Sunday, September 30, 2012

Canny Chinese Securities Firms

The WantWant China Times just published a short article under the title Canny securities firms shower fund companies with treats.

What is amazing about the article is how they describe an utterly contemptuous system so blandly.

The article reveals that Chinese securities firms routinely deliver fund managers gifts including "envelopes containing cash" thus "undermining the rigorous research-based approach."

The article is coy about what it is saying - but here is my interpretation. Fund managers buy securities from brokers without due diligence and those securities may be worthless or dramatically overpriced. The brokers are thus looting the funds. To make this work they are kicking back "envelopes of cash" to the fund managers who are thus participants in the scheme to loot their own funds.

Losers of course are clients.

But it is not just cash that is being delivered to fund managers. The article talks about "attractive saleswomen" delivering "breakfast" to "the manager of a fund company".

Euphemisms abound. To quote the article:
A recent recruitment ad placed by a securities firm in Shenzhen also spelt out clearly that it was looking to recruit attractive and "open-minded" women as sales representatives.
The system they describe is where "attractive and open minded women" deliver "breakfast" to men responsible for allocating other peoples money and where this will undermine research-based investment.

Are you a client or limited partner in an China based investment partnership or private equity fund?

Are you uncomfortable yet?





John

17 comments:

Nemo Incognito said...

Depends on how you look at it. Equities is so commoditized that dealers also face a choice of either stripping all research and extraneous costs and offering tighter spreads (Timber Hill etc) or going for good research and cute sales coverage. It may just be that volumes are so bad that this is the only way they can differentiate themselves. Its still wrong and sketchy, but whether it leads to bad investing decisions is not obvious to me. FWIW I've never met a cash JGB saleswoman at any bank who was not attractive - this is not a China only kind of problem.

Anonymous said...

You're just jealous!

LST

John Hempton said...

Nemo - what part of "envelopes of cash" depends on how you look at it?

But yes - in my days of working for a 20 billion FUM manager generating 30 million worth of commissions per year (small really) - I never once had an envelope of cash pushed at me.

Or an attractive sales woman make a habit of bringing me breakfast.

But then - hey - I am a happily married man.


J

Anonymous said...

John,
I have been following with great interest, your various articles on on-going corruption across Chinese companies.

This morning, I found an article in the UK's Daily Telegraph, written by an investment manager from Fidelity arguing that you can't afford to not invest in China! Unbelievable!

Here is a link - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/tom-stevenson/9575473/You-cant-afford-not-to-invest-in-China-despite-the-countrys-problems.html

John.

Shane said...

Did you get a free Bloomberg terminal or other sort of soft dollar arrangement pushed your way? ;-)

The Chinese are just using the hard stuff instead of the more decadent soft western ways.

I don't read at is being about the securities firms trying to push dud or worthless "house" stocks, I think it is just about getting the Fund Managers to trade (anything!) with their firm, rather than he firm down the street with the less good looking, more closed-minded salespeople. Possibly also at trading rates above going market rates, which would be a form of looting.

I mean both are bad, just one is really bad.

John Hempton said...

Actually we made a point of paying for our Bloomberg terminal.

And in the current business - we have never paid full freight on brokerage at all. The super-low cost model.

J

Geisha Girl said...

Perhaps Timothy Sykes can lease them the non winners of his Miss Penny Stock 2012 contest. None can speak Mandarin, Cantonese, or very good English but a few look good in pair of 4" pumps.

Correct, not a China only problem in my opinion.

Wilfried said...

Reminds me of pharmaceutical representatives who visit physicians to persuade (pardon, convince) them to subscribe certain drugs instead of others. Not that I ever heard they serve breakfast or are suspiciously open-minded but I once met a girl working as a pharmaceutical representative here in Germany who was indeed good looking and got a very decent salary for her job. And the drugs in question may or may not benefit or harm the patients any more than those they replace, they are just made by another company.

Anonymous said...

Although not exclusive to anyone, more of a third world problem, autocratic regimes, kleptopcrocies, governments where princelings have more influence than the rule of law, won't bet the farm but I would rather bet against FMCN than on.

Sion said...

The point here is pretty simple. If you are interested in going shot a company or fund. And clearly this is the interest in question here. You want to find companies or funds that are choosing short term pleasure over long term gain as opposed to short term pain for long term gain.

him nao! said...

As an ex-institutional sales guy from the dot com era, a couple thoughts: one, i think i'd like to be a fund manager in China; two, we had an institutionalized version of the system you described, with knicks tickets, wine tasting at montrachet, etc, but clearly US managers have far more checks and balances. among the hundreds of ipos we led or co-led, i could never shovel pure crap without a hot market for fund managers to sell on to. then, of course, they paid me in commissions for that kind of product.

the problem that you described is a problem in all developed economy markets with poorly developed institutional capacity.

Anonymous said...

I am a Chinese, and Chinese has a long tradition of corrupted gov and as regular people, we bride everyday to have things done. Please use ths fact as a fundamental point when you're analyzing anything from china.

That is why we love the west...


Why China GDP is going 7.5% a year reportedly and it's shanghai index is at low point of 2000?

What they are doing is jacking up the price of real estate and use hong kong real estate price as a reference. If hk is selling 30,000 hk dollar a sq ft, Beijing must be at least $25,000 a sq ft.

They also jack up the price of construction. If a bridge just need 20 million rmb to finish, they will say 2 billion. And borrow the money from the bank. The extra profit will use as a bride to safety officials etc, buying LV handbags in hk and gambling in Macau or even immigrating to US. There are many bridges collapse in china.

Of couse, they can cook the books and try to raise funds in stock market too. Since hkse is now controlled by china, they can list whatever they like...


I have lost a lot of money in china myself..

Anonymous said...

John,

I dont' quite see your point in full here.
"Looting is bad?" Sure Sherlock!

But seriously, would you prefer a manager who earned 40% and loooted 20% or a manager who honestly down-to-earth lost 10%?

Clients are losers when they lose money, not when "something bad is being done" per ce.

(Goes well in hand with far earlier post of yours about how Western insiders "feel themselves entitled" to smaller "perks" then Eastern insiders. That's the problem, not the existence of corruption in general, which is, in my kinda well-informed view, a natural phenomen).

Regards,
Dnitry.

Anonymous said...

I thought hiring good looking "open minded" sales women was part and parcel of the trade. Brokerages and i-bank divisions offering paid analysis routinely do so here in India.

They pick them up from any random university/b-school as long as the, uh right criteria, is met.. its hilarious to hear these girls talk at conferences.

Prem kumar said...

I like it John. You are really piling on to the Focus Media PE deal syndicate. Now if they go thru with the deal they have to declare that they didn' t get the wad of cash or the BF from an attractive open minded young Chinese woman. I like your style!

Anonymous said...

Anyone read Predator's Ball about the 80s junk bond conferences.

Didnt Drexel arrange for "aspiring models and actresses" to entertain fund managers in Bungalow 8 at the Beverly Hills Hilton after the conference?

PSC said...


But seriously, would you prefer a manager who earned 40% and loooted 20% or a manager who honestly down-to-earth lost 10%?

I'd far, far prefer the manager who just lost 10%.

Because at least 90% of my money is there, even if I'm the last person to withdraw from the fund.

I'd rather not have 120% and 0% of my money in some kind of quantum superposition.

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