William Lowndes has resigned from Threadneedle Asset Management as its head of Asian distribution and is not expected to be replaced directly, AsianInvestor understands.

Lowndes had only relocated from London to Hong Kong in April last year, having worked at Threadneedle for the past 12 years.

The UK asset manager has been busy hiring as it strives to expand in Asia, including the opportunistic capture of Raymundo Yu as its Asia-Pacific chairman, in news broken by AsianInvestor last November.

Yu had come out of retirement for the role, having previously served as regional chairman at Merrill Lynch. He has been bolstering the Threadneedle team, in many cases with ex-Merrill staff.

It is understood Lowndes no longer felt there was an appropriate role for him at the firm. Sources suggest Threadneedle has offered Lowndes various roles in Europe, but none fit.

Having resettled his family in Hong Kong, Lowndes is now eager to remain in a region where he sees significant opportunities to build a business. He will remain on gardening leave until May and will spend his time looking for a regional role in the asset management/funds industry or private banking based in Hong Kong.

Sources suggest Lowndes wants to be part of a building project with his role involving some aspect of client-facing activity. He is already in conversation with several firms, although he is not expected to make a snap decision.

But Lowndes parts company from Threadneedle on amicable terms. In an internal note sent to staff last week and seen by AsianInvestor, its CEO Crispin Henderson thanked Lowndes for his “enormous contribution” to the business.

“I regret to announce that William Lowndes has notified me of his intention to leave Threadneedle after 12 years at the firm,” he wrote. “Throughout this period, William has been involved in leading or supporting several important transactions and developments in the expansion of the firm’s business.

“This included the successful acquisition of a Sicav platform and, most recently, creating the foundations for a significant expansion of our efforts in the Asia region. That expansion will now continue under the leadership of Raymundo Yu and his team.

“I understand from William that following his departure in May, he currently intends to stay in Asia and that he will, in due course, announce his future plans.”

Lowndes has held a number of senior roles in the management of Threadneedle, both in legal and regulatory affairs and more recently in US and then Asian distribution.

He was given management responsibility for the Asia team back in March 2009. He has been working with Standard Chartered on integrating Threadneedle’s Sicav fund range in Hong Kong.

He has also covered Japan for several years and started his career with Fidelity, when his coverage included Taiwan. His stint based in Hong Kong since April last year had been his first on the ground in the Asia region.

Lowndes has previously said he expected to build up Threadneedle’s Asian distribution capability ultimately to match its 35-strong team in continental Europe.

Only recently Threadneedle confirmed that Albert Lee would work with the firm as a senior adviser, based in Hong Kong. Lee had been country CEO and chairman at Merrill Lynch Securities in Taiwan for two years to July 2009.

Prior to that he was managing director and business head for Merrill Lynch’s global private client business in Asia-Pacific.

“We have made a number of hires recently in the region at all levels of the organisation and will be making more over the coming weeks, so we would prefer to give a number [for on-the-ground staff in Asia] once this expansion period is complete,” Yu recently told AsianInvestor.

“We are considering positioning investment managers and analysts in the region, but have no firm plans at this stage.”

In December last year Threadneedle announced the appointment of Michael Langlois from Permal Group as its head of wholesale distribution Asia, effective from January 1 this year. He is tasked with building relationships with local financial institutions and global private banks in the region.

Langlois worked under Raymundo Yu at Merrill Lynch before he joined Permal.