What is your background briefly?
I’m Asian tech specialist sales at a leading US stockbroker in Hong Kong and have been in that role for 7 years. I’ve been looking at Asian tech stocks for 24 years. Before this role, I was a tech long only PM at RCM, I was one of the founders of Europe’s first tech independent research firm, Arete Research, and I was a tech hedge fund manager at HSBC, Balyasny and Morgan Stanley. I graduated from DCU with a BA in International marketing and languages in 1994 and from London Business School’s MSc in Finance in 1997. I’m a former Chairman of the Irish Chamber of Commerce of Hong Kong, I’m involved in the Chamber’s fintech committee and I’m also the local representative of Irish Funds in HK in my spare time.
Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?
My career has spanned just about every function involved on the buy side and sell side, but always focused on technology. My experience as a long-only fund manager, hedge fund manager and analyst help me serve global tech investors as a stockbroker, as I understand their needs, having been one myself for most of my career.
Give us a one-minute pitch for what you are doing now?
I speak to investors focused on tech about ideas, help them identify emerging themes in tech, source industry experts to help them understand these themes and then work with our analysts to provide research that identifies the most attractive companies to invest in.
For example, one theme I have been looking into is the real reason behind the US administration looking to ban ZTE from exporting to the US and to put trade tariffs on US semis. This has little to do with national security or trade balances. Indeed, the US semis association, SEMI, has written a paper saying why semiconductors should not be subject to tariffs due to a large and growing trade surplus with China. The real motivation is because China has caught up with America in key technologies such as 5G and AI. A recent filing by Huawei with the US authorities shows it has similar market share to Qualcomm in 5G essential patents. But without the FPGAs developed by American companies Xilinx and Altera (now part of Intel), neither Huawei nor ZTE can build any basestations. Similarly, the reason Nvidia has performed so well in recent years is because GPUs are the key semiconductor used in data centres to develop Ai algorithms. China has already caught up with the USA in terms of Ai academic papers accepted and companies such as Alibaba and Tencent have big data repositories as large as the likes of Google of Facebook. But without GPUs from Nvidia and AMD and FPGAs for inference, Chinese companies cannot build out AI capabilities. That is what’s really going on. A ban on just 4 companies would put a halt to 5G and AI being rolled out in China. A ban on Qualcomm would prove a serious issue for China’s smartphone makers, but ultimately they would be able to move to other vendors such as Mediatek.
How can people find out more about you & your work?
My bio and contact details are on my Linkedin profile. I write a technology daily email on tech themes and datapoints. Feel free to reach out to me and I’d be happy to chat.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I come across many in the tech industry in the West who have never visited Asia and pay little attention to it. There is a tendency in Ireland to look West to Silicon Valley to scale a new business. There are clear advantages to that in terms of market opportunity, access to capital, language and other factors. But ignoring the impact of China and other Asian countries in strategic planning is myopic, I would suggest, for several reasons.
Chinese brands like Huawei Oppo Vivo and ZTE have emerged as top 5 players in just about every hardware industry including smartphones, telecom equipment servers, PCs, tablets. If you aren’t looking at Asia in terms of competitive analysis, you may be missing a significant threat. Its only taken Oppp 2 years to come from nowhere to be a top 5 smartphone brand globally.
Capital is also abundant in Asia. Companies like Softbank and SWFs like GIC are some of the largest investors in global internet and there is a strong network across Asia that can fund start ups.
Japan has a vibrant domestic internet economy, while the internet economy in China is highly advanced and leading in some business processes. It was Alibaba and JD that invented the idea of same day delivery, years before Amazon thought of Prime. They also developed their “new retail” strategy years before Amazon bought Whole Foods. So the idea that all China does is copy the West is a fallacy. Often, it is the other way around.
Those who ignore what is happening in places like Shenzhen are missing out on important trends. A few years ago. In 2014, The Economist declared Shenzhen to be the best place in the world for a hardware innovator to be. I bring investors to Shenzhen all the time and the pace of innovation there is rapid, not just in hardware, but also in internet due to the cluster developing around Tencent and Ping An Insurance, which has invested $50bn in Ai and already spun out 2 leading fintech companies, Zhong An Insurance and Ping An Healthcare.
China has now officially launched a policy to develop a Greater Bay Area. This initiative is based on natural geographical conditions, intended to link nine cities in Guangdong’s Pearl River Delta – Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Dongguan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing – together with the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, to establish a globally competitive economic cluster. It a $1.3bn economy with a population of over 66.7m people. By 2030, the region’s GDP is expected to reach US$4.6 trillion, surpassing the Tokyo, New York and San Francisco bay areas to become the world’s largest bay area in terms of the size of its economy.