First State Investments (FSI) has signed Cathay Securities Investment Consulting (Cathay Sice) as its master agent in Taiwan in what it sees as a key first step towards its Asia expansion.

Separately its former head of retail fund distribution for North Asia, Joann Ma, has joined Hong Kong fixed income specialists Income Partners Asset Management as head of business development for Asia.

Ma exited FSI over two years ago, after which First State moved to restructure the role. It promoted Alex Tam to sales director for retail distribution, responsible for Hong Kong and Macau, and in April last year it hired Carol Lin as sales director to focus on the Taiwan market.

Lin was FSI’s first dedicated sales director for Taiwan, says Michael Stapleton, the firm’s regional managing director for Asia and Japan. She previously worked for four years at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, where she was responsible for Taiwan business development.

“A role dedicated to focus in Taiwan was created in 2010,” says Stapleton. “The aim to dedicate a specialist sales resource is to expand the client base and activity level in this important and growing market.”

On the appointment of Cathay Sice, FSI notes it will now be free to distribute 10 Irish domiciled FSI funds registered in Taiwan to retail investors, including equities and fixed-income products.

Stapleton says Cathay Sice has a strong distribution network that will help to build FSI’s profile on the island. He notes that Cathay Sice has been committed to building its offshore fund distribution business since the master agent system was introduced in 2006.

“In addition to the solid distribution network within the group, Cathay Sice has been actively expanding its business network to third-party entities,” says Stapleton. “Its appointment as our master agent in Taiwan is an important first step in First State Investments’ Asian expansion.

“It allows FSI to broaden its client base and sources of business – both wholesale and institutional channels to further grow its assets and revenues in the region.”

Meanwhile, Ma was hired to help Income Partners expand its fund distribution network, according to Emil Nguy, managing partner of the firm he co-founded in 1993. She has held similar posts at SG, Invesco, Janus and AllianceBernstein previously over the past 15 years.

She will take responsibility for private banking coverage as well as help to develop the firm’s institutional business, in which capacity she will work alongside founders Nguy and Francis Tjia.

Income Partners has offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing. Its product range targets Asian credit opportunities, credit trading and value-oriented long investments long/short credit, relative value trading and special situations.

Income Partners’ flagship fund is its Asia Credit Hedge Fund, which has been in existence for nine years. More recently, that product has been joined in the portfolio by the IP Renminbi Credit Fund. In 2005, it launched a more aggressive credit fund, the Asian CRC hedge fund.

The firm was founded in 1993 and is one of the stalwarts of the Hong Kong alternatives industry, having adopted an institutional-style platform long before such a quality became de rigueur.

First State Investments is the international operation of Colonial First State Global Asset Management, the AM business of Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Colonial First State AM had $156.7 billion in AUM as at March 31 this year. It had $116.5 billion in Asia-Pacific sourced AUM as at the end of last year, by AsianInvestor numbers.