Asian Private Banker: Meet the family office behind Hong Kong’s ultimate lifestyle destination

March 21, 2024

The Mills (南豐紗廠), a landmark revitalisation project of the Nan Fung Group, opened in 2018 and is now a must-go place for many Hong Kong locals and their furry friends.

The project, a historical cotton mill turned trendy boutique market, connects Hong Kong’s cultural heritage with modern innovation, and arguably reflects the core values of Nan Fung Trinity, the family office arm of the conglomerate group founded by the Chen family in the 1950s.

“One of the reasons that I joined the firm is I really believe in the group’s philosophy of doing well and doing good in combination. Compared to when I joined the firm five years ago, the team has become even more institutionalised and innovative in everything around investment,” according to Helen Zhu, managing director & CIO at Nan Fung Trinity.

Helen Zhu, Nan Fung Trinity

The family office arm focuses on multiple asset classes including public securities, structured products, private direct investments and private fund of funds. It manages assets for the Nan Fung Group and third-party institutional and professional investors.

Nan Fung Group was founded in 1954, the same year as the aforementioned cotton mill. It is a privately held conglomerate headquartered in Hong Kong, with investments in real estate, life sciences, and financials.

“We have a team of 40 based in Hong Kong. We also have a dedicated big data team to support investment and daily operations,” she added.

From local to global

Unlike many other local wealthy families, Nan Fung Trinity has focused on multi-asset and multi-location investments for more than decades.

“I think our advantage is we’re one of the few entities in Hong Kong that’s not just focused on China or Asia. We’ve been doing global multi-asset investing, both public and private, for years.

“On the public side, we’re very dynamic, and we can shift our positions around a lot with flexibility. And so that has always been our mandate, and therefore, it’s never been about just focusing on the local market,” Zhu said.

Such an away-from-home approach can be sometimes less favoured by local investors.

“But we’re not aiming to be everything to everybody, and do not need to meet every single investor’s needs,” she noted.

She added that some high net worth individuals are tired of people pitching them ideas at the top of the cycle or strategies that do not necessarily work. What makes more sense is to “only pitch the right one” instead of “pitching whatever that sells,” she explained.

In 2021, Nan Fung Group paid US$210 million for Two Financial Center building in Boston and in previous years, the group invested into several real estate assets in the UK, including Endurance Land, Regent Quarter, 16 Old Bailey, and Cheapside House, among others.

China will come back

In terms of investment sentiment over China, Zhu believes that inflows to the region will return.

“I think China will come back, and it’s all about the gap versus expectation. And in that regard, I think the expectation towards China is just extremely low at the moment, cyclically and structurally. But if there is less noise versus before, investors will come back. I do think that there’ll be a lot of money coming back to catch up. And that could actually mean that this market will perform better this year,” she said.

Ex-BlackRock, Goldman Sachs

Before joining NF Trinity in 2019, Zhu was head of China equities for BlackRock for five years. Her responsibilities included managing various portfolios and overseeing China-related research idea generation for Asia.

Before joining BlackRock in 2014, she spent eight years at Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong, with the last role as chief China strategist.