SEI Investments, the Philadelphia-based multi-manager specialist, plans to open a research office in Tokyo this year, says Vincent Chu, managing director for the Asia-Pacific region in Hong Kong.

"We intend to set up a rep office in Japan this year, initially to research fund managers there and also to selectively explore ideas with institutions or distributors," Chu explains.

Last year the firm hired Naru Ishida in Hong Kong. Ishida has a consulting background from his native Japan, and the idea is to have him run the Tokyo office once it is set up.

"This year we intend to begin market research for Japan and Australia," Chu adds. For the time being, however, the firm's marketing activities will concentrate on Hong Kong, where SEI has notched a number of mandates, including pension funds and endowments, both big and small.

Among its projects now is running the entire defined-benefit plan for the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The latter appointed SEI on an experimental basis in 2004.

That mandate has roughly doubled in size now that the club is outsourcing the entire pension scheme for its employees to SEI. Jacob Tsang, treasurer at the Jockey Club, notes that the DB scheme has been closed to new members and will gradually decline in size, making it increasingly difficult from a scale perspective to employ specialist managers at affordable fee levels.

The Jockey Club got rid of a pair of global balanced fund managers and replaced them with SEI in the second half of 2005. For an in-depth look at the multi-manager industry in Asia, see the February edition of AsianInvestor magazine.