US fund house T. Rowe Price has hired Elsie Chan from UBS Global Asset Management in a newly created role as head of intermediary sales for Asia in a strong statement of its distribution ambitions.

Based in Hong Kong, Chan was brought on board last week with a mandate to create a strategy for the firm’s financial intermediaries business in Asia (ex-Japan and Australia). That includes recruiting a team of locally based relationship managers and developing products to meet demand from investors across the region.

Chan's hire represents the start of the firm's intermediaries buildout, given it has been almost entirely focused on institutional business in continental Asia (it has a range of trust funds in Australia and acts as subadviser to banks and brokers in Japan). It is represented by a master agent in Taiwan.

Chan reports to Scott Keller, head of global investment services for Asia Pacific at T. Rowe Price. This is a reunion for Chan and Keller, who spent years working at UBS.

Chan had been a managing director and pan-Asia head of wholesale distribution at UBS Asset Management. Her focus was Hong Kong and Southeast Asia including sales and marketing, product development and management. In all she spent nine years with the Swiss firm.

Keller joined T. Rowe Price in July last year to take up his current role, as reported. Before that he had worked at UBS since 1997, initially out of Switzerland before transferring to Singapore in 2007 to become pan-Asia head of fund distribution at UBS Asset Management. He briefly served as Asia-Pacific acting head in 2012 and subsequently spent three years as pan-Asia head.

Based in Singapore, Keller was brought on board by T. Rowe Price to expand its sales team and broaden its limited range of intermediary relationships in the region, particularly with large private and commercial banks, as reported.

He was also tasked with marketing to institutions and determining what products could support Asia fund passporting schemes, two of which have since been implemented while the other is due for launch next year.

This May Keller appointed Nick Trueman as head of T. Rowe Price's Asian institutional business. Separately, sources say the firm is seeking to get its Luxembourg fund range registered in Hong Kong, and eventually Singapore. It is only in the second stage of development that it will look at Asia fund passporting schemes and domiciling product.

In a statement, Keller described Chan as highly regarded and experienced in the intermediary market. “Providing top-quality investment solutions to intermediaries throughout the region is one of the key pillars to developing a successful and sustainable business in Asia,” he said.

When Keller started at T. Rowe Price last July its distribution team in the region comprised 20 people, with offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Sydney. That included investment, trading and support functions. It now has 27 in sales, client service and marketing roles, out of 119 staff across Asia Pacific.

T. Rowe Price had $18.9 billion sourced from Asian clients as at the end of last year, an 8.6% year-on-year rise, according to AsianInvestor’s annual list of the top 100 fund houses by AUM. That was above the 7.5% average growth in global firms’ Asia-Pacific sourced assets, by AsianInvestor data.

The firm’s global assets stood at $731 billion at the end of last year, so Asia made up just 2.6% at that time, with a 13% year-on-year growth rate for global AUM of 13%. At press time T. Rowe Price’s global AUM had increased to $773 billion, a 6% increase to date this year.

A spokesperson from UBS Asset Management confirmed that Chan left this July and had been replaced by Markus Egloff, effective from August 1. He is now responsible for wholesale distribution in Hong Kong and Singapore and for UBS Wealth Management distribution in Asia Pacific.

Egloff had spent 19 years with UBS Wealth Management in various product, sales and client functions, having relocated from Switzerland to Hong Kong in 2006.

The spokesperson also noted the firm had renamed its business UBS Asset Management, dropping the word "global" as of this month.