Russell hires more Asia execs, plans China office

The US firm continues to expand its team in Asia, with hires from First State Investments, Korea Life and Morgan Stanley, among others.
Russell hires more Asia execs, plans China office

US-based Russell Investments has added senior executives in Singapore and South Korea to cater for growing business demand. It also plans to apply for a licence to do onshore business in Seoul and open a representative office in China.

Russell's hires follow other recent moves to build its Asia-Pacific capabilities, such as exchange-traded funds and alternative investments.

Edmund Teo joined Russell on April 1 as regional director for sales and marketing. Singapore-based Teo joined from First State Investments, where he was responsible for sales and business development as well as branding and marketing. He previously had business development responsibilities at UOB Asset Management in Singapore.

Teo will lead business development activities at Russell for both institutional and retail clients. He reports to Mahendran Nathan, chief executive of Russell's operations in Asean, Hong Kong, Taiwan and India.

Elsewhere, Kim DongKi joined Russell on April 1 as chief representative of the Korea representative office, overseeing functions including manager research and promotional activities. He reports to Kim Yuseok, who has been promoted to Korea director. Kim DongKi joined from Korea Life's international investment and risk team, where he was responsible for alternative investments.

This time last year the Korea team had been pruned back to two, but is now back to full strength with four, says Alan Schoenheimer, Russell's chairman for Asia-Pacific, who is based in London but spends most of his time in Asia. The Seoul representative office has been there for a number of years, but it is limited as to what it can do in terms of business, he says.

"We're looking at raising our licence a notch, to allow us to do our business on the ground in Seoul rather than flying people in and out," Schoenheimer tells AsianInvestor. "The main things we want to do are offer offshore funds in the market and research managers." The plan is to move all the Korea operations onshore this year, he adds.

For Taiwan, Russell has hired Joey Chao-Yu Chen as business development director in Singapore. Reporting to Teo, Chen will run onshore activities, marketing and client service in Taiwan and help develop new funds. Chen has spent 17 years with financial companies in the region, most recently as a Hong Kong-based investment representative at Morgan Stanley.

Meanwhile, Russell expects to open a representative office in mainland China in the second half of the year. "We don't believe there's anything insurmountable [in terms of gaining approval], but there's a lot of process to get through," he says.

The firm is awaiting a qualified foreign institutional investor (QFII) quota, which it hopes to receive in 2010, says Schoenheimer, who is optimistic about the opportunities this would provide.

He feels Russell has a relatively new proposition for China -- multi-manager strategies. On the one hand, the firm will have to "do a bit of education along the way, and that will slow us down a bit", says Schoenheimer. But the fact that it's a new type of product will ultimately help Russell, he says, as regulators tend to like the multi-manager approach once they are well informed about it.

In addition to the hires mentioned above, Russell has appointed several business-development and client-relationship managers, mostly in Singapore. The company will continue to add resources over the next 12 months to keep pace with business growth.

Schoenheimer says one or two people have left the Singapore office in recent months, but Russell has replaced them and made further additions. These have been primarily on the asset management and consulting side, but two executives have also joined the growing index business in the past year, when the company had no staff a year ago.

All the new business development and marketing hires will be able to advise and sell on all four areas of Russell's business: asset management/multi-manager, consulting, investment services and indexes. Schoenheimer says Russell wants executives who can cover all the areas and tailor a solution to a client's needs rather than simply push products. They will also be able to rely on specialists in different areas once they have ascertained what is required, he adds.

The recent additions follow the November appointment of Nathan and the decision to divide its regional business into three sub-regions (South Asia -- Asean, Hong Kong, India and Taiwan; North Asia -- China, Japan and South Korea; and Australia and New Zealand).

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