Interview: Seth Fischer, Oasis – “I try to give to charity in the same way I build an investment portfolio”
With the SohnX Hong Kong conference only a few weeks away, HFC’s Stefan Nilsson checked in with one of the driving forces behind it, Seth Fischer, CIO of Oasis Management and co-founder of the Karen Leung Foundation.
Seth Fischer is the Chief Investment Officer of Oasis Management, a private investment fund management company, which manages global, directional and market neutral, multi-strategy funds with a primary focus on Asia. Oasis operates from offices in Hong Kong, Austin, Texas and the Cayman Islands. Seth, who has been based in Hong Kong since 2004, graduated from Yeshiva University, New York in 1993 with a BA in Political Science. He served in the Israel Defense Forces before joining Highbridge Capital Management, where he managed the firm’s Asian investment portfolio for seven years.
You co-founded the Karen Leung Foundation (KLF) following the tragic death of Karen Leung who was a trader at your firm Oasis Management. What triggered you and your co-founders to set up this charity following Karen’s passing in 2012?
It all started with a conversation I had with Karen when she was in the hospital. Karen was my friend and colleague for eight years. When she was diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was just 34, it took all of us by surprise. She died less than one year later and we miss her all the time. When you get a diagnosis like that, you throw yourself into it and you learn everything you can about it. And what we learned was that cervical cancer is widespread and deadly, but also preventable. And yet, the vaccination rate in Hong Kong was shockingly low. It’s Karen’s wish that no one else should have to suffer or die from this preventable disease. And so, we started the Karen Leung Foundation to honour and build that legacy, with a goal to raise awareness in Hong Kong about gynecological cancers and to save lives by providing all girls with the choice to be vaccinated.
What I like about KLF is that it is very focused. It is not trying to be everything to everyone. It has a narrow focus of being a Hong Kong charity solely dedicated to gynecological cancers. Was this an obvious focus when you decided to set up the organization rather than doing something broader?
When we founded the Foundation in 2013, we started by conducting an in-depth community assessment. What we saw was that there was basically no one doing this. No organisations focusing solely on education, prevention, treatment and care for gynecological cancers in Hong Kong. So, we started working to try to fill those gaps. In 2014, we launched our initial programs and services aimed at increasing awareness, educating the local community to promote prevention and early detection, and ensuring that women in treatment have access to quality care. To achieve those objectives, we collaborated and partnered with the local and international medical community, as well as other NGOs committed to improving women’s health. I believe in achieving results, and being able to measure our results. By being focused on something narrow, like gynecological cancers, we measure our impact and see if we are saving lives. There are other cancer charities, but they tend to focus on other cancers that might not be as preventable but are more widespread.
KLF has its annual Sohn Hong Kong conference coming up in May. This time it is an online event due to the ongoing pandemic. What can you tell us about the purpose and format of the Sohn Hong Kong conference?
The Sohn Hong Kong conference is KLF’s primary fundraising event for the year. The format is always to present our donors with detailed, actionable investment ideas from the leading investors in the region. We usually do that in person, albeit this year we are doing it online. That presents our speakers with an opportunity to present more interactive presentations and even more information than usual when speaking on a stage. This year, for the third time, presenters include experienced and well-known hedge fund CIOs and Next Wave speakers, who are emerging and niche managers. With all the changes and challenges in managing money as some of the world gets vaccinated and emerges from Covid and other parts are still in the throes of increasing numbers of sick people, I am very excited to hear these managers’ ideas. For the price of a ticket, you can join me in hearing them as well.
Apart from the Sohn conference, what other activities do KLF have coming up?
One of the most exciting programs we have in the pipeline is the ExtraOrdinary Exhibition 2.0. Last October we launched The ExtraOrdinary Exhibition, a community-wide health awareness campaign aimed at advancing the wellbeing of women in Hong Kong through visual arts. People can sometimes feel uneasy talking about gynecological cancers and the stigma surrounding them, so we wanted to shift the narrative into something more positive. The Exhibition is about celebrating and showcasing theme-appropriate artworks, and creating a space where women and their partners and families could come together, learn, engage and foster an open dialogue about their personal experiences on women’s health. With workshops and expert panels that promoted themes of self-care and female empowerment, the Exhibition saw great momentum and will continue on in the 2.0 version this fall in various locations across Hong Kong, so stay tuned for updates.
In addition to KLF, you are also involved in other community organisations, such as being a Board Member of the Carmel School and Vice Chairman of the Ohel Leah Synagogue Management Committee. What drives your charitable efforts and how do you decide on what causes to support?
I was raised in a home where charity was a core value. Charity begins locally, in one’s community — Hong Kong — and then radiates outwards. I try to give to charity in the same way I build an investment portfolio: with diversification of a number of individually great investments, that all have leverage to create a wider impact. Healthcare, like the important work KLF is doing, is a core investment, as well as education, poverty, community, and skills training. Once I have decided on what my overall “sector” exposures are, then I try to find the top quartile performers and monitor them closely. Some of my giving, just like my investment portfolio, is made up of longer-term bets with long-term payoffs, and some are short- to medium-term. Feeding someone today is short-term. Job training is medium-term. Think tanks to consider and recommend public policy changes are long-term.
The SohnX Hong Kong conference takes place on 20th May. For the latest program, speakers and tickets, please visit. The Hedge Funds Club is proud to support this initiative.
SohnX Hong Kong Virtual Investment Leaders Conference 2021 | Karen Leung Foundation