Nikko Asset Management is stepping up its efforts to develop clients among top institutions in Asia ex-Japan by hiring Roger Lee to run its Singapore office.

Lee is heading to the Lion City after several weeks of orientation in NikkoÆs Tokyo headquarters. He replaces Kazunosuke Ozawa as president and managing director of the Singapore unit. Ozawa has returned to Japan to work at Nikko Cordial on the sell side.

ôNikkoÆs an exciting company,ö says Lee, a native New Yorker, who adds that his job is to lead the Singapore business to become more proactive than it has been. ôWeÆll target the usual suspects in Asia: pension funds investing overseas, government entities and financial institutions.ö

He will be representing Nikko AMÆs Japanese investment expertise at a time when the Japanese stock market has rebounded. But he will also be overseeing the firmÆs Asian equities investment team, now 11-strong, in Singapore. Lee says the firm is likely to hire two more investment professionals this year to grow the team. Nikko also has Asian fixed-income analysts in Singapore, and it will be trying to win Asian fixed-income mandates as well.

Lee has a career in asset management, including service at UBS Global Asset Management and Allianz Global Investors. But he joins Nikko from Columbia Management, a unit of Bank of America, where he ran the Singapore office. One attraction of moving to Nikko will be the more varied and complex nature of the work and the investment products: Columbia mainly manages money-market funds and short-term bond funds for regional corporate clients.

He jointly reports to Haruo Sawada, head of institutional business, and to Bill Wilder, CIO, both of whom are based in Tokyo.