THINKING: Profiles

Ernesto Tong – Managing Director, Portfolio Manager

Managing Director Ernesto (Ernie) Tong, who joined Penserra in 2015, heads the portfolio management group at Penserra Capital and is responsible for the investment process and day-to-day management of sub-advised ETFs. He’s also the father of three children ages 5, 3 and eight months. He’s a very busy man whose job at the office and at home requires top shelf leadership skills of discipline, delegation and a whole lot of patience.

Q:  As head of the portfolio management group at Penserra Capital, you are responsible for the investment process and day-to-day management of sub-advised ETFs. Can you describe some of your duties? 

Penserra Capital manages 25 different ETFs and $1.5 billion in global passive and active equity assets for our clients.  My role is to develop a robust Portfolio Management Process for the team that minimizes risk and maximizes portfolio tracking within desired performance.  I meet with prospective clients as well and provide them with an understanding of our daily investment process and trading strategies.    

Q:  You report directly to Dustin Lewellyn, Penserra’s Chief Investment Officer. You also have a team of portfolio managers reporting to you.  How do you coordinate communication within the entire Penserra Capital unit to maximize the group’s productivity?

Since Dustin works primarily from a home office in Iowa, I chat with him almost daily over the phone or via Bloomberg.  We also set up persistent chat rooms internally as well as with all our counterparties so that the entire PM team is on the same page with any live trades and strategies.  The team also has a standing monthly meeting where we go over firm and business development updates and answer any questions. 

Q:  Prior to joining Penserra in 2015, you spent nine years at BGI/BlackRock. What attracted you to Penserra, and what skills did you bring over from your previous work experience?

I had been working at a big shop since graduating from college and I was ready to try something different.  As a PM at BLK your role is very defined whereas coming to a smaller shop you’re involved in all aspects of the business and get the opportunity to wear many hats.  When the opportunity arose to work with Dustin and George Madrigal and help build out the Asset Management group I jumped at the chance.  Working at BlackRock provided me with the knowledge to build an effective team and set up our investment process so we can manage our funds in a risk-controlled manner.

Q: You graduated from UC Davis 2001 with a degree in economics. How did you end up working in the financial services industry, and was this the career path you had originally envisioned?

I’ve always found Finance extremely interesting and I enjoyed following what the markets were doing.   I can’t say this was the exact career path I envisioned, but I always knew I wanted to do something in the financial services industry. 

Q:  You and your wife recently welcomed your third child. With three children under the age of five, how are you managing the work/home balance? 

Having 3 little ones is a roller coaster of fun.  The good days outweigh the challenging days and I can’t imagine my life without them.  I’ve got a great team at work and a great team at home.  My wife and I have a solid routine going and divide and conquer since we are outnumbered 3:2 (kid to adult ratio).