PineBridge Investments has created the new Hong Kong-based role of head of insurance asset management and named Stephan van Vliet to fill it, reflecting a growing trend in Asia.

Effective yesterday, Vliet’s hire by the $69.1 billion firm comes as fund managers increasingly target insurance companies, as the latter raise their focus on alternative and overseas assets.

He will focus on the firm’s investment solutions for insurance companies, which will involve researching corporate priorities, as well as asset and liability profiles. He reports to David Jiang, PineBridge’s global CEO based in New York, and Rajeev Mittal, Asia CEO in Hong Kong.

Vliet joins from ING Insurance Asia Pacific, where he was head of investments, overseeing asset allocation for the group’s 10 Asian units. Before that, he was head of insurance asset management at ING Investment Management in Europe, advising and managing portfolios for ING’s European insurance companies and pension funds.

ING did not provide a response by press time as to whether Vliet has been or would be replaced.

Other fund houses have created similar roles recently. BNP Paribas Investment Partners, for instance, named Lesley Lo in a newly created post as Asia-Pacific head of insurance and endowments in December. It has also transferred specialists in the space from Europe to Asia in recent months.

This is a trend that seems likely to continue, spurred by insurance regulators (such as in China) easing restrictions on foreign investments and insurers in the region putting more focus on issues such as asset-and-liability management (ALM) and risk-based capital.

Matching assets to liabilities remains challenging in Asia due to the relative lack of long-duration bonds and low interest in unit-linked products. This has led insurance firms in the region to focus more on ALM. Germany’s Allianz, for example, aims to build out its Asia-based capabilities in this area.

Moreover, research show that Asian insurance companies are more keen on absolute return and alternative strategies than their counterparts elsewhere. A BlackRock survey in October found that 60% of Asian insurers say they are shifting away from benchmark investing and allocating more to absolute return funds, largely sparked by anticipation about US Federal Reserve curtailing quantitative easing.