MFC Global Investment Management has hired Caleb Wong for the newly created role of head of Asean investment sales and marketing.

Based in Singapore, Wong is responsible for the direct sale of MFCÆs global and Asian investment capabilities to institutional clients, strategic alliances and Manulife FinancialÆs agency distribution channels in Southeast Asia. MFC, the asset management division of Manulife Financial, manages around $250 billion worldwide including around $5 billion in Asia.

This new role expands MFCÆs sales and service coverage across Asia û which includes existing sales capabilities in Hong Kong and Tokyo û and highlights the growing importance of Southeast Asia for asset management companies wishing to expand their footprint in the region.

MFC has a significant presence across Asia with offices in 10 locations. It is one of the largest asset managers in Indonesia and one of only four foreign asset managers to be licensed in Vietnam. It established an asset management business in Thailand in May 2007 and earlier in 2008 received license approvals for businesses in Singapore and Malaysia.

Wong reports to Avere Hill, head of institutional sales and marketing for Asia. He comes to MFC with nearly 15-years of sales and relationship management experience within the Asean region, gained most recently from Fortis Prime Funds where he was managing director responsible for all client-facing activity throughout Asean.

WongÆs appointment ôunderpins our conviction in the significant growth opportunities which exist in the Asean asset management industryö, says Hill. ôWe are seeing strong demand for the kind of global investment capabilities that MFC can offer, owing to positive trends in demographics and the increasing liberalisation of regulatory regimes throughout the region.ö

Against this backdrop and particularly given the challenging economic environment, institutional investors are seeking out investment managers who can offer proven risk management practices as well as recognised asset management capabilities within the Asean region.

Mutual fund assets in Southeast Asia ex-Singapore grew by 36.9% in 2008 to $84 billion, according to asset management research specialist Cerulli Associates. ThailandÆs mutual fund assets totalled $46.5 billion in 2007, making it the regionÆs largest market, while Vietnam remains the smallest with only $300 million in assets. The data comes from Cerulli AssociatesÆ second comprehensive report on the Southeast Asian asset management industry, which also includes Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Singapore and its mutual fund assets of $26.8 billion have been excluded from the report.