Threadneedle Asset Management is expanding its Asian operation, with William Lowndes moving from London to Hong Kong as head of Asian distribution on April 1 and Jon Allen having joined as Singapore-based deputy head on January 25.

James Campion, who joined Threadneedle when it opened its Hong Kong office in early 2008, will leave the firm to pursue other interests. He has also worked for Allianz Global Investors and Schroder Investment Management, the latter for 11 years.

Allen has spent the last two years as chief executive of Asian distressed-debt businesses Carnelian Capital and Obverse Capital. Before that, he was Asia-Pacific CEO at PruPim (Singapore), responsible for the start-up build of the Asia-Pacific property investment business. Allen's other employers include Prudential Asset Management and the Royal & Sun Alliance Group.

Lowndes was given management responsibility for the Asia team in March last year. He has been working with Standard Chartered on integrating Threadneedle's Sicav fund range in Hong Kong. He has also been covering Japan for three years and started his career with Fidelity, when his coverage included Taiwan, but this will be his first stint on the ground in the region.

Threadneedle has been later to move into the region than many of its peers, but Lowndes does not seem unduly concerned. "We are ambitious as a firm," he says, "but need to make sure we can support clients properly, so don't see a need to rush into markets."

"Asia still has big growth ahead of it, so we don't think we're too late," adds Lowndes. "We certainly have a lot of work to do to build our exposure and operations in the region, but clients will always be looking for exceptional fund managers with strong offerings and for firms to complement what's already available."

In Asia, Threadneedle now has eight people in Hong Kong and three in Singapore -- all distribution staff at present. Lowndes expects to spend at least this year and next building up the client-servicing platform, and envisages the Asian distribution capability ultimately growing in size similar to the 35-strong continental Europe team.

Most of the firm's portfolio managers are based in London at present, but Lowndes says it constantly reviews its model to fit client needs. It also set up an Australian asset-backed securities operation in Brisbane just over a year ago, hiring four portfolio managers from Babcock & Brown, an investment advisory firm that folded last year.

As for opening other offices down the line, Threadneedle is very interested in the South Korean market, adds Lowndes, and has been building up in Japan without a local market presence thus far. The company will not put people in every single country in Asia, he says -- only in those it sees as appropriate for building its culture and brand name.

With regard to Allen's hire, Lowndes says the firm needs senior management and manpower that can look at strategy and execution across a broad range of countries and asset classes. "We need someone of real strength to do that," he adds. "Jon will look after some key markets and relationships out of Singapore."

Allen's distressed-debt and property experience does not necessarily reflect his main focus for Threadneedle, says Lowndes. He will certainly have some focus on the manager's hedge-funds business and will look to leverage on Threadneedle's strong UK property franchise. There will also remain a big focus on the long-only business in the region, adds Lowndes.

He will lead business development and aim to develop strategic partnerships, with distributors including Tokio Marine in Japan and Standard Chartered, which named the fund manager a preferred funds provider early last year. The firm will also continue to work closely with private and commercial banks, family offices and institutional clients.

Aside from targeting markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore, Lowndes aims to expand the firm's $840 million in assets under management in Taiwan by way of its bank-distribution business there. He also hopes to develop the strategic relationship Threadneedle has with Tokio Marine in Japan and set up more partnerships in a similar vein.