Mahendran Nathan, the outgoing regional head of SG Asset Management in Singapore, will launch a consultancy called Wealth Management Asia that intends to assist regional financial institutions in building ways to advise affluent customers.

Nathan was hired in 1997 as managing director and regional head of SGAM's business, covering Asia ex-Japan and Australia, and was promoted to regional CEO in 2004. SGAM remains a small player in the region's traditional funds space, but has built a business around structured products, and now manages $6 billion sourced from the region; of this 30% is from structured products, while another major chunk comes from institutional accounts. Prior to joining SGAM he ran Southeast Asia business development for Morgan Grenfell, later part of Deutsche Asset Management, and served a turn in Hong Kong's funds industry as well.

The firm has not yet determined who will replace Nathan, and is said to be looking at breaking the business into three geographies - North and Southeast Asia, and Australia - rather than hire a single person to run the entire area. Nathan will stay on through September.

He has recruited various partners now working at other financial institutions, whom he cannot yet name, to found Wealth Management Asia, which will have offices in Singapore (coverage to include India) and Hong Kong. The firm is also in talks with potential partners in Thailand, which could lead to a third office looking at Indochina.

His new colleagues come from a variety of backgrounds, including money management, private banking, retail banking and treasury desks. "Wealth management requires specialists in each area," he says.

Nathan explains: "Local financial institutions can try various ways to establish a wealth management business, including joint ventures, MOUs and technology transfers with foreign firms. But this isn't the cleanest way to do it. We can help add value to local institutions' efforts to build wealth management functions."

Part of the work involves establishing wealth management training centres, first in Singapore and perhaps later in Bangkok.