AsianInvestor: Chasing her passion: Up close and personal with the NF Trinity CIO

March 8, 2024

From the world’s largest asset manager to the Nan Fung family office, Helen Zhu knows her biggest strength lies in always pushing herself out of the comfort zone.

Helen Zhu, investment chief of family office NF Trinity, thrives on speed and change – she talks rapidly, walks fast, and offers quick bursts of on-point market commentary.

The Hong Kong-based executive has combined personal charisma, easy approachability, determination, and an enduring passion for finance to become one of the most influential women in the city’s investment and family office arena.

Even after more than 20 years in finance, there are no signs of her passion flaming out.

“Not a single day is boring,” she says.

The veteran money manager, who started her career on Wall Street, has seen varying stages of financial markets and economies – she has seen the dotcom era of the early 2000s and experienced China’s meteoric rise around the same time.

Her resume includes working with some of the biggest names in finance, including Goldman Sachs and BlackRock.

Now with Hong Kong business conglomerate Nan Fung Group’s NF Trinity, Zhu has managed to join another soaring part of the financial industry – family offices – as managing director and chief investment officer.

She is also a mother to four daughters, with the youngest twins only 10 years old.

“On one hand, I feel a bit guilty about not being around as much…But on the other hand, I also want to show them what women can do in their careers and give them exposure and hopefully, some ideas that they themselves can aim high and try to achieve as much as possible,” Zhu told AsianInvestor in an interview.

“It’s just such a privilege – whether you’re a woman or a man – to have this opportunity in finance. And hopefully, in the process, you can make good returns and do good for the communities and set a good example,” she said.


Zhu, who grew up in Beijing and the US, graduated from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in electrical engineering and computer science.

But she chose the road to finance over science after a few internships as she decided that was where she could make the greatest impact and stand out the most.

She also found finance fascinating as it offered larger-picture perspectives and enabled her to meet different people.

Her first job was as an investment banking analyst with Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette in New York in the late 1990s.

Amid the craze of the dotcom boom back then, deals were happening at a frenzied pace. Zhu pulled at least two all-nighters every week – it was incredibly intense, but she also learnt hugely on the job.

After two gruelling years, Zhu took a breather to briefly work in Hong Kong. The idea was that Hong Kong would be a pit stop before heading back to Wall Street.

Twenty-five years later, sitting in her office at the Nan Fung Tower in central Hong Kong, Zhu laughs as she recalls how an “interlude” turned into two decades of adventure.

She arrived in Asia’s city of skyscrapers at an opportune time: in the early 2000s, China’s economic reforms and opening up brought in dazzling dividends to the financial industry.

Zhu was handed the opportunity to work on initial public offerings of some major Chinese state-owned enterprises.

“So many incredible opportunities, structural changes, and reforms were taking place at lightning speed in front of your eyes. I think it was an unprecedented, endlessly fascinating time to be able to witness a lot of the changes that were happening in China,” she recalled.

“Every single transaction was unprecedented, and people were figuring out how to do it from scratch,” she said. “My role was, fortunately, evolving as well.”

After working in roles at ABN AMRO and Goldman Sachs, Zhu eventually was appointed head of China equities at BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, while it expanded China-related businesses.

It was a high-profile role and required her to constantly stay abreast of the rapid changes taking place in the world’s second-largest economy.

“That’s why I stayed around [in Hong Kong] for quite a long time, because nothing is really ever the same, and I’m able to constantly challenge myself, learn new things, and meet really fascinating people.”


When the NF Trinity opportunity turned up in 2019, Zhu saw it more as an entrepreneurial role that offered her greater flexibility in investment decisions and pushed her – once again – out of her comfort zone to manage a global multi-asset portfolio.

Nan Fung Group is a private conglomerate in Hong Kong founded by textile tycoon Chen Din Hwa. The business now spans property development, life sciences, shipping, and financial investments.

Zhu works alongside Nan Fung Group chairman, Hong Kong’s former financial secretary Antony Leung, and chief executive officer Vincent Cheung, who are both seasoned finance professionals and entrepreneurs, among others.

“The biggest privilege of a job in finance and investment is the ability to meet and learn from some incredibly intelligent and talented people.”

“What other roles are there in the world where you could spend a day with policymakers and industry leaders from top global institutions across various sectors, and have them take time to share insights with you on their companies and industries?”

“I would do it for free,” she laughs.

Over the past five years, Zhu has doubled NF Trinity’s headcount to over 40 staff, including over 20 investment professionals, while building a proprietary data team from scratch.

Under her leadership, the single family office also expanded its footprint to multifamily office services.

Throughout her more than two-decade career, Zhu feels lucky to have worked in organisations with a supportive culture and have good mentors, who helped her in taking calculated risks to move ahead.

She recently brought in four new members from top institutions like Ontario Teachers’​ Pension Plan and PAG – all are women.


A day in the life of Zhu consists of constantly juggling multiple tasks, yet the consummate professional now sees those efforts as routine.

The CIO’s workday starts at 7am with a quick breakfast with her kids. She then heads to the office to work from 8am to 7pm.

After dinner, she fields work calls from 9pm to 11pm – when US markets open – before she calls an end to the day.

She prioritises weekends for family and close friends, choosing to go hiking, accompanying her kids to sports classes, heading to the beach, or playing cards with her besties.

Apart from an inclusive culture, great food, and fantastic outdoors in Hong Kong, Zhu said the convenience of finding domestic help quickly has also been instrumental in settling into her role as a working mom.

However, she admits her daughters don’t always understand her passion for finance. They see her very busy most of the time. “We don’t really enjoy your work,” they tell her.

Zhu’s response is that every job is demanding in its own way, and looking stressed doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy the job.

“Do what you think needs to be done, chase the opportunities, prove yourself, and perform at a level that one would expect from any person from any gender.” Helen Zhu

She notes that managing investments allows her to exercise her intellect and offers great mental stimulation – which can keep people mentally sharp even as they age.

The world’s best-known investor Warren Buffett is 93 years old and is still actively investing.

While investment management is still a male-dominated industry, Zhu said she never experienced any meaningful hurdles in her career, thanks to the organisations she has worked with.

More importantly, she had confidence in her abilities and persevered.

“It’s more about trying to do what you think needs to be done, chase the opportunities, prove yourself, and perform at a level that one would expect from any person from any gender,” she said.

She hopes, if she’s lucky, one or two of her daughters will become interested in finance.

She believes the best way to encourage that is to show them by example, that what people achieve in their careers depends on the efforts they put in.

“They should set high goals for themselves, be independent and try to always strive for the highest levels of performance.”

She acknowledges there are differences for women when growing up in Asia versus in the West.

“But the most important thing for young girls to remember is to build your own skillset, depend on no one, be completely confident and capable, so that at every stage in your life your destiny is in your own hands.”

  • By Shusi He, Haymarket Media Limited. All right reserved.