SG Asset Management (SGAM), the E290 billion investment management arm of Societe Generale, has just opened an office in Hong Kong, its first in North Asia, managed by Eleanor Wan. Wan previously served as regional sales director at Zurich Scudder, which has since been absorbed by Deutsche Asset Management. SGAM has been consolidating its regional hub in Singapore over the past year under Mahendran Nathan, managing director and regional head, to whom Wan reports.

Wan's role will be several fold. First, she must deepen SGAM's relationships with Hong Kong distributors, including banks, private banks and independent financial advisors. The firm has had initial success marketing guaranteed products in 2001 through HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and Citibank. "I need to understand what the distributors want. The past year has been tough, and we want to see how we can fit various products from SG's product line to meet their needs."

Second, Wan must build a presence in Taiwan, where SocGen has a bank license but lacks a securities investment consulting enterprise (Sice) licence, allowing it to advise investments to clients, or a securities investment trust enterprise (Site) licence, which lets it sell its own onshore funds. SG does have a number of its offshore funds registered with Taiwan's Securities and Futures Commission, but it must explore how to create an onshore business.

Third, and more long term, Wan is the spearhead for a China strategy. She notes it is premature to discuss what SG will do in this market. "I am sure this market will open, but it is now just China's first day in the WTO." She adds SG has a long history in China as the first foreign securities firm to open its doors there (under the Crosby name), and Wan hopes to build off that existing presence.

More immediately, she needs to hire a staff over the coming year to provide client services to distributors and help broaden the network. At this point, however, she does not know what kind of headcount will be required.