Russell Investments has named Mahendran Nathan as Singapore-based chief executive of its Southern Asia business, covering Asean, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

He started in the newly created role on Monday, having left Wealth Management Asia, a boutique consultancy he founded in 2005, earlier this month. Before that, he was chief executive for Asia ex-Japan and Australia at Société Générale Asset Management.

Nathan's appointment is the result of Russell dividing its Asia-Pacific business into three sub-regions. He will lead the business in Southern Asia, while Bruce Pflaum will remain in Tokyo and focus specifically on North Asia, incorporating Japan, China and Korea. Chris Corneil will continue as head of Australia and New Zealand. All three sub-regions will report to Asia-Pacific chairman Alan Schoenheimer.

Russell had previously divided its business in the region between Asia and Australia/New Zealand. The firm's management decided to make further investment in and put a greater focus on Asia and so split the businesses into three zones, says Nathan.

"If you look at countries like China, Japan and Korea, they are such big markets and require such a lot of focus in themselves, and we didn't want Hong Kong and Taiwan to lose attention as a result," he says. Hence, the firm incorporated them in the Southern Asia business, says Nathan, who has experience of building investment banking and wealth management businesses in North Asia, particularly in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Schoenheimer adds: "We made the decision to re-align our resources and capabilities in the region to better serve the needs of our clients. This new structure enables us to have a much greater focus on each of these important markets."

Russell already has a lot of Asean clients and also plans to build a "much more significant presence" in India, says Nathan. "The country is a greenfield market at the moment, but the company has some experience there and wants to raise India's profile within the overall business strategy."

As for further hires, Nathan says the team has been expanding steadily over the past 12 months. "The businesses in China, Japan and Korea have been growing very well," he says, "so the aim now is to make sure that the rest of region grows in line with that, if not faster." This is something that will require more investment in terms of headcount, Nathan says, but he could not comment on how many more staff might be hired.

Russell Investments had $174 billion in assets under management as of September 30 and serves individual, institutional and adviser clients.