Meet Yifei Li -- A Martial Arts Champion, Former MTV Exec And Now Man Group's Frontwoman for China

Yifei Li Man Group

Hedge fund company Man Group has appointed Yifei Li to the position of Country Chair for its Chinese operation, as part of the company’s efforts to expand its operations into mainland China. [via HedgeCo]

It’s not an extremely drastic change for Li — she used to represent GLG Partners, which was acquired by Man Group last year — but she’s definitely making moves on the right track.

Previously, Li worked as the head of MTV China and was the country’s representative for Viacom, MTV’s parent company. At MTV China, Li was credited with bringing American musicians like Britney Spears and Eminem to millions of Chinese viewers in an effort to “narrow the cultural divide,”¬†according to Xinhua News Agency.

Li’s appointment seems to be smart move on Man Group’s part — Li is already considered one of China’s most powerful businesswomen and one of the most well-connected. In a country where “guanxi” – one’s influence through relationships to others — plays a key role on the path to success, that network is going to be extremely helpful.

Man Group – which has about $69 billion AUM – has had operations in Asia for the last 15 years, with offices in Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, etc.. But the appointment of Li is its first venture onto mainland. The Financial Times points out that the group is still waiting to get clearance from the Chinese government to operate. Still, China seems to be an untapped resource for many hedge funds, and Man Group’s new Asian head Pierre Lagrange told the FT that the country was a “huge source of intelligence” for the hedge fund.

A rising businesswoman in China, Li hasn’t escaped the media limelight in the past. The Wall Street Journal’s Asian edition has put her on its “10 Women To Watch in Asia” list, and she graced the cover of a Fortune publication in 2005.

But it’s not just Li’s lengthy professional experience that’s drawing attention — she also has a riveting past. Born in Beijing on the cusp of China’s Cultural Revolution, Li won a national martial arts competition when she was 13 years old and went on to act in one of China’s first action movies, according to Xinhua News’ profile of Li. She first ventured over to the West when she studied at Baylor University and received her masters degree in international relations. After that, she worked in the US briefly before returning to China.

Li’s career seems to be propelled from her ability to balance her oriental roots and Western schooling.¬†And despite her time spent in the US, those who know Li says she remains distinctly Chinese and cognisant of her heritage, Xinhua News reported.

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