Chris Ryan helped ING Investment Management forge a fund management joint venture in China, the climax of his two-year work as the firm's regional director for North Asia. Now he is being rewarded on two fronts: the joint venture just enjoyed a blockbuster launch for its first product, and Ryan has been promoted to CEO of ING-IM in Hong Kong.

ING's joint venture with China Merchants Securities, called China Merchants Fund Management (CMFM), was established at the end of last year. The China Merchants Antai Open-ended Securities Series has raised over Rmb4.5billion ($540 million) since its launch on 17 March, far in excess of the target of Rmb2.5 billion.

One of China's first two umbrella funds, Antai consists of three sub-funds, a bond fund, equity fund and a balanced fund, between which investors can switch at low cost. The funds will all be invested domestically and managed by CMFM. The bond fund, balanced fund and equity fund account for 57%, 20% and 23% of total sales to date respectively.

Ryan says that over 300,000 accounts were opened, with more accounts than expected from cities such as Shenyang. More surprising was the amount raised via the internet, which accounted for 18% of retail sales and 15% of the total. "This indicates that in some areas China is leapfrogging other countries; 18% on-line subscriptions would be high anywhere," says Ryan.

At the time of the joint venture's establishment ING said it expected the first umbrella fund to exceed expectations, estimating it would raise in excess of Rmb3 billion. China Merchants Bank and China Merchants Securities are the core distribution channels jointly responsible for marketing the umbrella fund. Other official distributors include China Securities, Guotai-Junan Securities and Shenyin & Wanguo Securities.

The strong demand should provide a temporary fillip to the domestic funds industry, where interest in new funds, particularly new equity funds, has lagged. Even recent bond fund launches have seen redemptions and faltering interest. Some of this success must be attributed to the novelty of an umbrella structure, and the JV's primary challenge will be to sustain the high number of investors and protect the fund's level of assets.

On 1 July, Ryan will succeed Paul Scully as Asia Pacific CEO. Scully held that role for eight years and has had a 25-year career with ING in life insurance, pensions, asset management and retail funds management, working with Mercantile Mutual Australia since 1978. Scully will continue to be involved as a director of a number of ING entities. Ryan's replacement as head of North Asia has not been finalised. Before joining ING, Ryan held senior regional management positions with HSBC Asset Management and Deutsche Asset Management.