in flagship indices such as MSCI Emerging Markets Index and BBGA . I did an exclusive interview in 2018 with MSCI's Chairman, Henry Fernandez, right after the inclusion. As early as 2018, I began covering the now-popular ESG investment, and personally participated in writing the first ESG flagship report, which has become the first of its kind published by a financial media outlet in China (see "YICAIl's 2021 ESG Research Report: Bracing up for ESG disclosure and seizing the new trend of responsible investment").
Flagship report on ESG information disclosure and ESG investment
Initially, my motivation for learning the language was to serve as a bridge between China and the rest of the world, and to see myself as a global citizen. Now, fortunately I am still playing the role of this "bridge" in a different way.
2. Based on your past experience, what do you think is the most critical choice you have made? And why did you make that choice in the first place?
The most critical choice was probably the transition from being an interpreter to a financial journalist. Originally, I was only translating people's ideas,but now I’ve become be an observer and storytelle. I write about the difficulties faced by overseas investors in expanding their business in China, and try to present a full picture to readers both at home and abroad. This also gave me a broader perspective on the financial industry..
Another important career change was that I originally covered overseas fiancial markets, but later had an opportunity to switch to reporting on China's wealth/asset management industry. Although I did not change professions, it was still a huge transition that required me to step out of the comfort zone. Looking back now, the cost of this change was not as high as it might think, and it actually opened up a new perspective for me. Nowadays, I conduct interviews with fund managers from both domestic and overseas fund houses, track their research ideas and business strategies. When I made the transition, I did have to start from scratch and establish new connections with institutions, but life is a process of constantly stepping out of our comfort zones and pushing our boundaries. We also have to be patient and bide our time.
Irene organized and hosted the Roundtable: "New Starting Point of China's Asset Management 2.0 Era——Global asset managers tapping into the Trillion-Dollar Market".
Throughout the whole time, I always chose to focus on the areas that I was particularly interested in. For example, when I first started in the industry, there were several days every month where I had to work late until three or four in the morning, listening to the live broadcast of the Federal Open Market Committee （FOMC） meeting and covering the key messages. Driven by my interest, I was eager to learn and never tired.,
3. Based on your past experience, what is the best advice you would like to share?
First, guided by interest, connect the dots and continue learning. The external environment is constantly changing, and we need to continuously expand our knowledge base. Whichever industry you are in, a common recipe toward improvement is to be guided by interests and not to rush to achieve success. As Steve Jobs said, "connecting the dots and then it will become a line," we need to keep accumulating knowledge over time, and to ensure that we are moving in the right direction. There is no need to fear spending time on accumulation and waiting, which is the same as the Chinese saying "hide your light and bide your time" or "accumulate sand to form a tower."
Second, don’t be afraid to try or take a transition, for the cost of trying is not as high as you might think. But if you don't dare to try, you may end up stuck in your past field and may miss out on new opportunities. Life is long, as the book "Hundred-Year Life" says, it's important to plan for the long term. However, if you start planning too late, you may find it difficult to summon the courage to switch careers or life paths. Therefore, it's important to make right decisions at the right timing and don’t be afraid to tap new areas.
Third, apart from work, other interests in life are also very important.. 8-9 pm is often a period of fatigue, but the difference between running ahead of peers may also occur during that time. I would spend half an hour each day to accumulate a new interest or skill, for example, I learnt Cantonese, Japanese, certain sports, etc. If you use your fragmented time wisely, you may develop a new professional skill , rather than just idling away time.
Fourth, in one’s youth, make more friends who share your interests. In addition, having a mentor is also crucial. Perhaps just a few simple pointers can enlighten you. Finding the right direction for yourself is very important.
4. As a senior financial journalist, can you share with us your understanding of the relationship between financial media and the financial/wealth management industry (including but not limited to how financial media can better contribute to the development of the capital market, etc.) and how you see the recent trend of the rise of new media and the spurt of self-publishing?
As journalist for a traditional financial media outlet, I believe in professionalism and influence positive changes. I have witnessed thee journey of overseas investors into China, recorded the obstacles they encountered during the process, and tried to promote China's financial system to further align with international best practices..I aim to show overseas investors a true picture of the domestic asset management industry through our professional reporting and interviews, and to also let domestic investors understand the investment strategies of foreign financial institutions.
The year 2017 marked a key turning point as China commenced a new round of era of financial liberalization. Previously, foreign firms were not allowed to hold majority stakes, but now they are allowed to have full ownership in securities ventures, fund houses and life insurance companies. For example, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan have all taken full ownership of their China securities business. As a financial journalist, I have been witnessing the new round of financial opening from 2017 until now, covering a wide range of domestic and foreign investment banks and asset managers. We regularly conduct interviews with their executives, including "Exclusive interview with Patrick Liu, CEO of Neuberger Berman: The road to China's asset management has no shortcut after 15 years of hard work" (https://m.yicai.com/news/100530034.html), "Exclusive Interview with MSCI Chairman: HKEX A50 futures have strategic significance, expanding the inclusion of A-shares still needs to overcome three hurdles" (https://m.yicai.com/news/101156483.html), "Exclusive Interview with CG Lai, CEO of BNP Paribas China: Innovative products such as interest rate options are ready, and the construction of an international financial center will accelerate" (https://m.yicai.com/news/100518283.html).
