Alliance Trust, an investment company based in the United Kingdom, is establishing a team of investment professionals in Asia and has hired Anthony Muh, regional head of investments at Citigroup Asset Management, to run it.

Alan Harden, CEO at Alliance Trust in London, was Muh's former boss when he ran Citigroup Asset Management's Asia-Pacific business out of Tokyo in the early 2000s. Harden began his role as Alliance Trust CEO in January 2004. He says this year Muh will build a seven-to-eight person team in Hong Kong, including four or five investment pros.

Citigroup officials did not return calls regarding Muh's replacement as CIO.

Alliance Trust began in the 1880s as a mortgage bank lending to homesteaders in the United States. The firm took possession of a lot of land from defaulters during the Great Depression; it got a new start by selling the land but keeping the oil and mineral rights, and using those revenues to reinvent itself primarily as an investor in listed and private equity. Alliance Trust manages around $3 billion globally, nearly $500 million of that in Asia Pacific. It also has some exposure to fixed income.

"We have a view of growing that," Harden says. "I know from my own experience how hard it is to run Asian investments from London." Prior to heading Citi-AM's regional business, he spent 10 years in Asia with Standard Chartered, first with its former asset management unit, and then as head of its securities services business.

Alliance Trust manages money on behalf of its shareholders, but does not take third-party money. The firm also has a business of owning and managing businesses in financial services. It owns or has owned finance companies, leasing companies and banks. Eventually Alliance Trust will use its Hong Kong office to scout out opportunities, but the priority this year is to establish the investment team, Harden says. The firm is growing a real estate business in Britain that at some point could be expanded to Asia as well.