The investment management arm of Prudential Corporate Asia has rebranded itself Eastspring Investments, reflecting its purely Asian business as a third-party asset manager. The shift was made official this week in Singapore, its regional headquarters.

For the firm’s executives, however, the new name is not just a marketing move. It reflects a new push to develop it as a manager for asset owners, and not just in Asia.

Graham Mason, CEO at Eastspring, says the $80 billion manager’s assets from third parties passed the 50% of AUM mark around 2008, at which point the executives began thinking about making a symbolic break from the parent company.

There was also the constant irritant of legal constraints on the use of the name ‘Prudential’, stemming from Prudential Plc’s having allowed US-based Prudential Financial rights to that name in many markets, including the Americas, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. In those places, the firm had to call itself PCA.

It was also unable to label its Luxembourg-based line of Ucits funds as Prudential, because they were sold into markets where the American firm had legal rights. Therefore its Ucits funds were branded International Opportunities Funds, a name that signals nothing.

Finally, although the parent is a British life-insurance giant, the asset management arm under PCA is an Asian business, having first emerged out of a joint venture in India with ICICI, and now with offices and investment teams ranging from Tokyo to Dubai. As a result, however, it is a virtual unknown in the UK, while another Pru-owned affiliate, M&G Asset Management, is a major brand – and one that is also expanding its business and capabilities into Asia.

The global financial crisis put a rebranding on the backburner, but last year the senior executives returned to the issue and decided to make a break.

The firm believes it has an Asian investment capability (in equities, credit and high yield) that has not been recognised because it has been perceived as merely the arm of Prudential Plc. The new name is meant to help establish it as an Asian specialist manager.

Today retail investors contribute over 90% of the firm’s AUM. Under Beonca Yip, regional head of retail, Eastspring will continue that business. However, it wants to also break into the institutional market.

It hired Dean Winterton in Singapore in late 2011 from AMP Capital for a new role as head of institutional business. He will seek to build relationships with Asian asset owners, investment consultants, and other financial institutions where Eastspring may seek to sub-advise Asia funds. The firm also hired Jeremy Hall from RREEF in Hong Kong, and will continue to add resources in this area, says Mason.

In particular it wants to provide sub-advisory services for institutions based in Europe, Australia and the Americas, as well as work directly for institutions from those markets.

It will now begin the task of obtaining the necessary licences in select Western markets, says Mason.

Not only does the firm wish to balance its revenue streams, but it wants to win institutional business to improve its client-service capabilities. “Institutional investors set a higher bar for service, and we view that as a stamp of approval,” Mason says.