Manulife has hired Bruno Lee for a senior role in Asia wealth and asset management as it bids to expand its distribution footprint.

Lee joins from Fidelity Worldwide Investment, where he has been Asia ex-Japan regional head of retail for more than three years. Soon after he takes up his new role Lee will step down as chairman of the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association (HKIFA).

Fidelity has named Lee’s successor as Michael Fong, who will take on the retail responsibilities in addition to his current client and customer service role.

Yesterday Manulife Asset Management announced the recruitment of Lee, who will join as Asia head of partnership, product and platform development for wealth and asset management on September 1. His last day at Fidelity will be August 28.

Hong Kong-based Lee will report to Michael Dommermuth, Manulife AM’s Asia head of wealth and asset management.

In this newly-created role, Lee’s remit will be to focus on expanding intermediary channels, securing new partners, developing wholesaling capabilities and managing Manulife’s product suite.

Lee will also be responsible for Manulife’s Asia investment management services (IMS) team, which includes manager selection, performance monitoring and review of managers across Asia platforms.

Lee told AsianInvestor that his role would cover both buy-side and sell-side, and in terms of product and platform he would be supporting all channels, including in-house product development. The platform side of his job would be about manager selection, performance monitoring and supporting Manulife’s product wrapping for pensions, investment-linked insurance products and direct fund sales.

Speaking about his reason for moving to Manulife, Lee said: “At this stage, all I can say is the main attraction is the brand. It is a trusted and committed brand in Asia, very well known with a good footprint in 10 markets around Asia; and a solid client base, both directly and indirectly. The role is very exciting. I look forward to working with Michael and the team to try and contribute to the growth plan."

Dommermuth pointed out that Manulife had been merging its wealth and asset management businesses in the region. Lee’s position reflects this integration, and Dommermuth said he would play a role in strengthening the distribution platform.

Dommermuth said: “Bruno’s thorough understanding of key markets will help create an even stronger platform to bring much needed and relevant investment solutions to more clients and distributors. He has a proven track record in creating and implementing successful retail and wholesale distribution capabilities.”

In June Dommermuth told AsianInvestor that Manulife intended to build a Hong Kong funds platform to tap the “formidable” opportunity presented by the upcoming mutual recognition scheme.

In a statement yesterday, Manulife said: "Regarding mutual recognition, we see huge opportunities in the scheme and are looking closely at how we establish our products and how we position them in Hong Kong. In order to tap the formidable opportunity that the mutual recognition scheme represents, we need to establish a Hong Kong platform."

Lee joined Fidelity in January 2012 as Asia ex-Japan head of retail and was tasked with building a business that catered directly to retail investors.

In December 2012 Lee relaunched Fidelity’s offering for mass-affluent customers in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The scheme aimed to provide customers with access to a range of in-house and third-party funds.

Prior to Fidelity, Lee worked at HSBC between April 2006-December 2011, where his roles included Asia-Pacific head of wealth management. He also worked at Fidelity early on in his career, between 1992-2003, before taking up the position of Invesco Taiwan's CEOin  2003, which he held for two years.

Lee is the current chairman of the HKIFA and has been a leading commentator on the state of the local funds industry. He told AsianInvestor that he would soon be stepping down: “The next annual HKIFA chairman election is on September 8. I will be stepping down and not putting myself forward for re-election.”

Meanwhile Fidelity has named Lee’s replacement as Michael Fong, its Hong Kong-based Asia head of client experience and customer services. A Fidelity spokesperson said: “[Fong] will take on an expanded role that incorporates our retail client functions as well as his current responsibilities of managing our personal investing operations.”

Fong has worked at Fidelity since November 2007, when he joined as head of personal investment, eventually rising to head of client experience and customer services in May 2010.

Prior to joining Fidelity, Fong was head of retail at online broker E*trade between May 2004-November 2007.