Continuing its tendency to hire dealmakers to senior investment roles, Temasek Holdings has poached Tan Chong-Lee from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, reportedly as co-chief investment officer.

One industry source says Tan is “clearly meant to be a co-CIO” to Tow Heng-Tan, but the sovereign wealth fund would not confirm his title, nor when he would be starting. Tow has been CIO since 2002.

Tan was previously investment banking head for Southeast Asia at BoA Merrill, but the bank did not respond to queries about his replacement by press time. At BoA Merrill, Tan would have covered Temasek, says one source, since the fund would be among the top clients to whom all large investment banks in Southeast Asia would pitch deals.

Gan Chee-Yen was previously co-CIO at Temasek, but has been on secondment as senior managing director of special projects. On August 1 he started as CEO of Fullerton Financial Holdings, a subsidiary of Temasek, to replace Francis Rozario, who is leaving the firm but will remain an adviser to the board.

The CIO post at Temasek is not a traditional portfolio management role, which is why the fund has tended to hire dealmakers or “generalists who can learn on the job”, adds the source.

He cites as another example Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, head of portfolio management. Before Sandrasegara joined Temasek in September 2010, he was managing partner of Wong Partnership, a Singaporean law firm that does a lot of work for the fund.

Moreover, Tow himself worked on the sell-side as managing director of Lum Chang Securities and senior director of DBS Vickers Securities after a series of mergers and restructuring saw Lum Chang incorporated into the latter.

Industry observers agree that Tan's hire appears to form a part of the succession plan for when chief executive Ho Ching steps down. The post-Ho Ching transition plan is the big issue, says one source, because whoever comes in next will be deciding on whether to stay with the status quo or change the way Temasek operates.

The latest CIO appointment comes following a string of management changes that started a year or so back. Charles Ong, former head of Temasek hedge fund Seatown, left recently to join his brother Richard Ong to advise on his $2.3 billion private equity firm RRJ Capital. He was replaced at Seatown by Jimmy Phoon, an internal transfer, who started on August 1. And last year Temasek hired Greg Curl as president and ex-lawyer Sandrasegara, both in September.

There have also been recent changes at Temasek unit Fullerton Fund Management, which finally has a new CEO to replace Gerard Lee, who took over at Lion Global Investors late last year. Manraj Sekhon, previously head of international equities at Henderson Global Investors in London, will assume the top job at Fullerton FM on October 1.

The firm had been seeking a CEO with direct fund-management experience, say sources. It could have decided to seek regional scale – like local rival DBS Asset Management – or to remain an independent Singaporean investment firm, and it seems to have chosen the latter.  

Hence hiring an experienced investment manager would appear to be the right choice for focusing on the independent investment philosophy of the firm, agree sources.

As a relatively small investment firm seeking to grow, Fullerton needed a head with strong investment credentials and experience of running a mature business, says one market participant. Lee fits into that mould, having spent a substantial amount of time at Deutsche Asset Management as deputy CIO for Asia.

Henderson has replaced Sekhon with Brian O’Neill, investment manager for global equities, and Shih Yu-Jen, co-portfolio manager for international equities. They assume the titles of co-heads of international equities, but retain their previous roles at the firm in London.