Australian fund managers grab wealth opportunities in China

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It's not just investment bankers who are looking to capitalise on the stellar growth of the Chinese economy - global fund managers also want to crash the party.

National Australia Bank (NAB) said last week that it will expand its A$7 billion wealth management business, MLC, into China. The bank's chief executive, Ahmed Fahour, believes it is hard to ignore China's growth story. What's more, he hopes that in the long-term, the company's Chinese business will compete in size with its A$8 billion UK operations.

NAB is not the only Australian bank that is preparing to benefit from China's colossal economic growth. Macquarie Bank has also been expanding in the region and said Monday it had hired two senior bankers for its China-based corporate finance team.

Robert Xie, the former managing director and founding chairman of BOC International's private equity group, has been appointed as managing director and head of private equity in China. Barbara Zhang, who was previously head of the China division for Deutsche Bank's global investment banking team, has accepted the role as managing director for the telecommunication and utilities sectors.

Macquarie Bank said the two hires will boost the group's capabilities as they move to the next stage of growth in China and elsewhere in Asia. "It is interesting to see the hires at Macquarie" says Oliver Darkes, principal consultant at Sydney search firm Carmichael Fisher. "Macquarie is following the lead from larger institutional players like Citigroup and Goldman Sachs who are in the market already."

Hong Kong benefits too

As MLC and Macquarie Bank expand into mainland China, they are leveraging off their operations in Hong Kong. The historical 'stepping stone' to the mainland, Hong Kong itself is seeing a banking and finance jobs revival after enduring five years of deflation.

Two executive search consultants there say they anticipate that several Hong Kong-based fund management positions will become available this year as foreign asset management companies increase their businesses in the Chinese market.

It should come as no surprise that more and more foreign fund managers are tapping into the world's fastest growing economy. After all, China's 1.3 billion people have around 13 trillion Yuan (A$2.2 trillion) in individual savings while the country's 300 billion Yuan (A$50 billion) fund management industry is expected to further grow as the government deregulates its superannuation system.

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