Canadian insurer Manulife has confirmed it is still in the market looking to hire a head of distribution partnerships for Asia after announcing the promotion of Jonathan Hekster this week.

The business is split into two parts: the insurance side, which includes investment-linked products, and the wealth and asset management portion, which comprises pensions and mutual funds.

Hekster had served as head of distribution partnership on the insurance side until this March, when he was promoted to vice-president and regional head of the DBS Partnership to reflect the prominent role he played in winning a $1.2 billion bancassurance distribution deal with DBS Bank.

That partnership arrangement, Manulife’s largest in Asia, will commence on January 1 next year and last for 15 years. Manulife’s insurance and wealth management products will be sold by DBS in four markets: Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Indonesia.

Earlier this week Manulife announced that Hekster had been further upgraded to senior vice-president. He continues to report to Roy Gori, chief executive of Manulife Asia.

Since Hekster's change of role in March, Jenny Sutton has taken up his responsibilities on an interim basis. A spokesman for Manulife confirmed it was still seeking to hire a head of distribution partnership for Asia.

The spokesman said the role was focused on working with Manulife's country leaders across Asia to develop existing bancassurance partnerships and acquire new relationships. It also involves developing its alternative distribution strategy, including direct marketing and other channels.

Manulife has said it will be hiring a small regional team dedicated to the DBS bancassurance partnership. Positions to be filled include customer relations, sales, product and support roles.

Based in Singapore, Hekster is now responsible for preparing for the DBS partnership launch, as well as the delivery of all strategic goals and targets across all four markets. He joined Manulife in 2013 and was appointed regional head of partnership distribution in January 2014.

In recent years he has been involved in several of Manulife’s bancassurance deals and implementation including Manulife-Danamon in 2012 and Manulife-Alliance Bank in 2013.

Manulife's recently combined asset and wealth management business last month appointed Bruno Lee as head of partnership, product and platform development, as reported.

That move formed part of the firm’s continuing integration of its wealth and asset management teams and was designed as a plank to strengthen its foothold in the region.