#GenerationTrader: Valuing diversity on the desk

Published on 24 October 2022

Having the expertise to trade across multiple markets is fundamental to effective investing in the Asia Pacific region. In order to support this, a trading desk needs to be aware not only of blending relationship and quant skills within its dealing team, but also of the local expertise it holds.

Conscious of the value this diversity holds, Kai Chang, senior trader at Ninety One, tells us how his career path developed into trading, the role and had in building the Asia Pacific trading desk at Ninety One, and how it has supported the development of greater diversity within the trading team.

Transcript of Interview:

Dan Barnes: Welcome to Trader TV #GenerationTrader where we look at institutional trading and the impact that diversity can have on trading teams and portfolio management in the investment management industry.

Joining me today is Kai Chang from Ninety One. Kai, welcome to the show.

Kai Chang: As you’ll be here. Thanks, Dan.

Dan Barnes: So to start with, can you tell us what was your education path before you entered into finance?

Kai Chang: I had a fairly conventional academic background. At uni, I studied a double degree, a law degree combined with a finance degree, albeit early, early on it was clear to me that the legal profession probably wasn’t going to be my calling. So I did focus more on the finance aspect and during my time at uni I was quite lucky to be able to spend a few summers at various internships at local investment banks down in Sydney where I studied.

Dan Barnes: Your first role came fairly soon after the global financial crisis. What was it like joining the markets at that time and what was your route then into trading?

Kai Chang: So my graduating year was 2009, which meant I spent the early part of 2009 applying for graduate jobs in financial markets, which, as you can probably appreciate, at that time was a little bit difficult to come by, which meant I had to pivot a little. I spent my first year at uni KPMG in the tax team. A year later, in 2010, I was very lucky to be accepted into the graduate program at an Australian Asset manager, Colonial First State Asset Management. Now recently rebranded as First Sentier Investors, I was able to spend a few months in various teams across the business, including the fixed income team, and at the end of the program, I was quite lucky to be offered a full time role with the fixed income team initially in Sydney and shortly thereafter relocated to Hong Kong to join the Asia fixed income team. Within a year or two there was a newly created role on the trading desk and since then I have been in a classic execution role in one capacity or another. Having started in the fixed income team more recently, since 2019, here at Ninety One, I’ve been in a more multiasset capacity. So fixed income effects as well as equities.

Dan Barnes: And what is it about trading that appeals to you?

Kai Chang: Trading is a personal business in the sense that ultimately it is about your relationships within investment teams and also with your various trading counterparties. As someone who just loves the buzz of being around people, working with people, interacting with people, as part of my day to day, it was just a very natural fit for me.

Dan Barnes: Thank you very much. What would you say are the drivers for increasing diversity on the trading desk and across which aspects?

Kai Chang: There’s a couple of ways to look at diversity. One is diversity of background. That’s obviously male, female, cultural and language. And secondly, it’s a diversity of experience and technical expertise. Both aspects are increasingly important for a role like trading. Fx Asia is comprised of many different local markets and have members of the team of different backgrounds which often creates the natural fit when trading in different local markets.

Recently here on the Asia Execution Desk at Ninety One, we’ve grown from a team of two to a team of three as part of the recruitment process. We intentionally look for someone who would be able to broaden the experience and skill set and by definition, diversity of the team. When we had two people on the desk, the other trader was from Hong Kong doing background trades, full time equities, and that’s very much where his experience lies.

Myself, I grew up in Australia and my professional experience has very much been on the fixed income side. The third person that has recently joined us at Ninety One, she is from our mainland Chinese background too. She’s actually from the sell-side and in contrast to my credit focus, she has more of a macro focus and also from an academic perspective, she’s a little bit more quantitative.

Engagement is key and having a more diverse team of background and experience, which is better equipped to engage with a broader set of relationships, because they’ll be people that I probably get along with a little bit better and they’ll be people where that’s the case for my colleague, naturally, it just broadens the relationships into the market and we are in a people business. We’re in a relationship business.

Dan Barnes: That’s been fantastic. Thank you so much.

Kai Chang: Thanks for having me, Dan.

Dan Barnes: I’d like to thank Kai for his insights today, and of course to you for watching. To catch up on our other shows or to subscribe to our newsletter, go to TRADERTV.NET.