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Monthly Archives: May 2014
The winners at the Eurekahedge Asian Hedge Fund Awards 2014 included Orchid China (Best Greater China Hedge Fund), Terra Grove Japan (Best Asian Quant Fund), Hayate Japan Equity Long Short (Best Japan Hedge Fund and Best Asian Long/Short Equities Fund), Regal Amazon Market Neutral (Best Asian Relative Value Fund), K2 Asian Absolute Return (Best Asia ex-Japan Hedge Fund), SFP Value Realization (Best Asian Event Driven Fund and Best Asian Hedge Fund), Boronia Diversified (Best Asia-based CTA/Managed Futures Fund), GCI Japan Hybrids (Best Asian Multi-Strategy Hedge Fund) and Fortress Asia Macro (Best Singapore-based Hedge Fund and Best Asia-based Macro Fund).
Prerna Chainani-Monsen, CEO, Maison Monsen
Prerna Chainani-Monsen is well-known in Hong Kong’s hedge fund community. Having earlier gone from investment banking to jewellery to hedge funds, she has recently launched her own fashion clothing business, Maison Monsen. Hedge Funds Club’s Stefan Nilsson decided to have a conversation with the fashionable Prerna about the passions in her life.
You went from investment banking to jewellery to hedge funds and now you’ve launched your own fashion clothing business. Tell us about your journey.
I grew up in Hong Kong and went to university in London – both financial capitals where the careers environment in the 90s was largely geared towards banking, as were my interests at the time. It was only some years later living in New York, with so much creative and entrepreneurial energy at my doorstep, that I stepped out to launch my own jewellery business. When in 2008 the price of gold made inventory too dear to produce and too valuable to sell, I returned to finance. It was also a time when the relative energy in Asia felt compelling. So I came back home and found hedge fund marketing was a great marriage between finance and entrepreneurship. Fashion has now drawn me back to creative industry, but I still enjoy keeping in touch with and learning from friends in fund management.
You and your husband, a hedge fund investor, are based in Hong Kong but you have chosen workshops in New York to produce your products. What’s the thinking behind this?
Three things: quality, scalability and demand. The lower quality/price-point, China-made space is too competitive these days to be viable or fun. On the other end of the spectrum, high-end luxury, “Made in Italy,” etc, has prohibitively high barriers to entry. In the middle ground, New York-made speaks to the everyday luxury market, which is one of the fastest growing segments. Moreover, producing closer to home in China may appear to be cheaper on a per unit basis, but high minimum quantity requirements can be crippling for a small business. Coupled with that, frequent delays and errors, factory closures and rising labour costs are squeezing the China savings margin to the point where the US is increasingly becoming a better value proposition, not just for small brands but for larger, more established companies too. It is also a demand-driven decision. Made in New York/USA is experiencing a global revival. Asian shopper tastes are evolving to favour more artisanal, independent brands that have a story to tell, over fast-fashion and the more conspicuous luxury names.
You are an Indian-born Hongkonger who has also lived in New York and London and your husband is Norwegian. How does your international background show in your designs?
Legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland once quipped “Pink is the navy blue of India” (she was referring to a particularly hot shade). My aesthetic is a mix of that sub-continental heat and a Scandinavian cool. Clean lines, filled with bursts of colour.
Do you see any big differences in fashion marketing compared to when you worked in business development in the hedge fund industry?
They are actually very similar. Discerning buyers, high-value products and the expectation of a high-return experience. It’s about selling quality.
Who are your designer heroes and influencers?
Designers that excel both technically and aesthetically – who have made beautiful things (not just clothes) that are also beautifully functional and thereby timeless. In the fashion business in particular, I am inspired by the longevity and continuing relevance of Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren. I suppose a fashion hero to me is someone who has succeeded in conveying their own artistic point-of-view while building a long term commercially sound business.
Was working in investment banking and the hedge fund industry just a way to make money and design and fashion are your real passions?
I think you have to have some passion for finance to spend a decade behind a desk, through financial crises and with smaller shops where the pay is not quite what the “Wolf of Wall Street” would have you believe. I think the real passion is not for finance or fashion as much as it is for being an entrepreneur.
What are your plans for the future? Are we likely to see another reincarnation of you in a new role?
Current plans are to organically grow Maison Monsen. Beyond that and if and when opportunity presents, who knows? Apparently, we are entering a good vintage for fashion venture capital. If it lasts for a few years, it would be interesting to see how growth funding could take us to the next level.
The Eurekahedge Japanese hedge fund index for was down for the fourth consecutive month in April. However, the Japanese hedge funds have outperformed the Nikkei 225 Index by more than 10% year-to-date.
Och-Ziff in Hong Kong has hired Junji Okumura from Morgan Stanley in Tokyo as an analyst to cover Japanese equities. Earlier in his career Okumura was with Goldman Sachs, CVC Capital Partners and KPMG.
Bernard Lock, formerly head of Asia for FX Concepts, is reportedly preparing to launch his own currency fund.
CQS is expanding in Asia. It has hired Fawaz Habel and Tan Yi-Kai from Value Partners to build the firm’s Asian credit investment capabilities in Hong Kong. CQS wants to further expand its research, operations and execution capabilities in Asia. It currently has 16 people in the Hong Kong office.
Symphony Financial Partners has hired Barbara Safranek as its Singapore-based head of client services. Symphony manages Japanese equity and Asian macro strategies. Safranek has spent most of her career in New York with firms such as 1794 Commodore Funds, Seven Global, Ivy Funds, Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch and SG Warburg.
SinoPac Asset Management in Hong Kong has launched the Accudo Asian Value Arbitrage Fund with Manuel Schlabbers as portfolio manager. He was previously at Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley.
Woori Absolute Partners has been named best fund of hedge fund manager by AsianInvestor at the annual Korea Awards. Brain Asset Management won the award for best new hedge fund launch.