Old Mutual Global Investors (OMGI) is on a hiring drive in Asia, with its chief executive looking to recruit star managers for its growing regional team.

The asset manager is also looking to hire a broker-dealer and a compliance officer, along with distribution and investment staff.

The higher headcount is designed to support the firm’s upcoming expansion of its Asia product range and its bid to deepen distribution among its retail and institutional clients.

Julian Ide joined OMGI in 2011, and in recent years the firm has focused more of its attention on Asia, building infrastructure and expanding its on-the-ground team.

“We are already talking to people. There are active discussions but we’ll see if this will result in hiring,” London-based Ide told AsianInvestor on a visit to Hong Kong this week. He declined to commit to a deadline in terms of additional staff recruitment.

But one thing is certain. OMGI wants star managers in its Asia investment team.           

“I am unashamed to say that I want star managers but that has got to be tempered with humility,” Ide said.

Ide said he used four criteria to identify a potential employee: someone who has a "compelling and repeatable investment process"; a person without an ego who has strong cultural values; a star manager; and a well-known individual with good contacts in the distribution business.

This criteria means that Ide doesn’t always go for the person who will merely generate the largest amount of money if he doesn’t think they will fit into the OMGI culture.

“We had identified a star manager in London and knew that he would give us a lot of money,” Ide said. “But we had to let go because he didn’t tick the cultural box.”

Ide said the firm adopts a bottom-up management approach, and it provides its investment managers with the autonomy to make investment calls given that the firm doesn't subscribe to a house view.

The "star" portfolio managers it has hired recently include Hong Kong-based Josh Crabb, who heads up Asian equities. Yesterday OMGI announced that its entire Asian equities team had now received regulatory approval to operate from its Hong Kong office. It gives the business on-the-ground fund management capabilities in Asia. The Asian equities team consists of four members: Crabb, Diamond Lee, Kris Whitlock and Dmitry Lapidus.

Russ Oxley, head of the fixed income absolute return team, was hired together with two colleagues from Ignis Asset Management in London in October 2014.

The firm, under Oxley, will be launching an absolute return bond fund in the fourth quarter of this year. This fund will be for wholesale distribution, mainly private banks in Asia, and OMGI will also manage them as mandates for institutions.

Ide said the fund will invest in government bonds adopting a non-directional strategy, making money out of the yield curve whether rates are rising or falling and will be in a Ucits structure.

"We will also quickly follow this with a higher volatility type of absolute return fund, more like a hedge fund," Ide said.

"If you ask me we will not be where we are today in two years time. We will have additional capability in fund management and distribution."

In a bid to boost its regional presence, last month OMGI announced the recruitment of Asia business veteran Simon MacKinnon as a strategic advisor to help drive the asset manager's Asia-Pacific expansion.

OMGI presently has 13 staff in Hong Kong, including five in the investment team (four fund managers and one operations employee), and eight from the distribution team headed by Carol Wong, who are mainly focused on wholesale business. It has had some success in distributing its funds through global private banks including HSBC, Citi, Coutts and Deutsche in Asia.

The firm aims to expand its distribution into retail and institutional business, and is looking at how it will support this move.  While OMGI has Miranda Poon as head of institutional business, she mainly sells OMAM institutional services, which are distributed via OMGI in Asia. OMGI and OMAM both belong to the Old Mutual Group. OMAM is a global boutique platform (seven firms including real estate specialist Heitman and value manager Barrow, Hanley, Mewhinney & Strauss) which Old Mutual Group acquired in 2000 in the US.

OMGI was set up in 2012 from the merger of Skandia Investment Group's multi-manager business and Old Mutual Wealth Management business.

Its total AUM was £21 billion ($31.16 billion) as of December 31 last year. Asia contributes $500 million.