Pictet Asset Management has assembled a three-person team based out of Geneva to promote its fund of hedge funds, a marketing effort that has now been extended to Asian and Australian institutional investors.

The move is an expansion for the firm, which in Asia is known as a traditional, long-only provider.

Steve Huguenin-Virchaux, alternative product specialist at Pictet, says the timing is based on the firm's recent track record. Pictet has managed hedge funds since the 1980s and created its fund of hedge funds in 1994. Its business is mid-sized, with about $3.5 billion in funds and another $3 billion or so in segregated mandates or advisory businesses.

Last year Pictet's fund of funds maintained full liquidity, as the underlying strategies allowed this. Pictet did suffer redemptions (at its peak its total hedge-fund invested assets was around $10 billion) and losses (-15% for 2008) but these were in line or slightly better than the industry average, and there was no gating of assets.

Year-to-date for 2009 the fund of hedge funds is up about 10%.

The majority of clients for the alternative business are French and Swiss, and mostly private banks. Pictet is keen to balance the business both by targeting institutional investors as well as promoting funds of funds in Asia.

"We want to be seen as a wealth manager, not a fund manager," says Amy Cho, managing director in Hong Kong. Her business-development team will focus on clients in Australia and Hong Kong first for the alternative product side.