Pioneer Investments, a $110 billion fund manager based both in Boston and Dublin, is opening an office in Hong Kong to distribute its offshore mutual funds and hedge funds and has hired Edmund Lacis from Janus International to head the effort.

According to Paris-based Eric Pinn, Pioneer's head of international business development and Lacis' new boss, the firm intends to hire up to three sales and marketing professionals in Singapore and five in Hong Kong over the next six months. Pioneer, which is now in the process of registering its Luxembourg-based Pioneer Funds with Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission, hopes to establish at least five regional distribution partnerships with private banks and independent financial advisors by the end of the year.

The Pioneer name has a long history in America but is unknown in East Asia. Founded in Boston in 1928, it launched the fourth mutual fund in the US. In 2000 it was acquired by Italy's UniCredito Italiano, which had a modest asset management business primarily run out of Dublin. The decision was made to expand the business out of the United States, and in 2001 Pioneer opened offices and set up distribution in Europe and Latin America. It also set up a Singapore office to manage Asian equities, including Japan, with a team of five analysts, three fund managers and an equities trader.

This year it is implementing similar strategies in Asia. Pinn says the large presence in Hong Kong and Singapore for business development is required in part because global distributors such as Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, Prudential Corporation and UBS Warburg use its mutual funds and hedge funds in portfolios they offer elsewhere, and want to be able to also sell these portfolios to Asian clients.

Pioneer is targeting affluent, high-net worth customers via large banks, brokers and private banks. "This market is attractive and will continue to grow," Pinn says.

In addition to registering funds with the SFC, Pioneer will follow suit in Singapore under the new securities and futures bill that will allow foreigners to register funds without them having to originate in a feeder structure.

"This year we are also developing plans for the Korean and Taiwanese markets," Pinn adds.

Pioneer is also developing a fund of hedge funds, to complement its individual hedge funds, which it hopes to offer in Hong Kong and Singapore as well.