Q&A with Zoe Zhu, vice-president, Ping An Global Voyager Fund

Donald Lacey, chief investment officer for China-headquartered insurer Ping An’s Global Voyager Fund, said: “We have a vice-president named Zoe Zhu whom we hired about two years ago from Tencent, where she had a senior position in their strategic investment group. Zoe is a first-class honours graduate from Cambridge and is an immensely talented member of our team. She plays an important leadership role on our investing team and has sourced a range of extremely promising deals for Ping An Global Voyager. She sits on the boards of two of our portfolio companies – TytoCare and PlusDental – and has played a key role in developing our digital health investment strategy.”

1. First, just give us a quick overview of who you work for, what you do, and how long you have been doing it for?

I joined Ping An Global Voyager Fund in May 2020 as vice-president leading healthtech investments execution. We are a Hong Kong-based corporate venturing fund sponsored by Ping An Group of China investing in growth-stage healthtech and fintech companies globally where an affiliation with Ping An is likely to create significant value over time. Our core investment focus in healthtech is digital health as we believe healthcare delivery is pivoting towards a vastly increased reliance on digital solutions. In the health portfolio, we have companies in areas including telemedicine, imaging AI, advanced diagnostics and connected medical device. After the investments, I am also actively involved in portfolio value creation by serving on investees’ boards of directors, I am currently a board member of TytoCare and a board observer of PlusDental.

Before joining Ping An, I worked as a senior manager at Tencent Holdings, where I spent four years in strategy and investment roles with a focus on Chinese internet and technology businesses.

2. What attracted you to CVC?

VC is a dynamic industry that creates value for society by optimising capital allocation in the private market to foster innovation and technological change. CVC adds an extra strategic layer and is best positioned to create synergistic value for start-ups by leveraging corporate resources. I enjoy discovering and working with visionary entrepreneurs and start-up teams to make a positive impact on the world.

3. What have been your greatest successes at your unit?

I successfully led the investment execution of PlusDental, a Germany-based digital dentistry platform, earlier this year at the height of the global pandemic. The deal was able to close smoothly in a challenging macro environment as our investment analytical rigour provided comfort to the IC and the entire investment process was done in a very efficient manner. I also identified and connected PlusDental to a potential China partner that is highly synergistic to them, and advised them on the go-to-market strategy in China. The two parties are now working towards a potential partnership to bring the German brand to Chinese consumers.

4. What have been your biggest challenges?

On a high level since joining Ping An, there has been some adverse development to the macro environment that we operate in. The geopolitics between China and US and CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) regulation put some limitation to our investment scope and the global pandemic since the beginning of this year made travelling and networking which is essential in the VC industry more difficult than ever. On the deal level, the increased uncertainty startups are facing due to covid-19 also makes our investment assessment more challenging.

5. What is your main professional ambition for the future?

I aspire to be a successful VC investor who bridges China to the rest of the world, with a strong track record of realising industry-leading financial returns and strategic value creation for portfolio companies.

6. What do you think all CVCs could do better to make it a stronger industry?

Although different corporate sponsors have different mandates and objectives that CVCs adhere to, CVCs could come up with more innovate fund structures in order to be more agile and responsive to the market needs. More networking among CVCs to share market knowledge and deal flow could also make the industry stronger as a whole.

7. And, finally, for colour, what did you do prior to CVC or in your spare time?

Before my CVC career, I spent the first couple of years in my career as an equity investment analyst focused on TMT (technology, media and telecom) sector for asset managers and the research department of investment banks, initially in London before relocating to Hong Kong. Before my finance career, I majored in economics at the University of Cambridge in the UK.