Fearlessness, resilience and plain hard work: How Jun Bei Liu became the $1.2 billion portfolio manager she is today

Tribeca Investment Partners' Jun Bei Liu has managed to disrupt the finance industry's boys club, despite her humble beginnings.
Ally Selby

Livewire Markets

If there was one story within the Australian finance industry that was a testament to the power of hard work, determination and passion, it would be Jun Bei Liu's. 

From humble beginnings in China (where she had no phone and no running water) to picking up the English language after around six months of living in Sydney's Northern Beaches, to becoming a household name in funds management, Liu's career is incredibly inspiring.  

Her achievements are all the more astonishing given she admits she is painfully shy and, like many of us, has suffered from imposter syndrome during her career. But over the years, instead of trying to hide those feelings, she has pushed herself to overcome them and recommends emerging female talent do the same.  

"Do more of the things that you're fearful of - if you make mistakes, learn from them - have your voice heard," Liu says.
"Take the opportunities when they present themselves, work hard, and have the resilience to pull through - there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"It's incredibly rewarding to have come through that journey. It has taken me to places I never thought I would go. It's incredible."

As part of Livewire's coverage of International Women's Day, the team has reached out to some of the industry's exceptional leading ladies for a deeper look at their careers, as well as what needs to change within the industry to better support female talent (and make the industry equitable). 

In this wire, Liu shares her insights on the above and, of course, also shares her outlook on the market over the year ahead, as well as some of the stocks she believes have been unfairly sold off this reporting season. 

Tribeca's Jun Bei Liu 

The portfolio manager in brief  

  • Name: Jun Bei Liu 
  • Firm: Tribeca Investment Partners
  • Years in the industry: 21
  • Speciality: Long/short Australian equities 
  • Biggest personal portfolio holding: My investment in my own fund, the Tribeca Alpha Plus Fund. 
  • One thing very few people know about you: That despite seeming to have a very open and happy personality, I am actually very shy. I think it is the leftover remnants of when I couldn't speak English as a teenager. I always have this anxiety before I start talking, and my first sentence is always the worst in the entire conversation. Instead of trying to hide it, I have just learnt ways to work with it. 
  • Your guilty secret TV or reading pleasure: My favourite show I have been binge-watching is "Inventing Anna". I just thought it was incredible that someone could invent this story - it really provides insight into the type of world we live in. I like documentaries, I like dramas. My kids always laugh at me, but my favourite movie of all time is Cinderella (and also Love Actually and Bridget Jones's Diary). 

Note: This interview took place on Thursday 23 February 2023. 

From humble beginnings 

Liu emigrated from China to Sydney's Northern Beaches at just 16 years old, with no English language skills of any kind. Within six months, she picked up the language, and a few years shortly after would go on to land a finance degree at the University of New South Wales. 

"I came out of that degree really wanting to pursue a career in the finance industry," she explains. 

Her first real role was with retail investor newsletter publisher Aspect Huntley, where she penned research reports for mum and dad investors. From there, she would go on to nab a role on the "sell side" with Foster Stockbroker - as a lead analyst across the consumer sectors and technology. 

"It was an incredible experience to actually see money move, investments, and talk to companies. And from then on, I knew that I wanted to be a fund manager. I wanted to invest rather than advise others how to invest," Liu says. 

So, she joined Jenkins Investment Management, which was later swallowed by Tribeca Investment Partners. It would take more than a decade, but eventually, she would work her way up to lead the firm's Long/Short portfolio. 

"When Sean Fenton left, I took over the management of the Alpha Plus Fund. And since then we've done very well," she says. 

"We have grown our existing client base and our performance is in the top tier against all our competitors." 

Even in the darkest times, there is light at the end of the tunnel 

The biggest challenge in Liu's career has been confidence, she says. Liu admits she has suffered from imposter syndrome from time to time - a phenomenon that she believes will be felt by 50% of the female population. 

"For the half that doesn't have imposter syndrome, they don't understand why you would even feel that way. I still get it every single day. But for me, it's not something to be ashamed of," she says. 

"What you need to do is recognise it. And then, when that feeling comes, just look at some of your past achievements and you can then overcome that feeling. 

"Over time, you can live with it, and know you are as smart and as confident, if not better, than everyone that you work with." 

For those starting out in the industry, who are experiencing similar feelings of their own, she has a few recommendations that could help improve your confidence (and it starts with putting yourself out more). 

