Lei Zhang ’02, the president and chief investment officer of the China-based Hillhouse Capital Management, is the subject of a profile in the Financial Times, published on June 20.
While in New Haven for commencement in May, Zhang talked with the FT’s Henry Sender over lunch at Nica’s Market, a few blocks from Edward P. Evans Hall. He spoke about Hillhouse Capital’s prescient investments in Chinese internet companies, and told Sender about his childhood and his experiences at Yale SOM, where he studied with David Swensen, Yale’s chief investment officer and a mentor. While at Yale, he interned with Swensen in the Yale Investments Office, which manages the Yale endowment; later, the Investments Office was an early investor in Hillhouse Capital Management.
From the FT:
Zhang sees himself as the product of both east and west. His investment philosophy can be summed up as a mix of Swensen’s teachings along with those of the Buddha and the Taoist sages of China. As we finish, he recites some Taoist aphorisms. He tells me how important it is not to chase too many opportunities. “There is flowing water all around,” he intones as he reaches for some sparkling water. “Yet I only need to take a single ladleful [to quench my thirst].”
In a world of speculators, Zhang is, like Warren Buffett, a buy and hold investor. (The two men have had lunch together.) He takes pride in the fact that most of his investors are the endowment funds for Yale and other universities. He is chairman of the Yale Asia Development Council, has become a trustee of the Brookings Institution think-tank in the US and is vice-chairman and trustee of his alma mater, Renmin University in Beijing. He talks about giving away much of his fortune.