US manager Neuberger Berman is set to roll out a series of emerging market and Asian bond funds after hiring a 22-strong team, all but three of whom joined from ING Investment Management.

The US-based firm, which has $216 billion in assets under management globally and 2.4% sourced from Asia-Pacific, has been looking to add emerging market debt capabilities to its fixed income platform for several years.

AsianInvestor spoke to Neuberger's Asia-Pacific head Nick Hoar a year ago, when he said he was seeking to establish an Asian fixed income presence in the region.

And in an announcement out of New York earlier this week, the firm revealed it had just hired a team of 22 emerging market debt professionals, 19 of whom have joined from ING Investment Management.

This represents a new frontier for Neuberger, which previously covered emerging market debt via its quantitative team based in New York. The addition of this new team is complementary, in that their approach is based on fundamental, bottom up company research.

Hoar notes that Neuberger is eager to exploit opportunities in this asset class and will begin approaching institutional investors with its offering soon. It does not provide solutions to retail investors directly.

“We have wanted to add emerging market debt to our large existing fixed income platform for a couple of years,” Hoar says. “Finding the right people is not easy. We believe we found it with this group. They’ve been involved in emerging market debt portfolio management for many years.”

Neuberger plans to roll out a series of global emerging market bond strategies first, and will follow that with Asian bond launches, in sovereign and corporate debt, both local and hard currency.

“We plan for everything to be launched by the end of this year,” Hoar tells AsianInvestor. “These [funds] will be available for institutions ... as well as intermediaries, so pension funds, insurance companies, family offices and private banks.”

Of the team of 22, an EMD team of seven has been hired in Singapore, led by Prashant Singh. Meanwhile, nine have joined in The Hague, and three in Atlanta. Three others are still yet to join on account of notice periods, comprising two credit analysts in Singapore and one in Atlanta.

Neuberger's EMD team is co-headed by Rob Drijkoningen in The Hague and Gorky Urquieta in Atlanta.

An ING spokesman notes that while the 19 departures were a bit of a stumbling block for the company’s EMD business, ING remains committed to the strategy, and is in the process of hiring debt professionals.

“The departures are a temporary setback in growing our EMD business,” the ING spokesman says. “[But] since the departures in January ... our EMD portfolios and funds have continued to perform well. We are in the process of rebuilding the EMD team.”

On April 9, the company hired Marco Ruijer as lead portfolio manager of hard currency, and the firm expects to make more senior appointments in coming weeks, the spokesman says. Its EMD team is now 25-strong, down from the mid-30s.