Zhang Lei: It All Comes Down to People
What is the “secret” to success in the field of finance, or anywhere else for that matter? According to Hillhouse Capital Management Group CEO Zhang Lei, it all comes down to the importance of people. This, throughout many years in the sphere of investing, has been the cornerstone of Mr. Lei’s guiding principles.
A leading investment management firm founded by Mr. Zhang Lei in 2005, Hillhouse manages capital for institutional clients such as university endowments, foundations, sovereign wealth funds, pensions, and family offices. Using independent proprietary research, Hillhouse invests with a long-term time horizon and employs a fundamental, bottom-up approach. Mr. Lei’s team at Hillhouse focuses on the consumer, TMT (technology, media, and telecom), industrials, and healthcare sectors, and invests in companies across all equity stages.
It has been claimed that Zhang Lei spins research into investment gold, and he has indeed been doing just that for countless clients and institutions. Currently one of China’s richest investors, Mr. Lei started 13 years ago with $20 million from a Yale University endowment; at that time, Zhang Lei was an early backer of now-massive companies like Tencent and JD.com.
Mr. Lei, who earned an M.B.A. and M.A. from Yale University in International Relations in 2002 as well as a B.A. in Economics from Renmin University in China in 1994, worked with the Yale Endowment and a global emerging market fund covering South Africa, Southeast Asia and China before founding Hillhouse. To this day, Zhang Lei continues to serve as a trustee of Yale University, and is also Vice Chairman and Trustee of the Board at Renmin University.
Clearly, Zhang Lei is strongly committed to the field of education: he is the founder and chairman of Gaoli Academy of Renmin University, which he established in 2011 with the purpose of expanding the role of liberal arts education in Chinese universities. In addition, Mr. Lei is a Governing Board Member of the China-United States Exchange Foundation, Chair of the Yale Asia Development Council, and a member of the Hong Kong Financial Services Development Council and the Steering Group on Financial Technologies.
Also devoted to providing gainful employment worldwide, Mr. Zhang Lei served as a Co-Chair in the B20 China Employment Taskforce in 2016 and was the Co-Chair of the B20 Germany Employment and Education Taskforce in 2017.
In leading Hillhouse Capital Management Group, Zhang Lei ascribes his success to the people the fund has hired and the people in whom the fund has invested. Sure, he invests in technology-centered companies like Baidu and Tencent, but Zhang Lei believes that technology should be inclusive and not marginalize people. He also asserts that it’s critical to determine whether the owners, directors, and managers are long-term, intelligent, and aligned with their customers’ needs.
Mr. Zhang Lei’s people-centered approach to investing is a key component of his success as well as that of Hillhouse; furthermore, it’s not just a tactic, but a philosophy of life. For Hillhouse and his clients, as well as for his many followers, Zhang Lei will remain both an asset and an inspiration.