State Street Global Advisors has appointed Charles Zhao as its new head of institutions for China as part of a wider and belated push to develop the US fund house's business in the country, AsianInvestor has learned.

Zhao, the former head of institutional sales for China at rival asset manager Janus Henderson Investors, replaced Cynthia Bi in March.

The SSGA role had been vacant since Bi left last year after some nine years with the $2.5 trillion fund house, a spokeswoman told AsianInvestor. Shirley Hung, head of institutions for Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau, had overseen the China institutional business in the interim period.

Hong Kong-based Zhao leads the effort to maintain and grow SSGA’s client relationships in mainland China with respect to offshore investment strategies, the spokeswoman said.

He now reports to June Wong, SSGA’s head of Asia ex-Japan, and works closely with Alex Sun, who also joined in March as head of China and of the firm's local wholly foreign-owned entity (WFOE).

Zhao had left Janus Henderson in late October having been with the firm since 2013. Spencer Seto, who joined in February as Asia ex-Japan head of institutional, has taken on Zhao's former duties.

CHINA PUSH

SSGA appears to be moving to expand its China team, despite parent group State Street announcing in January that it was cutting global headcount by 1,500 (around 6%), which included layoffs in Asia.

The fund house obtained its WFOE licence in December and is understood to be awaiting an onshore private fund management licence.

The hires of Sun and Zhao represent the first phase of the firm’s China growth strategy, the spokeswoman said.

“China is a key growth area for State Street Global Advisors and we expect more resources to be added to our China business in the coming years,” she told AsianInvestor.

SSGA is a relative latecomer among international fund houses when it comes to building onshore operations in China. It does not appear in consultancy Z-Ben Advisors’ annual top-25 list of foreign asset managers ranked by the strength of their mainland businesses. The 2019 edition was released only last month.

This story has been updated to include the fact that Spencer Seto has taken on Charles Zhao's former duties at Janus Henderson.