Vincent Duhamel has left State Street Global Advisors, where he had served as CEO for Asia ex-Japan in Hong Kong. He is reportedly on gardening leave before joining Goldman Sachs Asset Management, which has suffered from several high-level resignations and transfers out of the region.

Duhamel will be replaced by Bernard Reilly, currently managing director responsible for SSgA's Australian operation, who joined the firm in 1992. Reilly will report to Tokyo-based Mark Lazberger, head of SSgA's international business, and focus on business in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and South Korea.

GSAM is currently run by Stephen Fitzgerald, managing director in Hong Kong, who has been covering the bases in the wake of departures by Hahm Hong-joo, who had covered central banks but had left for the World Bank, and Philip Gardner, who had run GSAM in Asia ex-Japan but who relocated from Singapore to Sydney to run GSJBWere Asset Management. Goldman officials did not return calls by press time, so details about Duhamel's position could not be determined.

Duhamel, a native of Quebec, arrived in Hong Kong in 1996 after building a career in Canada's asset management industry. At the time, SSgA was putting together an Asia ex-Japan operation from scratch.

In a recent interview, Duhamel related how he initially hit a brick wall. "People would take me aside and tell me, 'Vincent, this is Asia, we don't do index investing here,'" he recalls. SSgA's asset management capabilities span the range of passive to alpha-only strategies, but it continues to be well known for its passive and index-linked products.

The firm got its break amid the fallout of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. Hong Kong had survived relatively unscathed from the collapse of the baht and other regional currencies, but in August, 1998, the additional whammies of a Russian default and the destruction of US hedge fund Long-Term Credit Management led to massive speculation against the Hong Kong dollar. The government under then-financial secretary Donald Tsang made a bold and controversial move in October, 1998 to buy the Hong Kong stock market, in a successful effort to support the currency.

The government, however, found itself in the very uncomfortable position of owning a significant portion of the market - completely at odds with its liberal nature. Duhamel suggested that launching an exchange-traded fund at a nice discount would be an efficient way to gradually divest those holdings, while giving Hong Kong's public the chance to participate in the market.

The Exchange Fund Investment Ltd. (EFIL), the company established by the government to advise on the disposal of these assets, bought the idea and in 1999 appointed SSgA to manage the Hong Kong Tracker Fund (TraHK), while State Street Bank and Trust was named trustee. The subsequent initial public offering raised HK$33.3 billion ($4.3 billion), and was the largest equity offering in Asia ex-Japan at the time.

The Tracker Fund put SSgA on the map in Asia ex-Japan, following substantial business growth in Japan and Australia. It was a personal success for Duhamel as well, who quickly went to overseeing a struggling start-up to managing a very large institutional player.

SSgA has since served as advisor to the first ETF in Taiwan, managed by Polaris International Securities Investment Trust, and more recently, in China, whose first ETF was launched by China Asset Management early this year. SSgA has also used its profile to win index mandates by the likes of Korea's National Pension Corporation.

Duhamel is leaving after winning the mandate to manage the $1 billion pan-Asian investment bond fund (PAIF) being financed by the region's central banks. The firm intends to launch an ETF in Hong Kong this summer to allow retail and institutional investors to trade the regional Asian bond portfolio.

The firm now claims to be the largest institutional manager in Asia ex-Japan.

Reilly, Duhamel's successor, comes from Australia, a market where SSgA has developed many of its quantitative, enhanced and alpha strategies for clients worldwide. No doubt Reilly will continue to emphasize these products alongside SSgA's more traditional ones as he picks up where Duhamel left off.

Robert Goodlad, currently director of business development in Sydney, has been promoted to replace Bernard Reilly as head of the Australian business.