Manulife Asset Management has announced the appointment of Lawrence Wee from Tokio Marine as its head of institutional sales for South Asia, based in Singapore.

Wee took up the post on February 6, joining a regional sales team of 11 including product management, relationship management, client service and sales administration. He comes in as a direct replacement for Caleb Wong, who left the firm on January 3.

Wee reports to James Chen, senior managing director and head of institutional sales for Asia, based in Hong Kong, and to Jill Smith, senior managing director of Manulife Asset Management in Singapore.

The moves comes as Manulife AM strives to broaden its institutional and wholesale client base in Asia in a drive to double Asian AUM to $80 billion within five years, Jean-Francis Courville, its Toronto-based president and CEO, told AsianInvestor last year.

Chen is a former Goldman staffer who himself only joined Manulife AM on October 3 last year from Vision Investment Management Asia. He replaced Avere Hill, who left the firm last January.

Wee was head of sales for Tokio Marine in Singapore, part of a team of four covering both retail and institutional sales and marketing across the region.

The firm’s Asia CEO Yoshihiro Matsuzaki confirmed that Wee had left the firm at the end of January and that it was seeking a replacement. “We are now in the process of short-listing and we hope to have someone in place shortly,” he tells AsianInvestor.

Matsusaki says that to this point attracting clients from Asia has been less of a priority for the firm than securing those from Japan and Europe. “[Asia] is an area we would like to expand in, but probably in the mid-term because it will take us time to cultivate the market,” he adds.

Tokio Marine AM’s international arm has become a recognised leader in Asia ex-Japan equities, and it has gone against the grain by hiring senior executives from outside its parent companies. It manages around $3.6 billion for mostly institutional clients from Japan, Europe and Asia.

Prior to Tokio Marine, Wee worked for First State Investments and United Overseas Bank in Singapore.

As at December 31, Manulife AM had $208 billion in AUM globally, of which Asia-Pacific accounted for $44 billion. Of this, fixed income amounted to $34 billion and equity $10 billion.