Alliance Capital Asset Management has hired Masafumi Hikima to serve as president of its Japan business, capping a recent expansion across the region, which has also seen a new CEO installed in Hong Kong and a new research operation in Shanghai.

Hikima joins from Nikko Asset Management, where he had been president and CEO since 2002. He oversaw a Y6.2 trillion ($59 billion) business, but did not find a role after two Americans were put in charge of the firm last autumn. In a bid to make Nikko AM the first domestic independent fund house in Japan - financed by investments by Warburg Pincus and Singapore's GIC - the firm hired Fidelity Japan veteran Bill Wilder as president, while former Charles Schwab chief Tim McCarthy held the chairman and CEO slot.

Hikima in turn is joining New York-based Alliance, where he will work with its previous president and now chairman, Hideo Shinya, to expand its Y3 trillion institutional and retail business. Alliance's institutional business has expanded but the retail market has been sluggish. The firm wants to provide a broader range of global balanced products for the retail market, taking advantage of its expertise in equity growth strategies under the Alliance name, its value strategies under the Bernstein name, and in global fixed income.

Alliance has also brought Augustus Cheh to Hong Kong as its new CEO for Asia ex-Japan. Cheh transfers from New York, where he was involved in business development and marketing, prior to which he ran fixed income portfolios.

He is followed from New York by Jan Deahl, who will work with June Wong, head of institutional business, in marketing, consultant and client servicing, and RFPs.

Cheh's primary mission will be to help manage the firm's expansion into Greater China. The firm is in discussions with mainland insurance group Ping An about a possible joint venture. It has also just set up a research office in Shanghai and is hiring investment analysts - not for the sake of running an A-share portfolio, but to help it analyze global investments, given the increasingly important role of China in many industries. Alliance is considering opening a Beijing liaison office later this year.

Alliance is also close to hiring a senior portfolio manager in Hong Kong to handle global and Hong Kong balanced funds.