Northern Trust Asset Management has hired its first head of Greater China, with a view to meeting expected growth in demand from mainland institutions for passive investments and to helping European clients access the market there.

Benze Lam took up the post on Monday to head a team of relationship and sales staff across China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. He was most recently head of sales for China offshore at UBS Global Asset Management

Based in Hong Kong, Lam will help develop Northern Trust AM’s strategy across Asia Pacific. He assumes some responsibilities from Bo Kratz, head of Asia-Pacific for the AM business, to whom he now reports.

About half of Chicago-based Northern Trust’s $915 billion of global AUM is in passive strategies, Kratz told AsianInvestor. “The sheer amount of money some of the institutions in Greater China have to deploy means they can devote some of it into more esoteric, high-risk investment, but the bulk of it needs to seek market exposure.”

Meanwhile, interest is growing among Northern Trust AM’s European clients in the renminbi-denominated qualified foreign institutional investment scheme, and how to access China, said William Mak, recently named Asia-Pacific head of Northern Trust across asset management and servicing.

“We’ve seen more enquiries from European asset managers, for example some who have funds domiciled in Dublin, Luxembourg, about how to position ahead of the fund passport scheme between China and Hong Kong,” Mak told AsianInvestor. “Attention is focused on whether funds in Hong Kong could be distributed in China.”

As for other moves in China, Northern Trust in April said it was extending its services under Shanghai’s pilot qualified domestic land partner (QDLP) scheme, which is intended to facilitate cross-border hedge fund business.

The firm has also been expanding elsewhere in the region. It opened a representative office in Malaysia in February, led by Ariani Rustam, who joined the from Bank Negara Malaysia, and will officially open a new operations hub in Manila in the third quarter.

Lam seems well placed to help develop the mainland business. He has 13 years’ experience working with institutional investors in Asia Pacific, and notably China. Before joining UBS in October 2008, he was senior manager for China at Fidelity Worldwide Investment, and he has also worked at State Street and Morgan Stanley.

It is understood that UBS has not yet replaced Lam, and will seek a replacement later this year. The Swiss group has seen other senior departures recently, including that of Kai Sotorp to Manulife, who has been replaced by Rene Buehlmann and Scott Keller, who has moved to T. Rowe Price.

Mak was recently promoted to oversee the asset management and servicing units, to succeed Teresa Parker, who is returning to the US after four-and-a-half years in the region. Mak was previously country manager for Singapore, and Northern Trust plans to announce a replacement in due course.