Senior fixed income portfolio manager Julia Ho has left Western Asset Management to join Schroder Investment Management, AsianInvestor can reveal.

Ho, who had worked for Western’s Asian fixed income team in Singapore since 2003, resigned in early January and started at Schroders last week based in London. There she is reporting to Bob Jolly, the firm's head of global macro.

In effect she is following in the footsteps of Rajeev de Mello, her former boss who was senior investment officer and country head for Western’s Singapore operations until he quit last year and joined Schroders.

He started there on July 4 as head of Asian fixed income. He leads a 12-strong team all but one of whom is based in Singapore (the other sits in Hong Kong). De Mello is also responsible for nine staff working on bond strategies out of Indonesia, Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

Following De Mello’s departure from Western, Ho stepped up to handle the team’s day-to-day investment activities in Singapore, while Keith Gardner, head of developing markets in the firm's headquarters in Pasadena, California, took a more active role in supervising bond strategies.

But that was an interim measure and Western moved quickly to hire Chia Liang Lian from Pimco as head of its Asian fixed income investment team in Singapore.

Lian’s arrival in August precipitated a change at Western, which opted to split the two roles that De Mello had been performing as both investment officer and Singapore country head.

Now Lian focuses purely on the investment side, while from October Henry Hamrock has taken on responsibility for Western's 21-strong Singapore office in addition to his equivalent North Asia role.

“The decision was made to split the two and that is consistent with what we do all around the world,” confirms Hamrock, who now divides his time between the two locales. He notes he used to have Singapore operational responsibility when he worked at Citibank Global Asset Management in the late 1990s.

Further, Hamrock says Western decided in October to add three more investment personnel to its Asian fixed income team to take it from six to nine in response to investor interest in the region, both Asian and globally. Lian is now looking to hire a senior portfolio manager and a credit analyst, having added a portfolio analyst in December.

At present the team consists of a portfolio manager, two credit analysts and three portfolio analysts. Of course, Western is also now seeking to replace Ho, and Hamrock says the firm is seeing interest in the positions. “There is also a lot of talent coming out of the sell-side of the industry,” he notes.

He adds that Western’s AUM in Asian credit has grown strongly to over $650 million in new funds since the start of January. Its six-strong team now manages $4.1 billion overall – almost a 30% increase in the past two months – in Asian currencies, government bonds in local currencies and dollars and Asian investment grade and high-yield credit.

Hamrock adds that Western is also starting to see some traction in global fixed income and is picking up new mandates and adding assets.

“Over time you will see more money flowing into the so-called emerging markets in Asia, many of which might be better termed emerged,” he says. “We have investors from Japan and Europe looking at Asian fixed, both pan-Asia as well as single-country strategies.

“My sense is that despite the low yields, places such as Singapore and Hong Kong are becoming the new safe havens for some global investors.”