Class of 2017 Forty Under Forty

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Noorsurainah Tengah Head of Absolute Return and Commodities, Brunei Investment Agency
(Bandar Seri Begawan, Brune) 34
Noorsurainah Tengah
(Art by Marcellus Hall)

She has risen quickly within the organization—most notably having been tapped by the Managing Director to lead a risk parity pilot project in addition to her day job looking over the firm’s holdings in hedge funds.

What is the asset class or investment that keeps you up at night, and why?

We have had a really good run in terms of what assets have delivered. What worries me is what a post-QE, low-return world looks like and the impacts that would have on asset owners’ portfolios. The confluence of the growing appeal of populism and both fiscal and monetary policy being in a bind is a rather uncomfortable position for the global economy to be in. Therefore, I am nervous about our ability to cycle through the next recession given that we are approaching late cycle.

What methodologies have you adopted within your institution?

My general approach is predominantly data driven. I digest information better when it is backed by numbers. I would caveat that by saying any financial model would need to have common sense backing it. They are not perfect but a necessary complement.

Where do you fall in the passive vs. active debate?

I am for both. Investors can make money both ways, either through passive investing (beta, risk premia) or actively, through uncorrelated alpha on top of that beta. I think it boils down to knowing what you have in the portfolio, being able to control those exposures, and understanding the risks associated. Portfolio construction is about putting together investments that get you to your investment objectives, and I think both passive and active investing have merits that get you there. What I find most valuable is to be able to have uncorrelated alpha that is risk-reducing to the portfolio.

What are the changes you’d like to see the institutional investing community make in 10 years?

I think there’s a couple of things that I would like to see. Institutional investors collectively form very large pools of capital. Personally, I would like to see ESG considerations to be more in the forefront because I value sustainability quite strongly. I also would like us to be able to shape outcomes around standards, fees, and transparency where they still lack in the Alternatives space. I think that it would also be ideal if we had the increased ability to really invest with the long term in mind and not having to worry about short-term outcomes.

Who is a manager you don’t currently work with whose brain you’d like to pick?

There are so many who inspire me. If I really had to pick, Ng Kok Song, Ray Dalio, and Dave Swenson.

Ideally, where would that meeting take place?

A lookout, which we would have to get to by hiking up.

What is the software investment tool that helps you most?

We have a couple that we use. The ones that are built internally I would say are the ones that really help me the most since they have been built customized to our needs.

What would improve the relationship between you and managers?

Someone serious about long-term partnerships and sees it beyond just getting business. Managers who genuinely try to understand my objectives and work together towards a solution. Simply checking in to say what’s up, and then catching up over whats going on in markets, and talking about trends and opportunities. That works for me.

Why did you choose your current path?

I went into my first Financial Management class as a part of my core undergraduate module and I fell instantly in love with it. From then on, it was all Finance and Investments for me.