We talked to Vuong Van Anh, Chief Investment Officer of VNHAM about generating high risk-adjusted returns by combining rigorous financial analysis with interactive sustainability research, and she had the following to say:-
How are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Vuong Van Anh: The COVID-19 pandemic has upset families around the world. School closed, online/remote working, and social distance – there is just too much work to be done to manage this new normal.
Fortunately, the Vietnam government has taken strict and effective measures, coupled with trusts and supports from its citizens, to successfully control the COVID-19 pandemic outbreaks. COVID-19 related news has been transparently reported via not only popular news outlets but also social communication channels such as Ministry of Health social media pages on Zalo and Facebook to help us better protect ourselves with up-to-date pandemic data.
In addition, we do follow the government’s 5-step slogan, which is “Masks, Disinfection, Distance, No gathering, and Medical declaration”, as a way to slow down the COVID-19 spreading and make a safe coexistence with the epidemic.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined VNHAM.
Vuong Van Anh: I joined VietNam Holding Asset Management Ltd. (VNHAM) in Ha Noi, the capital of Vietnam, in November 2007 as a Financial Controller. In early 2010, the firm was relocated to Ho Chi Minh city, and so did I. After the move, I became an Investment Analyst and main ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) integration process coordinator. Then, I was promoted to Investment Manager in December 2011, to Senior Investment Manager in June 2014, and to Chief Investment Officer in June 2018. My financial background includes four years of experience as a Senior Auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers (Vietnam) and ten years in investment roles within VNHAM.
How does VNHAM innovate?
Vuong Van Anh: VNHAM was established in 2006 as an investment management company with its sole focus on Vietnam equities. The firm maintains high-quality staff in Ho Chi Minh city. Its strength lies in a combination of experienced local financial talents and seasoned global executives and directors. VNHAM’s mission is to generate high risk-adjusted returns by combining rigorous financial analysis with interactive sustainability research. Our firm’s approach results in a comprehensive and skilled view of the Vietnam equity universe from the perspective of both well-selected local information and international sustainable investment standards.
VNHAM is strongly committed to Vietnam’s economic and social developments. During our investment process, we place great emphasis on corporate governance, business ethics, human resource management, including sound succession plans, and the business community. VNHAM applies a proprietary analytical approach, which includes a disciplined value approach with inter-active Environmental, Corporate social responsibility, and Corporate Governance (ESG) research. Its board members and senior advisors are actively engaged in this ESG program via meetings with top executives of investee companies. The top-level engagement program is a key component to obtain buy-in to ESG principles from portfolio companies’ executives.
VNHAM is currently managed by a team of locally-based professionals and a board of directors based in Asia and Europe.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Vuong Van Anh: Limiting travels and physical contacts has certainly affected business operations. However, our company has been minimizing COVID-19 negative impacts via online platforms in order to maintain communication and works.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources? What are the lessons learned?
Vuong Van Anh: Even though Vietnam has been able to contain COVID-19 outbreaks, its businesses still see damaging impacts. Per the International Labor Organization Vietnam’s survey, 25% of participated companies filed for bankruptcy. 67% applied labour cost-cutting by, for example, volunteer resignations (with available returns after COVID-19) and reductions of working hours. Over 50% of surveyed firms said they might close if the crisis would continue for another three months.
It is fortunate that through three outbreaks in Vietnam, VNHAM does not have to make difficult human resource choices. However, the firm has put in place its specific HR plan to cope with such unexpected cases. As mentioned before, our operations can be executed via online platforms.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tool to be efficient?
Vuong Van Anh: Although the COVID-19 epidemic presents hurdles that we are often unable to meet and work directly with customers, we are still regularly in touch with them through such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, phone calls, and emails. At first, there were shortcomings caused by unfamiliarity. Nonetheless, we gradually find these forms useful, cost-efficient, and from our ESG perspective, the new normal of working actually helps reduce emissions from travel.
Did you benefit from any government grant? Did that help keep your business afloat?
Vuong Van Anh: Government grants are available for companies facing COVID-19 hardship. However, our office has been able to sustain within the pandemic, which should be over soon with vaccinations; thus, we have not applied for such a grant.
Can you share your final thought?
Vuong Van Anh: When it comes to staying at home to lessen contagions, it might be hard to accept for outgoing (extrovert) people, but it must be understood that we are in the midst of a serious pandemic. Everyone should take extreme cautions to be safe and healthy and not become a burden on the healthcare system, which has been already stressful to combat COVID-19.
On a positive note, the Covid-19 pandemic could be an opportunity for people to take a step back to reflect and adjust, if necessary, on their thinking regarding works, families, and friends.
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