Pioneer Investments is aiming to boost the amount of assets it sources from Asia by seeking to bring in more sales staff and broadening its distribution network.

Having just added a head of Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, the firm – owned by Italian bank UniCredit – is in the process of hiring more staff in Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

“We are looking to massively build out our distribution footprint,” says Jack Lin, head of Asia and the Middle East, six months into the role he took up in January.

Of Pioneer's $189 billion in AUM, 3% ($5.7 billion) is currently sourced from Asia, 51% from Italy, 22% from the US, 12% from Germany, 6% from Austria, 6% from other international markets and 3% from central and eastern Europe.

The firm in is the final stages of a search for a Singapore-based regional institutional sales head and a South Korea head of sales, the latter covering both intermediaries and institutions.

Pioneer is focused chiefly on institutional investors in South Korea, says Lin, but will consider sub-advisory business opportunities with local asset-management firms "when it makes sense". The firm has tended to cover that market out of Singapore, “but having a dedicated salesperson is a sign of the importance Pioneer places on the Korean market”.

It also plans to expand in Japan, which he sees as a “key market”. There is one salesperson on the ground in Tokyo, “but it’s time get a few more bodies on the ground there”, notes Lin. “Given the amount of assets in Japan, even if the pie is not growing, growth in financial products penetration still represents tremendous growth opportunities for asset management firms."

Pioneer acts as a sub-adviser for several local asset managers and is looking to partner with more. “We’re still at the discussion stage, but by the end of the year we’d like to see new relationships,” says Singapore-based Lin.

The next step is to find local distributors, particularly banks, willing to distribute Pioneer’s funds, says he adds. “Then we’d seek to get them registered there.” He hopes to start selling the firm’s existing income-type products in Japan, in both equity and fixed income.

Lin also wants to expand on Pioneer’s success in Taiwan. The manager has been in the country for around six years, and in that time has become the sixth biggest fund house there, with a big retail focus. In fact, last year, Pioneer was the only foreign asset manager in Taiwan to post positive inflows (of $700 million). Lin attributes this largely to its high-yield franchise there.

The manager has eight salespeople on the ground in Taiwan, a team that has been “fairly stable” over the past few years, he adds. They only cover retail, selling through intermediaries, while institutional business is looked after out of Singapore.

Elsewhere, Pioneer this week appointed Neal Jenkins as head of sales for the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. Jenkins – who moves from Janus Capital, also Lin’s former employer – will mainly focus on sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) and other big public and corporate institutions. At Janus, Jenkins had been London-based head of the Middle East and Africa business and remains in the same city, reporting to Lin.

It makes sense to cover the Middle East as part of the same region as Asia rather than Europe, notes Lin, as Middle Eastern SWFs and other government-linked institutions – being still in "growth mode" – are closer in character to those in Asia than those in Europe.

Beyond the sales team, Pioneer is looking for a client portfolio manager to be based in Singapore – a product specialist who will be part of the investment team and support the distribution effort. It is also seeking a Singapore-based marketing person to help deal with the media in the region.

In terms of products, Lin expects Pioneer’s fixed-income franchise to provide the most popular funds in Asia in the coming years, particularly for institutions, the segment that he is most focused on.