Hana UBS Asset Management is turning to Michael Chin, an investment banker, to run it.

The joint venture asset manager has risen to become the fifth-largest onshore manager of mutual funds in Korea by assets, according to Kofia, the local securities industry association. Kofia states that Hana UBS has assets under management of W16.5 billion as at the end of September 2009, but the Kofia rankings don't include segregated accounts. UBS says the JV manages a total of W20 trillion ($17.3 billion) as at end November.

It's not clear what lies behind this decision. Andreas Neuber, who has served as the JV's CEO since it was established, but who is now stepping down from that role, declined to be interviewed.

According to a UBS spokesman in Hong Kong, the JV "continues to be one of the most profitable asset management firms in Korea".

The firm says it has out-performing Korean equity funds: "However, we believe that Michael Chin's deep knowledge of Korea will help to consolidate UBS Hana's strong relationships with both clients and distributors."

Hana UBS was established in 2007 with W19.9 billion of AUM based on the ruins of Daehan Investment Trust & Management, one of the 'big three' Korean fund managers affiliated with big securities firms that once dominated the local industry. UBS took a 51% share of the new JV. (For details see our story on the new company here.)

In AUM terms, the needle hasn't moved in two-and-a-half years, despite booms and busts.

What UBS acquired was focused on low-margin bonds and money markets.

When Neuber first arrived, he wanted to set the new JV on the high-minded path of educating local investors about the benefits of global investment and long-term outlooks. After about a year or so, this lofty strategy was retooled in the face of local demand, and the firm began selling emerging-market equities and other high-yielding products.

It still retains a sizeable business in ultra-low margin money-market funds (over W6 billion of such assets). To what extent it has succeeded in selling high-margin international equities is not public, but probably the only foreign house in Korea to realise a blockbuster onshore in the past two years is Schroders with its Bric equity funds.

Neuber will remain in Korea for the handover phase to Michael Chin and remain chairman of the board of directors, to ensure continuity with the JV's senior management. UBS declined to say what his future role would be, however.

So, enter Michael Chin. Unlike Neuber, who had a solid background in asset management and wealth management in Europe, Chin is an investment banker, having headed Asian equity sales at UBS in Hong Kong since 2006.

He has served as co-head of the Seoul branch of UBS Securities and head of equities in Korea; he's repeated both roles in Taiwan as well. He has also worked in corporate finance, fixed income and equities for other institutions, including Lehman Brothers, Schroder & Company and Credit Suisse First Boston.

The firm says it is moving Chin into the CEO role because of his local contacts and country knowledge. "He is highly regarded by our client base there," says a UBS spokesman.

In September, UBS announced it would appoint Shane Gunther as its new head of Asian sales. Gunther has been with the firm's equities business for over 10 years and most recently has served as head of sales and research for Japan.