Manulife is on a drive to get its mutual funds on the shelves of main distributors in Hong Kong, but like many other product providers is finding it challenging.  

The unit, part of Canadian insurer Manulife Financial, has fund distribution agreements with banks in the territory, including Bank of China and Bank of East Asia.  But it is working hard to get its products on other banks' platforms, such as those of Citi, HSBC and Standard Chartered.

This type of partnership is particularly important in Asia, because banks are such a dominant channel in the region, says Myles Morin, vice-president of investment funds at Manulife Hong Kong.

Morin’s department helps to market Manulife’s unit-linked products and mutual funds, and works with the company’s pensions on manager selection in Hong Kong.

Post-crisis it has proved particularly difficult for asset managers to get their funds on to bank platforms, due to distributors’ tendency to focus on a narrower range of products and product providers. This is down to a desire to cut costs and improve quality control.

In Hong Kong, each bank can only have distribution agreements with two life insurers, which makes the range of partnerships for those products all the more limited. It also makes it all the more desirable for insurers’ asset management arms to get mutual funds on to bank platforms.

Morin is based in Hong Kong, but in mid-July will return to his native Canada to take up a newly created role working with bank distributors out of Toronto. The firm has started an internal and external search for a replacement.

Morin has held his current post since October 2008, and has been responsible for investment product development and implementation of strategy for alternative distribution channels.

His main focus in his new post, at least initially, will be to get more products on the shelves of major Canadian banks. But he hopes ultimately this may expand to other international groups with business in Canada, such as Chinese banks it already works with. 

“This is a new role and we’re going to start from scratch,” he says. “I will start it and see what it grows into. This is a first for Manulife in Canada.”

Before his stint in Hong Kong, Morin was vice-president at Manulife Investments in Toronto from 2001 to 2008. Prior to that he was vice-president and national sales manager for four years at Dynamic Mutual Funds, also in Toronto.

He was vice-president and national sales manager at Fidelity Investments from 1994 to 1997. There he headed the IFA sales channel and grew the sales share from 15% to 55%.