AGF Management, a Toronto-based fund manager with C$44 billion ($41.3 billion) of assets under management, plans to highlight its relatively small size and independence as it courts Asian institutional investors.

Gary Wing, head of the firm's global institutional business, acknowledges that competition will be fierce for the firm as it sets up a sales and marketing presence in Asia. "We have seen a move away from huge providers to mid-sized companies with boutique-type operations," he says.

While AGF is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, it is controlled by the Goldring family (it was founded by Warren Goldring) and is independent of banks or other financial institutions.

AGF recently opened an office in Hong Kong, headed by ex-Fortis Investments salesman Nah Wee-Ping. He joined AGF last year as managing director for Asia-Pacific business development. With a remit that includes Australia and Japan, he is tasked with gradually building a sales team in Hong Kong.

The new office complements an investment-management team sited in Singapore and a Beijing rep office for China business, which is mostly about winning global investment mandates from mainland institutions.

Asia-derived assets and revenues are a small part of AGF's business today, says Wing. The firm has been expanding outside of Canada for the past few years, including to the US and Europe.

He says the firm will not judge success in Asia strictly by the number of clients generated or the assets gathered. Success in Asia, says Wing, will be considered in the context of how well AGF fares worldwide. There are three- and five-year business plans, but he declined to comment on them.

Nah will be marketing a variety of investment strategies to Asian institutions. Wing says AGF has notched successes of late with global resources strategies (for which AGF can easily leverage its Canada expertise), as well as global equities and Asia ex-Japan equities.