Bank of China NZ (BOC) has hired well-known NZ funds management figure, Mark Ford, to run its nascent investment business.
Ford joined BOC last week, replacing the bank’s former NZ head of family office, Eric Wei, who took up the newly-created position of director wealth management Asia with broking firm FNZC last November.
In 2016 Wei set up a BOC world-first offshore funds management arm to meet the local investment criteria for immigrants arriving in NZ under concessionary ‘investor visas’. Under the BOC structure eligible immigrant investors access a wholesale portfolio investment entity fund with three outsourced managers: AMP Capital and Nikko for fixed income (which represents 80 per cent of the portfolio); and, Devon Funds Management for NZ equities.
“Eric did a great job of setting up the infrastructure of a funds management business,” Ford said. “It’s a genuinely interesting opportunity with a fascinating distribution potential.”
He said the market for the BOC fund included both new visa clients tapped via the Chinese parent bank channel as well as existing immigrants who have not yet fulfilled the NZ investment requirements.
“There’s a lot of capacity in NZ for funds management manufacturing but distribution is limited,” Ford said. “But even capturing just a small percentage of the Chinese market could be huge [in NZ dollar terms].”
The BOC investor visa fund sits at about $300 million with another tranche of clients due to invest soon.
Government rules permit potential immigrants with at least $1.5 million to invest in NZ assets to move to the country without meeting the usual immigration criteria. The Department of Immigration offers two investor visa options: category 1 for those with $1.5 million and up to $10 million to invest in NZ assets; and, category 2 applies to those with $10 million and more to invest.
While the new Labour government has promised a crackdown on some immigrant exemption categories, its stated policy does not touch on the investor visa option.
Ford said the role was more “strategic” than marketing-focused given the strong distribution pipeline through BOC with oversight of operations, maintaining internal bank and external relationships (such as Immigration NZ), and tweaking the investment proposition as needed.
For example, as the fund grows BOC could add a second NZ equity manager to complement Devon, he said.
Most recently Ford served in the Auckland Investment Office (AIO), the Auckland City Council entity launched in 2013 to co-ordinate funding opportunities across the council’s asset base. Prior to joining AIO in December 2016 he served as head of business attraction and investment for another Auckland Council subsidiary, Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development, for about three years from March 2013.
However, Ford is better-known in the financial services industry for a string of high-profile funds management roles dating back to an almost seven-year stint as head of institutional business for ING NZ (ultimately subsumed under ANZ) from September 1999. In 2006 he co-founded Mint Asset Management along with Rebecca Thomas before bailing out of the boutique some two years later.
Later Ford spent two years as principal wealth strategy at BNZ before a 10-month transition role at Huljich Wealth Management before it joined the Fisher Funds stable in 2011.