Following the launch of its Malaysia unit-trust platform last month, Manulife Asset Management has hired Jason Chong in the newly created role of chief investment officer in Kuala Lumpur.

His duties were previously carried out by chief executive Yeow Kok Kien, who resigned in January after a long career at the firm. Manulife AM could not say where he might have gone or whether it plans to replace him.

Chong joined on February 8 from UOB-OSK Asset Management in Kuala Lumpur, where he had been CIO since 2005. Reporting to the board of Manulife AM Malaysia, he heads a team of 12 and oversees the fixed-income and equity portfolios.

Before joining UOB, Chong spent nine years at Merrill Lynch in Malaysia in various roles, most recently as head of Malaysia research.

"We are growing our investment-management team in Malaysia and felt the time was right to hire a CIO to build out the team and help us grow our third-party business," says a company spokeswoman. The firm has a six-strong investment team covering equity and fixed income and plans to add to that number this year, particularly on the equity side, she adds.

The business will be looking to build its profile in the institutional and retail spaces and in other aspects of the wealth-management market in Malaysia, says the spokeswoman. It will focus mainly on fixed income and equity and will seek segregated mandates. Most of the money under management comprises Manulife assets.

The Malaysian asset-management business started operations last year and it launched the unit-trust platform with its first five funds last month. The funds are Manulife Malaysia Equity Fund, Manulife Malaysia Bond Fund, Manulife Investment -- Global Resources Fund, Manulife Investment -- China Value Fund, and the Manulife Investment -- India Equity Fund.

"Despite being a new asset-management business, we already have extensive experience of managing general-account and investment-linked-product funds for Manulife," says the spokeswoman. "The asset-management company's local presence means we can now offer this extensive investment experience to third-party clients."

Manulife AM has been building up elsewhere in Asia as well, with the launch of its first five funds in Singapore in October and the hire of Grace Ho in December. It also announced in November the purchase of a 49% stake in the ABN Amro Teda Fund Management joint venture in China from BNP Paribas.

Manulife AM Malaysia, part of Canadian insurance group Manulife, had 2.4 billion ringgit ($715 million) in assets under management as of January 31.