Manulife Asset Management has appointed Ronald Chan from Pacific Eagle as senior managing director and head of equities for Asia to sharpen its suite of products and drive AUM.

Chan started on January 3 and effectively replaces Tahnoon Pasha, who left in the middle of last year to become Asia ex-Japan CEO for equities and fixed income at Aviva Investors, the asset management arm of UK insurer Aviva.

Chan will manage a team of nine Hong Kong-based analysts and fund managers who take care of products for the Greater China and Asia-Pacific region.

He will also oversee a regional team of more than 40 equity portfolio managers and analysts across Asia, while working closely with almost 40 Beijing-based equity staff at the firm’s joint-venture in China, Manulife TEDA Fund Management Company.

Manulife AM manages a number of Greater China equity strategies, including a Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (QFII) China A-share fund which was launched last year.

Fittingly, Chan has experience in Greater China equities, having set up an investment management business in Shanghai when he worked at Fortis Investment Management.

Manulife AM boasts a regional presence in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, and Chan sees this geographic diversity as a differentiating factor.

“We have a presence in almost every single country in this region, and that is unique as far as local players are concerned. Our mothership also has a very strong presence in North America.

“So we have a strong talent pool who by and large are very bottom-up driven, they are out there to kick tyres and find out what is happening in the marketplace. We need to be able to exploit our information advantage.”

Part of Chan’s job will be to help raise the firm’s AUM in Asia. So he needs to determine whether the firm has the right products and is selling them to the right people through the right channels.

“Whether it is institutional or private banks, there is a lot of mapping that can be done to drive product efficiency higher within the region,” he says. He will also be looking for ways to market the firm’s Asian capabilities and products to the North American audience more effectively.

“There is more room for us to manufacture some more boutique types of products and this will be one of my key objectives,” he adds.

Chan says Manulife AM has capacity to add its regional equities headcount, with Thailand and the Philippines two of the markets at the forefront of such discussions, although he suggests plans are a little fluid at this stage.

“Across Asia we already have small-cap products, but we need to beef this up,” he adds.

Chan is generally positive about the outlook for Asian equities amid a low interest-rate environment and strong liquidity, backed by improving economic data from the US. While China has inflation concerns, he describes actions taken by Beijing policymakers as “very responsible”.

“From the second quarter onwards you should see a much better environment for investing in China equities. All in all, the outlook for Asian equities is positive.”

Chan has more than 16 years’ equity management experience, having spent a decade overseeing equity teams in Asia. Most recently he worked as deputy chief investment officer of Pacific Eagle Asset Management.

He has also served as chief investment officer of Asian equity at Fortis IM in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and worked at Hambros Fund Management and Baring Asset Management in the UK.

Based in Hong Kong, he reports locally to Michael Dommermuth, president and head of Manulife Asset Management (Asia), and functionally to Boston-based Chris Conkey, global chief investment officer for equities.

Manulife Asset Management is the global asset management arm of Canadian-based financial services group Manulife Financial.

As at September 30 last year, Manulife AM had about $118 billion in assets under management, of which Asia makes up about a third. It boasts around 220 staff across the region.