Bank Pictet & Cie (Asia), a subsidiary of Swiss private bank Pictet & Cie, has appointed Bhaskar Laxminarayan as its chief investment officer in this region. Laxminarayan heads PictetÆs newly formed investment research team in Asia and overseas portfolio strategies in this region for the bankÆs private clients.

Laxminarayan joined Pictet in January, but has kept a low profile and has focused on building his team û he now has four people on board and hopes to hire six more.

Based in Singapore, Laxminarayan considers having an investment research team on the ground in Asia an obvious advantage. He was previously CIO for Asia at Shinsei Asset Management for under a year and before that, he was senior vice-president and portfolio manager at Alliance Capital Asset Management (now AllianceBernstein) for nine years.

ôYou canÆt paint Asia with one brush,ö he says. ôEach country in Asia is different û the investments in these markets and the ways in which you have to approach these markets are different. That complexity itself means that being on the ground gives you more of an advantage.ö

Prior to the creation of PictetÆs investment research team in Asia, research and investment decisions related to this region were done in Geneva. Pictet has had a presence in Hong Kong since 1986 and in Singapore since 1995.

ôOur primary intent these past months has been to build the team and identify people with experience in specific markets in Asia, which is very crucial,ö Laxminarayan says.

Pictet has around $340 billion in assets under management worldwide. Laxminarayan declined to say how much of that is invested in Asia, but noted that it is ôsignificant and growingö. Pictet has investments in a broad range of asset classes in Asia that include equities, bonds, currencies, traditional funds and hedge funds.

Laxminarayan boldly predicts that the bankÆs investments in Asia will increase sharply in the next three to five years. ôItÆs not going to be a percentage increase, itÆs going to be a many-fold increase,ö he says, adding that growth will be ôsuperiorö to the rest of the world in the coming years.

ôWhat we can see in Pictet is the growing importance of this part of the world. We cannot wish away this region,ö he says. ôWe have two very large populations here, China and India, and these two economies growing at an extremely strong pace while the rest of the region is also doing well.ö

Pictet is not focusing only on specific markets in Asia such as China and India. ôWe want to go where our investment ideas take us,ö he says. ôWe donÆt want to restrict ourselves by focusing on a few. Taiwan, Korea, and China are markets that have been more appealing to us in the past, but this region is so dynamic and we keep seeing changes.ö

AsiaÆs economic expansion isnÆt going to be the only impetus for growth in portfolio investments in this region. Laxminarayan is also counting on the regionÆs changing demographics: ôThe population in the region is getting younger, and there is more risk taking among the younger generation.ö