"Make more recommendations if you're an investment analyst, do more of the things that you're fearful of - if you make mistakes, learn from them - have your voice heard," Liu says. 
"Take the opportunities when they present themselves, work hard, and have the resilience to pull through - there is light at the end of the tunnel. 
"It's incredibly rewarding to have come through that journey. It has taken me to places I never thought I would go. It's incredible."  

The industry is evolving into a better place for women to work (albeit slowly)

While the finance industry is slowly changing, by and large, it is still a boy's club. The majority of the world's most famous investors are, you guessed it, male - and it's not too dissimilar down under (with only one woman to have ever made the "Hall of Fame" list). 

Liu puts this down to two reasons (both of which she believes are slowly changing). The first is that women typically think about risk more, as in, we may not put our hand up until we are 100% sure of something, while our male counterparts may put their hands up when they are 20% sure. 

"Men don't really think about risk as much as women," she says. 
"However, in a sense, that's probably why women are better investors than men, because we actually think about the risks first and then think about what return you can generate from that. But it also means that we don't put our hand up, we don't have our voice heard." 

She argues that women need to speak up, particularly in the presence of senior management to change the status quo. 

"Don't be afraid of being wrong. Our male counterparts are certainly not afraid," Liu says. 

The second major issue that has limited the number of women moving into senior leadership roles within funds management is inflexibility. 

"It's very long hours, it's very hard work. The share market is open 24/7 around the world. And the weekends are spent reading more about what is happening," Liu says. 

"So a lot of the time, I see young women coming through and then when they hit the age of having children, they disappear. After you have children, there are a lot of demands - school drop or pick up and everything else. So it's just not possible. You hardly ever see your children." 

Now, however, the industry is changing.  

"COVID really has introduced flexibility. Whether that is working from home one day or a few days or knocking off a little bit earlier in the afternoon and finishing your work at home. You just have a bit more flexibility in how you want to manage your time," Liu says. 
"I think this will be very helpful from here on, for women to feel they can spend time with their family rather than it being a choice - work or family. I think that's important." 

"Don't follow the herd" 

Liu describes herself as a "contrarian" with an interest in behavioural finance. 

"I don't follow the herd," she says.

"Most investors are very good at working out a business's financials. That's hard work. You've got to do it. But the hard bit is actually working out what the market should pay for that business." 

That's where behavioural biases come in, she says. 

"It's that fight against the herd, the behavioural biases, and fear and greed. You need to step in when you see value. Don't be afraid when you are going against everyone else," Liu says. 
"A lot of the time, I'm probably three to six months too early before the inflexion point, but that is my philosophy - find quality businesses and wait for the opportune time - and most of the time, it's because everyone else is too scared to buy." 

The market will be higher by the end of the year 

Liu believes there is some near-term risk to the market, simply because analyst estimates for earnings are still too high. 

"In the next three to six months, Australian corporate's earnings need to be downgraded just a little more," she says. 
"Our consumer sectors, the banks and commodities are still holding up. Reporting season results have actually been pretty good. We just need to see some of the economic weaknesses flow through in the next six months. And then, analyst expectations will be more realistic." 

However, by December 2023, Liu believes the local bourse will end the year higher. 

"I think the second half of this calendar year will be a bull market," she adds. 

Where Jun Bei Liu is finding opportunity right now 

There have been incredible opportunities during the February reporting season, Liu says, particularly because share price movements on the back of earnings disappointments have been so pronounced. 

"Treasury Wine Estates (ASX: TWE) was sold off on the back of the result and the earnings impact was very minimal. It's still going to grow by 17% and it's not expensive," she explains. 

"We also think a2 Milk (ASX: A2M) has been unfairly punished. People worry that the English label isn't selling and that it doesn't have the Daigou channel. But students are coming back. We just heard from IDP Education (ASX: IEL), the pipeline is enormous.

"China is going to reopen its border and let those students out. It is just going to take some time." 

She also points to Star Entertainment (ASX: SGR) as a "phenomenal opportunity", as well as Domino's (ASX: DMP) as a recent portfolio addition. 

"Star is really trading at that extreme value end and you can see that quite a bit of return can be generated there," Liu says. 

"Meanwhile, Domino's has been in the sin-bin for some time, but I would now be buying the stock at this price. Short term, it's tough. But the management team has a good track record of getting things right. And I think it does represent very good value at this point." 

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1 contributor mentioned

Ally Selby
Content Editor
Livewire Markets

Ally Selby is a content editor at Livewire Markets, joining the team at the end of 2020. She loves all things investing, financial literacy and content creation, having previously worked for the likes of Financial Standard, Pedestrian Group, Your...

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