The private-banking arm of Malaysian group CIMB has hired Lee Yuen Kuen as chief investment officer and strategist in Kuala Lumpur. The appointment comes as CIMB Private Banking is seeing increased interest from clients in assets other than equities.

Having left his post as CIO at Mayban Investment Management, Maybank's asset-management arm, Lee assumed the newly created role on Monday (March 8). He reports to CIMB Private Banking co-heads Alan Inn and Carolyn Leng.

Lee's remit is to form strategies from a macro perspective, from which the team will derive micro strategies in terms of asset allocation, Leng tells AsianInvestor. The firm's team of product specialists report directly to Lee and decide on asset allocation and which areas to focus on, she adds. These responsibilities had previously fallen within Inn's remit.

"Lee's deep experience and ability to look at markets beyond Malaysia on a full-time basis will definitely benefit our clients, who are increasingly interested in investment opportunities within and beyond the country," says Leng.

She adds that there are plans to further expand CIMB Private Banking's investment team, but the decisions will be down to Lee. "He will look at the structure and at where additional resources are needed." Leng says two more hires to the investment team are likely this year.

"This expansion reflects a growing interest by clients in more balanced portfolios and less of a fixation on equity investments, which have traditionally made up 80% of portfolios," says Leng.

Following the crisis, clients were trying to protect capital in 2008, with many selling off various asset classes and moving into cash, she says. They are now coming back into bonds and equities, but looking more at fixed income and other asset types, says Leng, and CIMB Private Banking has been increasingly allocating local and globally derived asset classes such as Indonesian bonds, gold, exchange-traded funds, managed futures and so on.

"Before clients always had the mentality of trying to make quick gains, but some are realising the benefits of diversifying and reducing portfolio volatility," she says.

The fact that domestic investors started to show greater interest in offshore investments as recently as 2005 demonstrates the emerging nature of the Malaysian market. However, participation in foreign investments has increased tremendously, says Leng, probably largely due to increased availability of information.

The average net worth of CIMB Private Banking clients is RM3.5 million ($1 million), and as of January 31, the firm had RM6.35 billion ($1.9 billion) in assets under management.