Janus Capital has hired Hiroshi Yoh from Tokio Marine as CEO of its Singapore subsidiary, subject to regulatory approval, and portfolio manager of Asian equity strategies.

It will be the first time that US-based Janus will have an investment management capability based in the region. Yoh’s appointment becomes effective on April 1.

Speaking by phone from Japan, Janus Capital’s managing director for Asia, Jack Lin, describes the move as a major milestone for the firm as it strives to expand its non-US business.

Asked if this would be the first of several such hires in the region, he responds: “Hiroshi will be working closely with the rest of the investment team in Denver and London to strengthen our investing in Asia, as well as globally. Once he is on board and integrated with the global team, at that point we can probably make further plans.”

Lin says Yoh will be looking to establish research analysts on the ground in Asia, although he did not commit to a timeframe.

“Given the importance of Asia, and where we see Asia in the future of our firm’s growth, we thought it was the right time to bring in an experienced investor such as Hiroshi to help us spearhead the effort on investing from Asia,” he adds. “Singapore will certainly feature in our future growth plans in the region on the investments side.”

In an interview last year, Janus Capital Group CEO Richard Weill revealed that he planned to add one or two portfolio managers and three or four research analysts in Asia, probably in 2011.

Yoh, who will report to Denver-based co-CIO Jonathan Coleman, has built up a credible track record of managing Asian equity products.

Under his leadership, Tokio Marine received AsianInvestor’s Investment Performance Award in the Asia ex-Japan category in both 2009 and 2010 for consistent risk-adjusted performance.

News of his hire comes after Janus Capital recruited Hong Kong-based AllianceBernstein CEO Augie Cheh as president of Janus Capital International. He will be based in Hong Kong and his role becomes effective on March 29.

The position of head of Janus’s international business – which encompasses its operations in Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East – had been open for more than a year.

“This shows our seriousness and commitment to growing our non-US business,” says Lin of Cheh’s hire. “He will be a strong leader to push for all the investments and resources required to really grow our international business.”

In terms of products, Janus is pursuing multiple Asia equity product launches, including US and Ucits mutual funds and institutional-focused products, to support the firm’s global distribution platform.

Fixed income has also become a focus. “We already have excellent capabilities on credit-driven fixed income products, our high-yield product is distributed in a number of markets in Asia, so you will see us continue to invest in the fixed income area as well,” adds Lin.

Yoh has 22 years’ experience in investment management in Asia, including as the president of Templeton Investment Management in Japan. He was born in China and educated in both China and Japan.

Prior to AllianceBernstein, Cheh was global director of investments at PricewaterhouseCoopers, a fixed income portfolio manager at JP Morgan IM and management and actuarial consultant at Towers Perrin.

As at September 30 last year, Janus Capital had $160.8 billion in assets under management, just 8% of which was based outside the US. It has set a target of growing this to 20-25% within five years. Lin lists the company’s key Asia-Pacific markets as Japan, Australia, Taiwan and China.