Chicago-based Northern Trust Corporation has built a strong asset-servicing presence in Asia, and is now looking to expand its regional asset-management business.

Hence Northern Trust Global Investments (NTGI) has made its first hire in Singapore in the form of Chen Ee-Fang, who joined in November as sales director. His main focus will be on Southeast Asia, but the firm will also make use of his knowledge and experience of North Asia.

Chen had previously spent a year as Asia business development director at UK asset manager Martin Currie, but left that role in October, as reported by AsianInvestor.

He joins the group’s 150-strong office in Singapore and reports to Fifi Ting in Hong Kong, who moved to NTGI a year ago as Asia-Pacific head of sales and client service.

NTGI had substantial success last year, says Ting, having hit its 2010 target as a regional team by June. “The pipeline [of mandates] continues to be strong, and we’re seeing RFPs coming in all the time,” she adds.

Ting says Chen’s previous experience will help them build on that. He has worked in both the consultancy and index businesses – for Watson Wyatt and Vanguard Investments – so he’s well aligned with NTGI’s index and multi-manager divisions, she adds, and he’s worked across the whole region.

NTGI is also looking for an account manager in Hong Kong and plans to increase its 20-plus Asia headcount by at least 30-40% by the end of 2011, says Kevin Hardy, Asia-Pacific head of NTGI in Hong Kong. The bulk of these hires will be in Hong Kong.

“We will continue to apply additional resources and manpower to the region, and will be making more announcements over the coming months,” he says, adding that these will be a mix of local hires and transfers.

The main client focus will continue be top-tier large institutions – sovereign wealth funds, central banks, national pension funds and so on – as is consistent with NT's focus globally, says Ting. With the hire of Chen, NTGI will also be looking to boost its penetration of other sectors such as insurance, she adds.

In terms of asset types, NTGI’s three areas of coverage are index, multi-manager and fixed income. The region as a whole has seen a lot of equity mandates handed out this year, says Hardy, but as investors shift their positioning, NTGI is ready to accommodate them on the fixed-income side.

Meanwhile, clients are starting to see the multi-manager business as a complementary service rather than a competing one, he adds, in that they want to know how NTGI selects and monitors its managers.

They are also recognising that the firm has an edge in identifying niche managers that they might not normally come across, says Hardy.