Manulife Investment Management’s head of North Asia ex-Japan and institutional business for Asia is to leave the Canadian firm on July 1 and will not be directly replaced.

James Chen has been with the company, part of insurance giant Manulife, for nearly a decade in Hong Kong. He is moving on for personal reasons, a spokesman told AsianInvestor by email.

Following his departure, Chen will remain a director on the board of Manulife IM Taiwan and Beijing-based joint venture Manulife Teda Fund Management. He will also remain an important senior adviser in respect of Manulife IM’s Greater China efforts, the spokesman added.  

James Chen

Meanwhile, Kevin Ding, a former Manulife employee, rejoined the group in April as managing director for the China wealth and asset management business.

Ding is involved with Manulife IM’s mutual funds, insurance-linked, pension and private market businesses across its different entities and partners in China, said the spokesman. He manages the relationship with Manulife Teda and works with Shanghai-based JV Manulife-Sinochem Life Insurance and with China Life, another partner to the group.

Ding and Ernest Yeung – also a managing director of China wealth and asset management, who joined in June last year – now effectively run the China business between them, the spokesman added. They report to Michael Dommermuth, Asia head of wealth and asset management. 

Kevin Ding

Ding was most recently Beijing-based director of actuarial services at KPMG China. Before that, he worked at Manulife in Asia and the US, most recently as managing director for Asia pensions strategy and development. 

KPMG did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

ABSORBING RESPONSIBILITIES

Peter Kim, Asia-Pacific ex-Japan head of institutional business, has been leading the regional ex-Japan institutional business along with Chen. Kim will now take full responsibility and oversee the strategic direction for the business across the institutional markets in the region. He has led the team since 2018.

Masahiko Fujimoto, head of Japan institutional business, and Vincent Ma, head of Manulife IM Taiwan, will continue to lead the institutional businesses in their respective markets.  

As of March 31, Manulife IM had C$832 billion ($586 billion) in assets under management, of which C$175 billion was sourced from Asia. The firm manages portfolios both for third-party clients and for its parent group, Manulife Financial, which had C$1.2 trillion in AUM as of March 31.

Chen’s exit adds to a growing list of senior departures from fund houses in Asia in recent months. These have come amid an increasingly challenging environment for the investment industry in recent years, exacerbated lately by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Examples include BrightSphere Investment Group closing its regional umbrella sales office, East Capital reducing its Hong Kong headcount, Fidelity losing Asia fixed income head Bryan Collins, and Lindsay Wright leaving Matthews Asia.

This article has been updated to reflect that James Chen is head of North Asia ex-Japan, but that his institutional coverage remit includes Japan.