Platinum Capital Management, a London-based manager of structured products, funds of hedge funds and single-strategy hedge funds, plans to set up offices in Asia, starting with a desk in Singapore for its investment professionals.

A Hong Kong office for client servicing and business development is likely to follow in early 2009, says Trevor Saliba, Los Angeles-based managing director responsible for growing business in Asia and North America. Mumbai could follow, if talks with a local financial-services company to distribute principle-protected products work out.

The firm, founded in 1999 by chairman Peter Sprecher, now manages about $1 billion of assets. Saliba says this already includes money sourced from Asian institutions and family offices. He joined the firm last year with a mandate to boost asset-gathering in the US and Asia, and part of the strategy heÆs helped develop includes the ability to service clients locally.

ôItÆs not a sudden decision, as we already have business in Asia,ö Saliba says. ôBut given our focus on Greater China and India, and the rise of wealth among families and institutions in these places, we wanted to be in a position to capture more business.ö

He adds that the existing clientele in this region usually stemmed from word of mouth or personal connections among the firmÆs directors, or from its other clients in Europe and the Middle East. Saliba was hired last year in part to develop a business plan specifically for Asian investors.

The firmÆs investment team in Zurich already manages Asia-focused funds, including its Platinum Dynasty Fund, a long/short equity strategy with an emphasis on China, as well as global funds in equities, high yield and macro with Asian components. But the rise of Singapore as a booking centre for high-net-worth clients has made it an attractive place to also manage money.

Platinum has identified the person who will run the Singapore office û someone already in the region, external to the firm û but Saliba declined to name him or her. The new hireÆs job will be to not only help run the existing product line, but also to develop at least one new, Asia-focused fund or fund of funds.

For now Saliba will continue to oversee sales and client service, dividing his time between Asia and the US, but as client needs dictate, the firm will at some point probably look to hire a regional manager to be based in Hong Kong. Saliba has extensive experience in Asia; as CIO at CirTran Corporation, a US electronics manufacturer, he spearheaded numerous acquisitions in China. Combined with prior stints at Morgan Stanley, he wanted to maintain his involvement in this region and initially considered moving into private equity, before being approached by Platinum.