Melissa Lee has joined Edmond de Rothschild Asset Management (EdR AM) in a newly created role as head of institutional sales based in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, AsianInvestor has learned that Lavin Mok left late last month as the firm's head of Asia sales, having only been hired this March. It comes after Asia marketing manager Bryan Chen departed in September after two years at the company.

Lee started with EdR AM in mid-November at the same level as Mok. Both received the same reporting lines to general manager Tang Yi, as well as into Paris headquarters.

But while Lee has since taken on some of Mok’s responsibilities, she confirms she is not a replacement for him, rather that the French asset manager is setting out to expand in institutional business in Asia.

“The head of Asia sales’ [Mok's] focus was more on retail distribution," she tells AsianInvestor. "I guess you could say my role, although my title is head of institutional sales, I am doing distribution network as well. I should have a sales counterpart on the retail side, but we are still assessing where the need is.”

Lee outlines her chief responsibilities as developing and maintaining client relationships across Asia, promoting EdR AM’s brand name and marketing new products to institutional clients as well as to a distribution network and platforms.

EdR AM has a total of 16 staff based in Hong Kong to cover its target markets in the region: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea and Japan. It features four senior people in its investment team following the transfer of David Gaud earlier this year. It also has three staff looking after marketing/client servicing and is seeking to hire another in the near future.

“We are expanding in Asia, so at some point the sales team will expand. We don’t know exactly when, but we are definitely committed to this market,” Lee says, although declines to disclose revenue or personnel targets.

Lee prefers to discuss EdR AM’s planned expansion into Asia’s institutional markets. “The institutional space is a new area of growth for us in Asia,” she notes.

“The office in Hong Kong was established in 2008, and that is not to say that there have been no efforts to be in institutional markets before. It is just that since 2008 the markets have been difficult.

“This new role really shows the company’s commitment and belief that long-term we should be in Asia and we see the potential in the institutional market segment.”

Lee’s background is in institutional sales. She started her career with Principal Capital Management (formerly BT Funds Management) in 1996.

In 2003 she joined the alternative investment division of SHK Fund Management covering mutual fund sales predominantly within private banks in the Asia region. Two years later she joined Pioneer Global Investments, which specialises in fund of funds and long-only business.

Lee was focused on the institutional investor market segment to develop and manage client relationships in Japan, Korea and Hong Kong. However, Pioneer shut its Hong Kong office in the middle of this year.

Edmond de Rothschild Asset Management had client assets of €13.4 billion ($17.6 billion) as of November 2010, the vast majority based in Europe.