Threadneedle Asset Management has bolstered its Asia expansion with the appointment of Albert Lee as senior adviser based in Hong Kong. Further hires are expected within weeks.

Lee officially started on January 1, although the announcement was only made yesterday. He will focus on developing the firm’s Asia strategy, working closely with recently appointed Asia-Pacific chairman Raymundo Yu, who is based in Singapore.

The pair will be joining forces again, having worked together previously. Yu had been regional chairman of Merrill Lynch from 2000 until the bank was sold to Bank of America in 2008. Lee was country CEO and chairman at Merrill Lynch Securities in Taiwan for two years to July 2009. Prior to that, he worked as managing director and business head for Merrill Lynch’s global private client business in Asia-Pacific.

Lee is currently also a senior adviser to the wealth management department of Nomura International in Hong Kong, and a spokeswoman for the Japanese bank confirmed that Lee would continue with the bank in this consultancy capacity.

Asked why Lee had been taken on, Yu tells AsianInvestor: “Albert has been brought on as a senior adviser primarily because of the breadth of his knowledge of the Asia-Pacific markets, and the depth of his relationships, which we believe will be invaluable to Threadneedle as we grow the business in the region. Albert brings substantial business and country strategy expertise gained through a range of senior roles in Asia.”

UK asset manager Threadneedle, which is part of Ameriprise Financial, is striving to make up for lost time having only established a presence in Asia in 2008. It now has a presence in Hong Kong and Singapore and is in the process of building up its wholesale and institutional teams in the region. 

"We have made a number of hires recently in the region at all levels of the organisation and will be making more over the coming weeks, so we would prefer to give a number [for on-the-ground staff in Asia] once this expansion period is complete,” says Yu. "We are considering positioning investment managers and analysts in the region, but have no firm plans at this stage."

In December last year Threadneedle announced the appointment of Michael Langlois from Permal Group as its head of wholesale distribution Asia, effective from January 1 this year. He is tasked with building relationships with local financial institutions and global private banks in the region.

Last November Asianinvestor broke the news that Yu would be joining Threadneedle. Earlier in the year, in April, William Lowndes moved from London to Hong Kong as head of Asian distribution. It also appointed Jon Allen as Singapore-based deputy head on January 25. Allen had been chief executive of Asian distressed-debt businesses Carnelian Capital and Obverse Capital

One of Lowndes' targets has been to expand the firm’s assets under management in Taiwan by way of its banking business there, so he will be drawing on Lee’s local contacts and relationships. The firm has been sharpening its focus on Southeast Asia and Taiwan and is looking at renminbi-denominated funds.

Threadneedle is striving to grow market share in Asia and the Middle East by offering active management in equities, fixed income and real estate.

It set up an Australian asset-backed securities operation in Brisbane, and has looked at establishing a presence in South Korea. It has also been building up in Japan.

Lowndes has said he hopes to develop the strategic relationship Threadneedle has with Tokio Marine in Japan and to set up more partnerships in a similar vein.

Threadneedle had $103.7 billion in assets under management globally as at December 31 last year, but declines to break out its Asia numbers. It was established in London in 1994 and operates in 15 countries.