Chris Ryan, Asia-Pacific CEO at ING Investment Management and a 20-year veteran of the asset management industry in Hong Kong, is leaving the firm. He will join Fidelity Investments in Hong Kong as managing director of its business in Asia ex-Japan and ex-Australia.

This is a new role that is likely to fit between Evan Hale, the current managing director for Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Korea (Taiwan has been run autonomously) and Brett Goodin, CEO for Asia Pacific. Ryan begins his new job on 18 February. He declined to comment until he settles into his new post.

Eddy Belmans, who ran North Asia business at ING IM, has been named acting CEO. Sources expect he will remain in this role for some time, as the search to find a permanent CEO will be a challenging one. Belmans has ample experience at the firm, however, including running its Taiwan operation.

Fidelity says its business is growing at such a clip it requires the attention of additional senior managers. The need became more important once Goodin decided to relocate from Tokyo to Sydney. GoodinÆs transfer date is not yet known, and he will retain his position at the firm, but Fidelity decided it needed a heavy hitter to drive strategy in Asia, partly in response to the regional CEO moving to its edge rather than its centre.

Chris Ryan is a heavy hitter. He led the transformation of ING IMÆs business in the region from serving as an adjunct to its parent life insurer to becoming a full-fledged investment management business serving both retail and institutional clients.

He leaves ING IM as the eighth largest fund house in terms of assets sourced from clients based in Asia Pacific, with $138.7 billion as of September 2007. Among his notable accomplishments was negotiating a mutual-fund joint venture with ShenzhenÆs China Merchants Securities. Not only was the resulting China Merchant Fund Management the first Sino-foreign JV in the Chinese mutual-fund sector (established in 1998) but it continues to be regarded as among the most successful.

Other achievements during his reign include acquiring ABN AmroÆs onshore business in Taiwan, giving ING IM a leading market share and one of the few untainted bond portfolios in that market. ING IM also acquired Landmark Investments in Korea from Morgan StanleyÆs private-equity arm, giving it another business unit in that market alongside its joint venture with KB Asset Management. And late last year it opened an office in Dubai that reports into Hong Kong.

Industry observers expect a person of his track record and drive has the achieve similar things at Fidelity, which is the largest independent active fund manager in Asia in terms of assets sourced from the regionÆs clients û but is also reputed to have a bureaucracy that requires focus from capable leadership to get things done.

AsianInvestor research ranks Fidelity as the fourth-largest player in Asia Pacific based on assets sourced from the regionÆs clients, after Mitsubishi UFJ Trust & Banking (with its enormous and entirely domestic Japanese business), BGI (with the majority of its sourced assets in index or other passive/enhanced strategies) and AIG Global Investments (with its huge anchor client, parent AIG).

This ranking, based on AsianInvestorÆs estimate, suggests Fidelity is the largest independent fund house in Asia, followed by AllianceBernstein (owned by Axa Group but effectively independent) and BlackRock.

Sources expect some reporting lines at Fidelity to shift, with Evan Hale and Taiwan MD Tung Tai-chin reporting to Ryan, who in turn will report to Brett Goodin. Japan and AustraliaÆs business heads û Thomas Balk and Gerard Doherty, respectively û will continue to report directly to Goodin.