UK-based Threadneedle Investments, a unit of American Express and Britain's third-largest retail funds house with around $126 billion of assets under management, has created a new role to pursue business in Asia and the Middle East.

The firm has hired Keith White to serve as newly created head of business development for the Middle East and Asia, based in London. A spokesman says the firm may consider establishing a physical presence in the Far East, and one of White's tasks will be to whether to do so, and over what timeframe. "There's nothing on the table, but there's nothing off the table either," White says. For now, however, the firm isn't targeting Japan.

The firm does have Asian clients. White will be marketing to institutions and to high-net worth individuals primarily in the region's leading financial centres such as Hong Kong and Singapore. "We'll approach central banks and institutions region-wide," he says.

White says Threadneedle offers both a robust active management process as well as a financially strong parent, which makes it an attractive choice for clients. He reports to David Gasparro, head of distribution.

White has 16 years in the funds industry, including 12 in business development roles. He joins from Northern Trust, where he had been involved in developing its asset management operation.