US-based Legg Mason Asset Management and Canada’s Mackenzie Investments have put new China heads in place, as foreign firms ramp up their push to build mainland funds businesses.

Legg Mason has lured Sun Hao from rival US fund house AllianceBernstein as general manager for its wholly foreign-owned entity (WFOE) in Shanghai, while Mackenzie last month confirmed Du Ying as chief China representative for its new Beijing representative office.

A spokesman for multi-affiliate manager Legg Mason said Sun joined earlier this month. But he said he could not comment on who had previously overseen the Shanghai branch or whether the firm was planning further hires there.

Sun had been head of institutional sales for Greater China at AllianceBernstein in Hong Kong, before his licence ended on June 15. He has also worked at Amundi as head of business development for China and overseeing institutional sales for China at Pimco.

AllianceBernstein did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Mackenzie Financial Corporation officially set up its Beijing office on May 8, Du told Asianinvestor by email. She had joined in November to help build the firm’s presence in China and was previously chief China rep at Axa Investment Managers. Mackenzie currently has two people in Beijing, said Du.

Mackenzie and its parent, Power Corporation, own 27.8% of Beijing-based China Asset Management, she noted, but Mackenzie does not yet have a China WFOE or private fund management (PFM) licence.

The appointments of Du and Sun come amid fierce competition in China for asset management talent. A growing number of foreign fund houses are obtaining WFOE and PFM licences allowing them to manage and sell products onshore to institutional and wealthy clients.

Some institutional investors are also seeking to expand their own China expertise and resources as Beijing steadily opens up the mainland’s capital markets to foreign participation.

Other firms to have put in place heads of newly established units in China in recent months include Aberdeen Standard Investments and Eastspring Investments, as first reported by AsianInvestor.

Aberdeen hired Amy Wang, formerly of Amundi, in September last year, while Eastspring brought in Michael Lu in February from Dutch asset manager Robeco.

By the start of this year 25 investment management WFOE licences had been handed out, and that number could potentially double to 50 this year, said one recruitment executive.