Kames Capital, formerly known as Aegon Asset Management UK, has announced the opening of its Hong Kong office and the appointment of James Cooper as head of Asia business development.

The investment management firm, whose rebranding became effective on September 1, says it will focus initially on developing interest among Asian investors based on existing strengths in fixed income, property and multi-asset products.

Adrian Cammidge, its London-based head of investment communication, notes that it will open its Hong Kong office soon, largely targeting institutional clients.

He says Cooper will look to develop an Asia team over the next year to 18 months, with a view to further expansion, including the establishment of fund managers on the ground.

“ [Basing investment professionals in Asia] will help our management of both insurance company assets and third-party assets,” states the firm’s head of distribution Martin Harris.

“We recognise that Asia-based investors want their money to be managed in the region, if at all possible. As such we hope to be able to offer Asian funds to Asian investors managed and run by Kames Capital in Asia.”

Kames Capital has a total of 247 staff, with its headquarters in Edinburgh, where the majority of its 60 or so fund managers are based, as well as an office in London.

Its main manager representation is in fixed income, UK equity and property, and it has six or seven managers covering multi-asset and a handful for Europe, the US and Asia.

Asked why the firm had changed its name, Cammidge explains it wants to build scale in the third-party market and that its recent research confirms companies are more successful if they are recognised as independent fund houses with separate brands.

Kames Capital manages money for its sister company Aegon UK (formerly Scottish Equitable), which provides pooled funds, life and pension contracts.

“We thought [the name change] was the next step in our evolution as we look to build the business,” he adds. “ [Aegon UK] are coming more into our space by launching their own platform and investment proposition, so we needed to create distinction between us and them.”

As for the story behind the name, Cammidge says the firm wanted something that portrayed its Scottish heritage, pointing to philosopher Lord Kames, a central figure in the Scottish enlightenment. Kames is also a district in Ayrshire, the birthplace of William Murdoch, who invented gas lighting, and roadbuilder John McAdam. “It has a background of innovation and enlightenment and those are the sort of things we would like to be recognised for ourselves,” says Cammidge.

Cooper reports to Harris and joins from consultancy Liminal Image. Prior to that he was country head and investment director for Australia at Standard Life Investments, having previously been investment director for Hong Kong.

Kames Capital is the new name for Aegon Asset Management UK, a firm with £47 billion ($73 billion) under management as at September 30 this year. It manages fixed income, equity, property and multi-asset investments for individual and institutional investors in the UK, Europe and Asia.