Since 2018, China embarks on the next stage of its integration into global financial market. The catalyst is the inclusion of Chinese stocks and bonds in a larger number of global financial-market indexes such as MSCI EM index and BBGA.
Such inclusion could attract significant flows of foreign investment. According to an IMF report published in 2019, “assets tracking the Bloomberg Barclays index could total $2 trillion to $2.5 trillion. Assuming an expected weighting of 6 percent, China can expect to see an additional $150 billion of inflows by 2020”.
This trend of rising foreign ownership is likely to accelerate further.MSCI research indicates that China's contribution to the global economy and corporate earnings stands at 16%, but its market capitalization is merely 4% of the global market capitalization-weighted index. This is a reflection of two main issues: listed companies in less developed capital markets typically have fewer free float shares, and Chinese A-shares are not yet fully included in the global index. As the inclusion factor increases in the future, there may be more international capitals flowing into the Chinese market.
My goal is to show a true picture of the domestic market to oversas investors through our professional reports, and also to reflect the challenges that foreign investors may encounter when making inroad into this market. Hopefully our efforts will help further align the Chinese market with "International Best Practices".
For example, in 2018, I conducted an exclusive interview with Anne Richards, CEO of Fidelity International. At that time, the company, still operating as wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE) indicated the idea of applying for mutual fund license in onshore China to offer investment products to China’s vast retail market. With a strong footprint in pensionst, Fidelity also taps the China market with a mission to help investors achieve their long-term financial goals. As an institution with long-term horizon, Fidelity has been actively investing in China for over 20 years before it finally announced that it had obtained the Securities and Futures Business License issued by the CSRC on December 9, 2022. At the same time, China's third-pillar individual pension scheme also set sail. When the AUM and investment management qualification reach a certain requirement, foreign mutual funds can also provide pension products to domestic investors. We will continue to cover this area in the future.
Furthermore, there are other alternative investors who also demonstrate a strong interest in the Chinese market. For example, Bridgewater Associates, whose all-weather strategy products in China are popular among HNWIs, has quickly grown in AUM to exceed RMB 20 billion in just two years, almost surpassing the total AUMs of WFOE PFMs that are mostly long-only investors. Performance holds the key. When most funds suffered from up to 20-30% drawdowns in 2022, Bridgewater still managed to deliver around 5% positive returns in onshore China market. I also did an exclusive interview with Joanna Sun Alpert, Bridgewater's China general manager and fund manager (see "Exclusive | Bridgewater China: How to go through cycles with the ‘All-Weather’ Strategy in China market" https://m.yicai.com/news/101616060.html).
Some foreign asset managers have taken a different approach——QDLP. Instead of launching products in the onshore China market, they choose to raise money in renminbi from HNWI and institutional mainland investors to invest offshore.QDLP enables them to provide Chinese investors with more diversified global investment opportunities over the long term. Pictet and PIMCO are among the overseas asset managers that are leveraging the QDLP quota.
Speaking of the changes brought by new media to traditional media, new media did bring a lot of pressure to us at the very beginning. We have to constantly catch up with their pace. Before 2014, traditional media was keen on conduct in-depth reporting. For print media, it was only necessary to edit the articles in the evening and publish them the next day. However, later we also gradually transformed into new media, with 24-hour continuous reporting and real-time response. At present, most traditional media that still survive have made successful transitions. I think the credibility of mainstream media has actually emerged stronger because of its professionalism.
In fact, I also write columns for the new media account “Chin@ Moments”. In 2015, Qin Shuo launched the new media "Chin@ Moments" (around 2 million subscribers around the globe), covering news on economics, finance and business in the forms of Wechat, Weibo, video and audio programs. Qin Shuo was named General manager of China Business Network in 2009. The articles may have slightly different writing styles, but the common point is professionalism, which comes from writers’ in-depth understanding of the industries.
5. Why do you want to join and build HerValue community?
I got to know about HerValue because of Ge Yin, co-Founder of HerValue and Partner with Han Kun Law Offices. The first time I met Yin was during an interview in 2019, and the topic was about how Shanghai could become an international asset management hub. Since then, we have been exchanging ideas about the industry as our areas of interest overlap. From her, I also saw that independent, confident, and professional women shine brightly. It is important to note that we are in the HerValue community because our values are aligned. Here, we advocate for diversity, and the idea of “girls empowering girls”.
HerValue Sharing from Inrene Zhou:
It’s important to be a “global citizen” in this seemingly de-globalized world. Global finance and trade are acutally intertwined in a deep way so that we need to develop a global mindset to better understand the differences in systems between countries, the underlying causes of conflicts, and become more tolerant and empathetic towards others.
Jolyce Ma,Member of HerValue Knowledge Committee, a growing transctional laywer.
Julia Shen,Member of HerValue Knowledge Committee,LLM Candidate, Northwestern，A newbie who is continuously learning about finance.
Shirley Liang,Member of HerValue Knowledge Committee, majoring in international law and finance, a fresh hand in cross-border finance regulatory industry.