Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management has hired Niel Thassim for a newly created role as Asia head of its private funds group in Hong Kong, to drive fundraising and develop and maintain relationships with investors in the region.

The $150 billion fund firm has a significant presence in Australia, say sources, but only a handful of staff in its Asian headquarters in Hong Kong – a combination of sales and strategy executives. The company’s Asian investment business is relatively new, and Brookfield plans to make a couple more hires in the next few months.

Thassim was most recently managing director and head of RREEF’s Asia-Pacific real estate business, a unit of Deutsche Bank. Prior to this, he held senior roles at RREEF and Deutsche in Australia, London and Singapore, having joined the bank in 2000.

He left RREEF in July amid the mooted takeover of Deutsche Bank’s AM business by US financial services firm Guggenheim Partners – which has since fallen through. Paul Keogh, RREEF's former Asia-Pacific chief investment officer, left at the same time, and reportedly joined Melbourne-based retirement fund AustralianSuper in January as direct investment manager for property.

Just last week Nadir Maruf, formerly Asia-Pacific head of infrastructure at RREEF, took on an expanded role as head of Asia-Pacific alternative investments, incorporating Thassim's old role. Maruf will also co-head the global infrastructure business alongside Hamish Mackenzie, Europe head of infrastructure and infrastructure debt, who was formerly Europe head of RREEF Infrastructure.

Mackenzie and Maruf succeed John McCarthy, former head of RREEF Infrastructure, who is leaving Deutsche Bank to pursue other opportunities. He had been with the firm since 2005.

Thassim started his new role at Brookfield this week and reports to Leo van den Thillart, managing partner in the private funds group, based in Toronto. Van den Thillart hails Thassim’s experience in alternative asset management and “solid institutional and consultant relationships”.

Property will remain a major focus for Brookfield, given that around $100 billion of its $150 billion in global AUM is invested in real estate, and in light of Thassim’s most recent experience. He was also chief operating officer for the alternatives arm of Deutsche’s AM business from 2006 to 2009.

Brookfield has spent over 100 years owning and operating assets with a focus on renewable power, infrastructure and private equity, as well as property.

The firm’s focus in terms of Asian and Australian assets is on commercial real estate, construction and development and critical infrastructure assets. It has some $16 billion of AUM in Asia-Pacific, most of which is invested in Australia.

Thassim, who declined to comment for this article, has also held executive positions with Coopers & Lybrand, Bankers Trust, Credit Suisse First Boston and Colonial First State Investments in Australia and the UK.