Deutsche Asset Management (DeAM), Germany's largest fund manager, yesterday kicked off its "assault on Asia-Pacific" with the launch of DWS Investments in Singapore û the first step of an ambitious expansion that will see new offices opened throughout the region.

Ed Peter, head of Deutsche Asset Management in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, says the phenomenal demand by retail investors for global funds means a "single, unified brand" has become increasingly important.

"Up until now, we've had brands all over the place in what is arguably the most important region for us. The fact that the demand for retail products is growing rapidly is not in doubt, but we need to be in a position to be able to satisfy it," he says.

Globally, DeAM sees its business split equally between retail and institutional. Throughout Asia ex-Japan, however, the breakdown is far more heavily weighted towards institutional, with more than 50% coming from wholesale investors and the balance split between retail and alternative assets.

Peter says he expects this balance to change markedly, with DeAM having budgeted retail to make up 33% of business in the region by the end of the year.

"In January we were targeting 80% growth in retail, and that's now looking conservative" he says. "We already have about Ç8 billion in the region, and that includes Ç1.2 billion that we've raised since the start of 2006."

Yesterday's launch will see investors in Singapore being given access to 17 Singapore dollar-denominated funds, along with 25 euro- or US dollar-denominated funds. It also sees the launch of two new specialist funds, the DWS Japanese Small/Mid-Cap Fund, and the DWS Asian Small/Mid-Cap Fund.

Peter says this model û of new fund launches and expanded access to existing offshore funds û will then be rolled out across the region during the next 24 months, with new offices in Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines to be added to existing offices in Korea, India and Hong Kong.

"These aren't going to be just sales offices," he says. "WeÆre going to have fund managers and analysts on the ground in all these places, both selling and manufacturing products.

"Our peer group has built Asia-Pacific models that are very cost-effective and efficient, but that has meant they're very centered upon financial hubs. We have the benefit of the Deutsche Bank infrastructure, and that is a massive advantage that no one else has."

He points out, for example, that the DWS Singapore Small/Mid Cap Index, which was launched in January, featured 11 out of 40 stocks that are not covered by any major broker.

"During the last five years the number of stocks covered by analysts across the region has plummeted," Peter says. "With our local presence we are able to do our own research, and that will make an enormous difference not only to the type of funds we offer, but also the performance these funds can achieve."