Relentless Focus on Quality – the Key to Outperformance


Martin Lau

Martin Lau
Managing Partner
First State Stewart Asia

Famously dubbed the “Ever-Victorious General ”(長勝將軍) by the Hong Kong press, Martin Lau, Managing Partner at First State Stewart Asia, part of First State Investments, is a model of how in-depth fundamental research could lead to long-term outperformance. On top of three Grand Awards won by the fund house, Provider of the Year – Offshore, Best Equity House and Best Sustainable Investment Award (Overall Leaders), Martin was once again crowned the Manager of the Year in the Asia Equity category. In a frank conversation, the investment veteran revealed the secrets to his winning streak.

BENCHMARK (BM): Good to see you again, Martin! You have been top-ranked in the BENCHMARK awards for several consecutive years. To what do you attribute your success?
Martin Lau (ML): Thank you for the honor. I believe this award belongs to the whole First State Stewart Asia team and is a testament to our long-term investment philosophy – which we have upheld for almost three decades. Our team believes strongly that investment is about being a long-term owner of quality business franchises run by people whom we can trust. There is a strong desire to do the right thing, not just for our clients, but also for society.
BM: Equity investing is tantamount to owning quality businesses – that’s an important takeaway. Besides that, how does your investment philosophy set you apart?
ML: Firstly, we are active investors. In a world where index funds are becoming more popular, we take a different approach – instead of looking at benchmark indices, we start our portfolios from a blank sheet of paper. We focus on finding the most attractive companies within our universe to invest in.
It is surprising to see how common it is for risk to be defined in relative terms, as in how much this or that fund has deviated from the benchmark. We define “risk” quite differently, in terms of how much money is lost when we make the wrong decision to invest in a company.
Secondly, we are long-term investors. We are not trying to predict which companies are going to do well over the next month or quarter; rather, we want to buy companies that have some sort of sustainable competitive edge that will position them well for the next 5-10 years or longer.
BM: Such long-term thinking is crucial to value investing. How do you pull together the best team to realize your long-term vision?
ML: As I became older, I realized that everyone has his or her limitations as an individual. The key is surrounding yourself with people who are complementary to you, or, even better than you. This is where the team comes in. We are very lucky to have a stable team with different strengths, and we encourage everyone to challenge each other.
Our team structure is very flat. Everyone is an analyst, a generalist, constantly looking for new ideas and researching companies or investment themes. At the end of each year, we also look at our mistakes and think about the lessons learned from them.
BM: In this open culture, what is your role as a leader?
ML: I believe the most important element of being a leader is the willingness to serve and help others – even including the most junior person on the team – to set an example to others. To motivate others to do well, you yourself should do so first.
Then, it is the willingness’ to share. Some companies fail because those at the top are unwilling to share – not just financial remuneration but also in terms of opportunities. In my mind, if you give people hard cash, they might be thankful for a year; but if you give people the right opportunities, they will remember for a lifetime. I myself am still very grateful for all the opportunities that I was given when I was younger.
BM: Lastly, can you tell us the motto that guides you through your career?
ML: Sure. When I was young, my motto was to work harder than others. I believed that if I spent more time working on a task, I could do it better than others. When I first started out in this industry, a friend of mine teased that I do nothing but feed on old people’s money. That still serves as a reminder today. We are all very lucky to be in the fund management industry and should not forget the responsibilities that come along with it. BM



Martin Lau


香港傳媒封為「長勝將軍」的首域盈信亞洲常務合夥人劉國傑(Martin Lau),旗下基金長期取得佳績,正好說明深度基本研究就是長勝的不二心法。今年,首域除了贏得三項大獎——年度離岸基金公司大獎、最佳股票基金公司大獎和最佳總體可持續投資大獎之外,劉國傑亦再次榮獲亞洲股票類別的年度最佳基金經理。這位投資經驗豐富的「將軍」,坐下來跟《指標》真誠分享其長勝秘訣。

劉國傑: 劉國傑:謝謝你。我相信這獎項是屬於整個首域盈信亞洲團隊的,並且是我們堅持了近三十年長期投資理念的印證。我們的團隊堅信,投資就是要長期持有優質企業的股票,而那些企業必須由我們可以信任的人掌管。我們非常希望做正確的事情,不僅是為了客戶,而且是為了整個社會。
劉國傑: 劉國傑:首先,我們是主動投資者,在被動型指數基金愈來愈盛行之時,我們選擇走另一條路——不看基準指數,從一張白紙開始建立我們的投資組合。我們專注於尋找最具吸引力的公司作投資。
劉國傑: 劉國傑:我年紀愈大,便愈意識到每個人的能力都有其局限性。關鍵在於你要跟與你互相補足的人,甚至比你更好的人一起。這就是一支好團隊。我們非常慶幸擁有一支穩定的團隊,成員各擅勝場,並鼓勵大家互相挑戰。
劉國傑: 劉國傑:我相信一個領袖最重要是願意服務和幫助他人,甚至是團隊中最年輕的人,為大家樹立榜樣。要求別人做好,你自己應先做好吧。
劉國傑: 劉國傑:當然可以。年輕的時候,我的座右銘是比別人更努力地工作。我相信如果我比人花更多時間在同一份工作上,我可以比人做得更好。我初入行時,有位朋友嘲笑說我什麼都不用做,只靠老人的養老金過活。這句說話到今天仍提醒著我——我們非常幸運能加入基金管理這行業,也不應忘記隨之而來的責任。BM