Fidelity Worldwide Investment confirmed it has re-hired Bruno Lee from HSBC as regional head of retail for Asia ex-Japan in a drive to bolster its direct retail business to investors.

In a move previously reported by AsianInvestor, Lee is set to start at the beginning of January next year and will report to Mark Talbot, managing director for Asia ex-Japan whom Fidelity hired in June this year.

In a company statement, Talbot confirmed that Lee would be tasked with exploring retail opportunities across the region and acknowledged Lee’s industry expertise.

“His knowledge and experience in the Asia retail markets qualifies him to manage the retail businesses we have in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and ensure they are set up for further growth and success,” he was quoted as saying.

“While we continue to build on our successful wholesale businesses across Asia, it is our strategic objective to have a unique retail direct business that caters to self-directed investors and will help us to understand the end investors’ needs first hand.”

Lee was among a 25-strong shortlist to make AsianInvestor's 10 biggest people moves of 2011, although failed to make the final cut on account of the fact that he was not due to start in his new role in calendar 2011. Talbot, on the other hand, we picked in fourth place (see AsianInvestor's December issue for full details).

Lee's job switch represents a return to Fidelity, where he worked from 1991 to 2003 in marketing, retail sales and operations and wholesale, as well as supporting the launch of the Hong Kong MPF business.

He has been working out his three-month notice period since quitting HSBC in September this year, having spent the past five years as Asia-Pacific head of wealth management.

Lee was instrumental in HSBC’s launch of FundMax in May 2010, a scheme to provide unlimited unit trust (UT) transactions and fund switching to Hong Kong retail investors for an annual fee, as opposed to charging a front-end load for each transaction.

This all-in-one fee structure was designed to address concerns about transaction costs and drive up the penetration rate of UT investments in investor portfolios. And earlier this year Lee expressed confidence that such UT accounts would enter Hong Kong’s mainstream market within five years.

As news of his exit from HSBC surfaced in September, sources close to his move denied he was parting HSBC on bad terms amid rumours of frustration over internal cut backs. Earlier in the month HSBC announced plans to cut 3,000 jobs in Hong Kong over the next three years in a strategic realignment of the business.

“Rumours have been flying around about his reasons for leaving, but the truth is that he has a happy relationship with the HSBC team and leaves on good terms,” the source told AsianInvestor. “What he has decided to do is take on an exciting new challenge.”

Lee first joined HSBC in Hong Kong in 1990 to work in personal banking. From 1991 to 2003 he worked for Fidelity in Hong Kong, the US and Taiwan. He served as chief executive officer for Invesco Taiwan in 2004 and 2005 before rejoining HSBC in 2006.

A spokesperson for HSBC says she has no information on related appointments following Lee's departure.