Lilia Clemente tapped her family heritage and her fighting spirit to build a pioneering growth fund that helped steer Wall Street toward Asia.




ilia Clemente would likely object to any effort at reducing her life down to numbers. But one very telling number that helps to understand her perspective is 350,000. That's the number of miles she jets each year, the equivalent of circling the earth 15 times. She does it to review investment opportunities personally. The distances are extra large because, as one of Wall Street's top emerging markets specialist, she has focused on Asia.

     Another number to help complete the picture -- 4-11. That's Clemente's height. One more -- 25,000. That's the number of dollars of her own money with which she started to build investment funds which today have their own listings on the New York Stock Exchange. They now put Clemente into the ranks of America's top 20 fund managers.

     As chairman and CEO of Clemente Capital Inc she oversees a U.S. portfolio worth $1 billion managed by 25 employees hailing from 15 countries. Globally Clemente manages another $6 billion through branch offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Manila, Seoul, Tokyo and Bombay. That means her seed money has grown 300,000 times so that she now controls funds totling $7.5 billion. But enough numbers for now. Lilia Clemente's story is more impressive for the size of her heart -- as we shall see later.

     "I just love the investment business," says Clemente, adding a bit of warmth to the picture, "because irrespective of race and gender people respect you for your performance."

     Clemente Capital's performance has vaulted its owner into Wall Street's upper ranks to compete head-to-head with throngs of grey-suited males. Being female and Asian is an edge, as Clemente sees it.

     "In a male world like finance, you have to think of yourself as a very special person," she says. "Each person has her own pluses and minuses. You have to turn your negatives into your own positives.

     "There's a saying that a business woman must think like a man, act like a lady and work like a dog. If I followed that advice, I'd look like some mythical figure, with a man's head, a woman's torso and a dog's feet. I say, you have to be yourself."

     What sets Clemente apart is her strategy of selective investing in fledgling markets like China, Thailand and the Philippines rather than mature markets like the U.S. and Japan. The 1980s saw former financial backwaters develop economies whose growth outpaced those in the West. Clemente was among the first to exploit the Pacific Basin's economic rise.

     The aggressive personality, who favors red business suits, has captured the imagination of America's business press. She's been profiled in Forbes, Fortune and the Wall Street Journal who have favored her with nicknames like "Philippine Tigress" and "Wonder Woman of Wall Street."


     In recent years Clemente has been working to help Asia's emerging markets maintain steady growth. She founded the Manila-based Asian Securities Industry Institute in 1989 with $150,000 of her own money to train Filipino currency traders. Three years later she set up the Clemente Korea Emerging Growth Fund which is listed on the London Stock Exchange. She established the Cathay Clemente Limited fund in 1983 to promote development in China. It's now traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

     "Being a pioneer in the emerging markets is one of the highlights," Clemente says. "And by doing this I have made my shareholders happy. I give them 22% returns."

     Clemente's disciplined work habits alone could account for her entire success. During our interview, she frequently paused to trade stocks from her computer. She comes into the office Sunday nights to monitor Monday morning stock exchanges in earlier time zones. She visits potential investments to meet and assess key executives. And she speaks at dozens of conferences, writes for the Asian Wall Street Journal and directs numerous charity events.

     She credits God with giving her good parents and a carefree childhood in the Philippines whose multicultural history, she says, prepared her for a career in global investing.

he oldest of seven children, Clemente was born Lilia Calderon in 1940, the year of the snake, to wealthy and politically prominent parents who lived on a vast estate in Nueva Viscaya in northern Luzon. From the estate manor's back door, Clemente could see the guest house, the servants' quarters and the security offices where her parents' body guards lived full-time. Beyond that was the vast expanse of the family orchards. At the front door, she could direct a chauffeur to start up one of ten cars the family owned. PAGE 2

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"My mother was a real role model. I thought it was natural for women to go into business and politics."

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